Fulfilling learning on the job

Mohamed Ahmed is a Somalian man who is a film buff and a big fan of puzzles. He also likes to play board games with his family and plays Basketball with his friends in his spare time. Mohamed’s dream as a kid was to become a detective, leading him to acquire a Bachelor of Criminal Justice from Victoria University. He is CMY’s Policy Intern and assists the Policy team with submissions, fact sheets and many other important tasks.

Mohamed was born in Mombasa, Kenya and is the eldest of seven siblings. His family eventually migrated to Hobart, Tasmania when Mohamed was 10 years old. Mohamed’s father was, and still is an interpreter, and moved the family to Australia for better opportunities, comfort and better income. His father interpreted for organisations like UNHCR in Kenya and eventually translated for the Australian Government. About 7 years later, Mohamed and his family relocated to Melbourne.

“I very much prefer Melbourne for the diversity alone,” says Mohamed.

“There’s just more to do as a young person in Melbourne. The only thing I miss about Tasmania is some of the friends that I made.”

Mohamed suggests that there were no explicit racist incidents in Hobart, but he felt a tangible sense of not fitting in while his family was living and going to school there.

“There was definitely systemic stuff like people underestimating my English skills,” Mohamed says.

“My family were one of the very few groups of Black people that went to school in our area. There might have been about 5 other kids there that were not white.”

Mohamed eventually felt a greater sense of belonging in Melbourne having “never met so many other different groups of people” before. Despite this, Mohamed felt disconnected from his Somalian roots. Mohamed’s mother speaks fluent Somali, and he regrets letting his childhood knowledge of 3 different languages slip away.

“I understand everything [my mum] is saying but I can’t reply,” says Mohamed.

“You go to school 8 hours a day and you just speak English like everybody else. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but now it would be a good skill to have. I run into people that recognise me as Somalian and I can’t speak to them, it’s tough.”

While Mohamed was in his last year of Uni, he did 200 hours of placement with a program called Changemakers Collective. Coincidentally, CMY’s Policy & Capability Building Manager, Preethi Vergis, was the placement coordinator at the time and her and Mohamed kept in contact. Preethi informed Mohamed when the Policy Intern position opened in early 2023 and eventually, he was offered the role.

Mohamed’s work involves advocating for the needs of multicultural young people in areas such as homelessness, racism and discrimination, employment and more. This work is done primarily through submissions to the government, inquiries, and policy papers. Mohamed’s background was not initially in Policy and Advocacy, but he leapt at the opportunity to learn something new.

“I never planned on doing policy work but I’m enjoying it so far,” Mohamed says.

Mohamed particularly enjoys developing his policy advocacy skills on the job. He wants to advocate for multicultural young people who often don’t have their vocies heard.

“Right now, I’m really enjoying being a learner and learning on the job. Meeting with people, going to events, hearing what work other organisations are doing and just soaking all of that in is what I’m interested in.”