Mentor-mentee match results in a warm welcome 

I had the pleasure of speaking to Employment Empowers mentor and mentee, Simone and Thawn, during their final, heartwarming meeting. Employment Empowers matches newly-arrived young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds with a volunteer mentor who has had professional work experience, and runs over the course of a year.  

Mentors support young people to find employment and navigate their new lives in Australia. For Thawn, this included accessing financial support, getting his driver’s license and eventually securing employment as a food delivery driver. 

Thawn moved to Australia in 2019 from Myanmar just before the pandemic and realised that he needed to improve on his English skills to be able to continue with his studies.  

“I couldn’t understand anything, the Aussie accent was hard, having (only spoken) Malaysian English which was different. I needed to improve my English and my teacher helped me find this program,” Thawn said. 

Thawn is currently studying to be a Health Service Assistant and graduates in 2023. When he’s not studying, he also supports his three children through their primary school education.  

“I learned from Thawn tenacity, sometimes we get caught up in daily problems but it’s nothing compared to what Thawn has gone through. I’ve been privileged to get to know him,” Simone said. 

The pair got together monthly, both in-person and online, and worked on essential skills to set Thawn up, such as applying for Austudy and Centrelink, choosing and purchasing a car that was appropriate for Thawn, and finding casual employment to support him and his family. 

Having migrated to Australia in 1999 from Italy, Simone says he understands the difficulties of moving to a new country and knows how challenging it can be for someone who doesn’t have much help available. Eager to support multicultural young people who are adjusting to a new life, he applied to become a volunteer mentor to offer his experience and knowledge. 

“We can do a much better job of welcoming people who come here. You have the opportunity to assist someone and make their life a touch easier and you get a lot out of it as well; you get to know another culture. Mentoring is not super demanding either, I just pointed Thawn in the right direction and I’m amazed at what he has accomplished in a short amount of time,” Simone said. 

At the end of the meeting, Thawn expressed his gratitude to Simone and said that he wouldn’t have been able to successfully apply for Austudy and Centrelink, which have helped him financially, as he struggled to navigate the system.  

“I have experience at school but no real-life experience, so Simone’s help and his direction helped me a lot. My English has improved a lot so thank you for everything,” Thawn said. 

Find out more about CMY’s Employment Empowers program here