The Illawarra Business Chamber will tomorrow convene a community discussion on refugee employment in the Illawarra.
Workforce shortages are affecting key sectors across our region – including construction, retail, hospitality and aged care, and statistics showing ‘full employment’ in the Illawarra, at 4.5% unemployment, and with the Shoalhaven not far behind at 6.7% unemployment.
Leaders from across the business, community and government sectors will discuss how businesses can support, benefit from, and assist recent refugees, and seek solutions to the challenges and barriers to the successful employment.
The forum will hear from special guest Professor Peter Shergold AC on the state government’s plans for refugee resettlement across the state; a responsibility he was charged with by the Premier.
“Our region has a proud history of welcoming migrants from all backgrounds, who have in turn played a key role in the growth and development of our economy,” said Adam Zarth, Executive Director of the Illawarra Business Chamber
“We know that 2,731 refugees have resettled in Wollongong, Shellharbour and the Shoalhaven since 2012 and are well supported by community groups and government. But this is a small proportion of the refugee and asylum seekers settled in Australia each year, and we need to talk about whether the Illawarra can and should do more.” 
“There is scope for the business community to think outside traditional avenues of attraction and retention of staff, and this is what we intend to do at our forum today.”
The Chamber has invited the NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement Professor Peter Shergold AC to contribute to discussions with businesses.
“We know one of the strongest drivers of successful settlement is employment,” Professor Shergold said.
“Refugee settlement in regional areas can support economic growth, address labour shortages and invigorate economies.
“Tomorrow’s discussions reflect the willingness of the Illawarra community to welcome refugees, and the importance of working across sectors to ensure refugees and local communities enjoy positive settlement outcomes together.”
Settlement Services International (SSI) have a key role in the Illawarra and have partnered with the IBC on this discussion.
“We are glad to support the Illawarra Business Chamber, an organisation who understands that diversity and inclusion in the workplace not only foster innovation and productivity, but also facilitates access to a broader market. At SSI, we firmly believe in the benefits that diversity in the workplace brings to organisations, and we experience this first hand. With a culturally and linguistically diverse workforce, and working to employ more people with disabilities, we continue to tap into a wealth of experience, ideas, innovation and resilience that these jobseekers can bring to the workplace”, said Karen Bevan, General Manager of service delivery for Community programs at SSI.
James Newton (0417 135 858)
Australia’s annual refugee intake for 2017-18 was 16,250, set to rise to 18,750 in 2018-19.