16th May 2012 ACTU Congress Fringe Event Sydney

Refugees at Work

Giving a voice to invisible workers

ACTU Congress Fringe Event
1.00pm, Wednesday 16th May 2012

Listen to the audio from this forum below

This seminar presents three perspectives about what unions are doing - and what they can do - to organise asylum seeker, refugee and newly arrived migrant workers in their workplaces and their communities.

Every year thousands of people come to Australia with hopes of a decent job and a better life. For some the decision to call Australia home is one of economic choice. For others, such as asylum seekers, it’s a decision based on political necessity.

Non-government, faith and refugee organisations have worked hard to provide support to new arrivals and assist people to settle in the community. But many remain virtual refugees at work – denied citizenship in the workplace and lacking support and advice about their rights at work.

Unions have traditionally provided a voice for invisible or disenfranchised workers. Speakers will argue unions have a vital role to play in protecting workers from exploitation and helping to build inclusive workplaces and communities.


Bolis Longy

Bolis is a refugee from Sudan who arrived in Australia in 2005.  Before arriving in Australia, Bolis was a Teacher and Principal of a Christian school.  Currently he works as a school cleaner. Bolis is an active member of his union, United Voice and a vocal advocate for the rights of refugee, resettled and migrant workers. He works closely with the Sudanese community in Western Sydney, and is active in his local Baptist Church. In July Bolis will become a recognised Minister for the Sudanese Community.  In future Bolis hopes to become a legal interpreter.


Gavin Ackerly

Employment Co-ordinator, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Melbourne. Gavin works with individuals, employment and education providers to deliver meaningful and long term employment opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged people in our community. In the past financial year ASRC secured over 250 work placements for asylum seekers. As well as direct advice and assistance, the ASRC works with communities to campaign for social change.

Steve McCartney

Steve is State Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union in Western Australia. Recently the union worked closely with the Filipino community to represent the interests of workers employed under 457 visas in the manufacturing industry in Kwinana. Steve will talk about how the union built trust among the workers and the positive experiences that were learnt along the way.

This event was sponsored by Catalyst Australia in association with Amnesty International and Welcome to Australia.

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