Santamaria: Alisha, you run ANZ’s inclusion team. What made you want to be involved?
Fernando: The short answer is because I am a refugee myself. And I say I am a refugee, not a former refugee, because I am proud to be one. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It was a chance to be able to give back and to help in some way.
There’s been good and bad moments. I’ll start with the good. We’ve had amazing teams very open and supportive of the program which have made the effort to learn and understand the plight of refugees and made themselves aware of any cultural differences.
As for the bad – very early on in the program we naively placed someone from Afghanistan up in Shepparton in Victoria, assuming the Afghan community up there would support them – without providing any real introduction on our behalf.
We sent the poor girl up there on her own thinking the community would immediately embrace her, without realising there are certain customs and cultural differences we misunderstood. Weeks, months went by and she felt completely isolated.
It was only by chance we found out we could do something about it – and we did. It goes back to, as Danielle mentioned, not making assumptions.
Karapanagiotidis: When groups like ANZ and the Brotherhood put their hand up and say ‘We’re going to champion this space’ it sends a profound message.
It says we stand by refugees because it’s a powerful humanitarian statement but also because it’s great for business. That is a really powerful thing when there is another narrative saying refugees are a burden, a threat and problem.
Ironically it’s that narrative which creates the problem. I’m proud to see companies taking that leadership and it reverberates at every level.
Nicholson: You know there are some very basic problems faced by refugees. One is they don’t have networks into the world of work. They don’t have that experience in the Australian work environment.
The Given the Chance program addresses both demand and supply side issues. It gives people the opportunity to gain experience in the mainstream workforce environment and it gets marvellous results for the workplace.
Seventy per cent of the people that have gone through the program go on to work permanently. Similar Commonwealth government programs have a success rate of just 30 per cent. We’re doing something right.
Bob Santamaria is Group General Counsel at ANZ