‘We can work’: African communities in Shepparton struggle to find employment

Gracia Musafiri applied for 60 jobs before changing her name to Grace.

Before the change, she had not received any phone calls.

After that, requests for interviews began to flow.

“I was like, I can’t believe this is what I have to do,” she said.

But for Rebecca Awan, there are some things that she cannot change.

Like the color of her skin.

Or his accent.

“They treat us like we don’t know anything,” she said.

Gracia Musafiri struggled to find a job until she changed her name to sound more western.(

ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison


“But when they give us a job, we can do it.”

The woman is standing smiling with her arms crossed
Rebecca Awan urges Shepparton employers to hire from African communities.(

ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison


Significant obstacles to employment

According to African Focus, a new survey from St Paul’s African House in Shepparton, these women are not alone in their struggles.

Like much of the Victoria area, Greater Shepparton is in the throes of a labor shortage, with employers clamoring for workers.

And yet, finding paid employment is an uphill battle for many people of African descent in the community.

In the African House survey, almost two-thirds of those polled said they were looking for paid or more paid work.

Women sits on the bench smiling
Akuot Wundit worked as the Senior Community Relations Coordinator for the African Focus survey.(

ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison


Job was ranked as the greatest need of respondents.

But one in three people said they don’t have the services and support they need to find a job.

Learning to drive was cited as a major barrier to employment.

And while Shepparton’s African communities are filled with skilled linguists – one in ten speaks four or more languages ​​- learning English was also a problem for many.

The survey’s senior community relations coordinator, Akuot Wundit, said this language barrier could lead to the misconception that members of the African community were uneducated.

And yet, 45 percent of respondents were enrolled in some form of apprenticeship, with almost one in three attending university.

“However, they are still not able to find a job in Australia,” Ms. Wundi said.

Racism and discrimination are also obstacles

smiling woman wearing pink beanie
Solange Habonimana said mothers in African communities in Shepparton may face barriers to employment.(

ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison


Many members of the community said they had experienced racism, including two in three at work.

The results revealed that being treated as less intelligent or inferior because of cultural characteristics was the most common form of racism.

But most did not report it because they were afraid of the consequences.

This same fear of racism has also prevented people from seeking services and support.

Mothers could face additional challenges in finding a job, according to Solange Habonimana of African House.

“If they can find someone to look after their children, they can work from 9 am to 3 pm. But it is difficult to find work during these hours.

A smiling man stands in front of a bright patterned fabric
Congolese refugee Amani Monoka has had multiple jobs and long hours to support his family.(

ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison


But some members of the community, like Congolese refugee Amani Monoka, have managed to get seasonal work in agriculture or food processing.

He, like others in his community, works multiple jobs with long hours to support his family.

“I would wake up at 4 am, go to Nagambie and work there. Then I would come back at 2 pm and work at the SPC until 11 pm and fall asleep at midnight, ”he said.

First in-depth look

The first in-depth survey of African communities in Greater Shepparton, African Focus, aims to highlight the demographics, experiences and needs of members.

Organizers hope the survey will spark real change, generating more support for Africans in the region.

Housing, access to interpreters and business support have also become priority areas, in addition to employment.

“Africans can do their jobs well, like others,” said Beatrice Nyinawabera, community relations worker at African House.

Woman wearing a blank cap smiles at the camera
Beatrice Nyinawabera urges Shepparton employers to be open-minded about hiring African workers.(

ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison


Today, Gracia Musafiri has finally found a job – she works as the Deputy Head of Partnerships and Programs at African House.

On the first day, her boss asked her, “What do you want us to call you?

“I said ‘Gracia’,” she said.

“I like it, because it’s my name. And I don’t feel like I have to change it to be accepted.

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