Refugee's mission to help others find work

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When Yaser Naseri was involved in one of the worst asylum-seeker disasters in history, his dreams for a good life and successful career in Australia appeared dashed.


The Iranian refugee was aboard an overcrowded boat that sank en route from Indonesia to Christmas Island. More than 200 people drowned in the 2011 disaster.

The vessel sank 40 nautical miles off east Java and Mr Naseri, one of 47 survivors of the sinking, was detained in the provincial capital of Surabaya. 

More than a decade on, the Sydney-based 40-year-old is among the last people to be granted permanent protection after receiving refugee status and Australian entry in 2014.

A political refugee who had feared for his life, the tragedy still haunts him. 

At the time, Mr Naseri wondered: "Why did I survive? I have a responsibility to do something good with my new life.''

He learnt English, graduated from Sydney University with a business degree in 2018 and became an Australian citizen in 2020.

He is now national sales support coordinator at industrial supplier Blackwoods. It has been a long road.

Mr Naseri said a key challenge for refugees was acquiring job skills and security.

"Lack of a network, friends, confidence, language and cultural barriers - all these make it difficult for new refugees," he told AAP.

Mr Naseri met a career coach about two years ago and was offered pro bono help to find work.

"For refugees, it's tough writing a resume, given the language, and not knowing how things work,'' he said.

Aspiring to give back to the community, Mr Naseri is turning his hand to coaching his compatriots and is about to start as a volunteer career coach with Sydney-based social enterprise Glow Up Careers.

"Given I have a refugee background and I mentor them, I can help them more effectively - and I have the passion for it," he said.

Glow Up, which also provided support to Mr Naseri in his job search, is part-funded by federal and state grants.

Companies can buy its career and coaching packages, and it partners with 25 community organisations. Profits are ploughed back into refugee advocacy work.

A key focus is on helping Afghan and Ukrainian refugees to find jobs with the help of 175 mostly volunteer career coaches, who are leaders and executives eager to make a social impact.

"Many refugees get stuck at entry-level jobs. Large corporates have a lack of awareness of what skills and potential refugees have, and their work rights," Glow Up co-founder Yvonne Kelly said.

To that end, the career-coaching service also helps refugees in schools and universities to get job-ready.

"The program is about empowering and upskilling refugees and educating Australian organisations that there's a huge untapped talent pool," Ms Kelly said.

A recent Host International report found 75 per cent of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds expected to wait up to three years to secure their desired job.

To that end, Mr Naseri is committed to helping.

He has spoken about his refugee journey to corporate giants such as Microsoft and Google, and to smaller firms, schools and universities, finding his talks can spark opportunities. 

He focuses on the benefits of hiring refugees, filling gaps and giving people the chance to rebuild their lives.

Still relishing his freedom in Australia, Mr Naseri says: "The Iranian protests remind me of how lucky I am to be here and enjoy basic human rights.

"Life here has opened so many doors. Australia enables me to dream bigger."

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