When did Australia lose its heart?
Bamboo Monkey is not my only passion. Recently I have been increasingly involved in putting my vast experience in product development and design, to work in the refugee sector. This passion was ignited after traveling to Nepal and working with fair trade organizations helping women escaping the sex slave industry to start again, to create our exclusive range of hand knitted beanies.
I came back to Australia and kept thinking of all the talented individuals that were coming to Australia as asylum seekers, with incredible experience in artisan skills that, due to harsh restrictions placed on them via our punitive government, were either languishing in near poverty and social isolation, or worst still the unlikely victims of "occupational skidding."
What does this term mean??!! I'll give you a hint, a surgeon whose educational credentials and work experience are not recognized, and or lack of English create a barrier to employment, is forced to work as a taxi driver or a cleaner.
And no this is not an unusual story - it is probably the norm from what I have seen.
I decided in early 2018 if I could rearrange my schedule to find 1 - 2 days a week, that I could use my skills to add value to organizations working with refugees and asylum seekers, mentoring entrepreneurship, creating new product lines, reorganizing organizational structures to create pathways to employment for refugees, creating value add training programs that built and broadened skills to reflect real-world expectations.
This experience was incredibly rewarding, but what both stunned and terrified me was the Governments decision last year, coupled with a mastery of PR suppression so the average Joe had no idea, to cut drastically the number of recipients currently receiving a basic support payment of just $35 a day. Knowing as they did, that anyone seeking asylum cannot access Medicare, Centrelink, or public housing while they await the outcome visa process which can take years, this is stunning in its cruelty. The government has flipped a switch on their details and said they are job-ready, and immediately cut payments, in the face of serious advice from professionals in the field who advise only 1 in 5 is job ready. And having personally tried to negotiate employment placement for asylum seekers jumping out of their skins with a passion to work, the barriers that minimal English and trauma-induced or cultural timidness creates are difficult for employers to get their heads around, no matter how compassionate they are to the cause.
I decided I couldn't sit back and not act. So, having managed to lasso a couple of talented likeminded colleagues equally appalled by what is going on in our own communities, and passionate about harnessing the power of a grassroots approach to solving social injustice, together we have created ifeedrefugees.com.
We believe all of us living a privileged life free of war, poverty, and hunger can take small steps for a more humane way of life in Australia.
ifeedrefugees is a profit for purpose project. With each tee shirt or reusable shopping bag we can sell, a voucher will be generated for a refugee experiencing emergency food insecurity. This voucher is redeemable at a weekly market held by The Community Grocer. We are working directly with the caseworkers at The Whittlesea Community Centre
We need your help - if we don't sell tee shirts, these asylum seekers are struggling to put food on the table.
Buy a tee or a bag - and know you have directly influenced someone's life in a truly positive, compassionate way.
Join us, in the spirit of this dark time in our Governments policy, by becoming part of the black tee protest, wear it with pride and know you are part of the solution.
Come on guy's, together let's have a f***ing heart and remember what it really means to be Australian.
To learn and get involved more visit www.ifeedrefugees.com