Employment hurdle for migrants
By DAVID BANCROFT
IN stuttering English, Elena Vidler explains how difficult it has been to find permanent work in the Clarence Valley after she moved to Maclean two-and-a-half years ago.
The widow explains that she was a nurse in her native Russia, but her qualifications have not been recognised by Australian authorities.
So, despite an acknowledged and widespread shortage of nurses in Australia, she is unable to get work in her chosen profession.
Mrs Vidler is one of a number of women who have enrolled with the Grafton college of TAFE to get formal qualifications in aged care and nursing in the hope that they might be able to get permanent work.
Papua New Guinea-born Clarence resident Dorothy Burns, who has been in the area since 1969, is the contact person for the Grafton Migrant Women's Group, which has 51 names on its books.
She says that in the nine years since the group has been operating, none of the members, despite tireless efforts, have been able to find permanent work in the Clarence Valley.
Some of them, who are also enrolled in the TAFE course, have been starting their casual work at the Corindi blueberry farms at 5am, finishing at lunch time, driving to Grafton to attend TAFE in the afternoon and fitting in their other duties at night.
They are all Australian citizens.
Ms Burns said it demonstrated the difficulties many migrant women experience in getting jobs.
Another of the students, Aida Shortt, who has been in the Clarence Valley for the past six years, says she has been able to get casual work, but nothing more.
"I used to work on the blueberry farm, then I was doing some child care at home," she said.
She has been working casually at Ozanam Villa and is hoping getting some accreditation through the TAFE course will help her gain permanent work.
"I have children aged four and six and a husband working full time ... there are not many spare hours," she said.
Fellow student, Jamesi Stevens, has been in the area for only about two-and-a-half months.
He has been granted residency as a refugee from Sierra Leone and is hoping his training will ultimately lead to a university position studying psychology.
Mary Moore's husband has a signwriting business, but she is keen to get work in the aged care field.