Work experience program breaks down barriers

In what may be a West Australian first, a group of disadvantaged Aboriginal women has been given work experience at a major Perth shopping centre.


(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

The attempt to provide the skills and confidence they need to find full-time work and break the welfare cycle seems to have been a success.

Many have already found some employment.

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Amongst the hustle and bustle of the Gateway Shopping centre in Perth’s south, lives are quietly changing.

A two-week work experience program for a number of young Aboriginal women has ended with employment.

Single mother-of-three Sonya Mourish has been working at the centre’s information centre since she finished the program.

But completing the program was never going to be easy, and it got harder when halfway through, her three-year-old son was badly burnt by boiling water and was taken to hospital.

“It was really depressing and it was actually getting on top of me, but I was thinking to myself that I got this far so I’m not going to turn back just because something happened. I was there to support my son and my children, and my mum was there to support me – and I just came to work, every day.”

It was that attitude that helped Sonya secure paid work after the program finished.

The 23 year old was taken from her parents when she was a child and struggled with school before becoming a mother at 18.

She says she’s tired of living on Centrelink payments and wants a full-time job.

She’s hoping to get a job in mining next year.

“I know for myself that I had a rough background and it was hard getting up for school and work, so you just got to stick by it and hopefully other people will do it as well.”

Sue-Anne Bin-Sarin is another program participant.

The 17 year old is back at the shopping centre looking for work.

While she waits to talk to prospective employers, she’s been helping out at the shopping centre’s information kiosk.

Sue-Anne Bin-Sarin says she regrets not taking her schooling seriously and believes the program is a second chance.

She spent part of her time at the local member of parliament’s office attached to the shopping centre.

“I was dealing with people who had complaints and I learnt how to use a computer. And I’m not normally confident about using computers, the phones and now it’s helped me to build up my confidence, which I’m glad.”

Reporter: “Why is that? Didn’t you learn about computers and stuff at school?”

“I did, but I wasn’t that much focused, but now I’m more into it and focused on what I want to do.”

Leanne Chaproniere is the shopping centre’s manager.

She becomes emotional when talking about the program.

“I’m this tough, hard-nosed woman (laughter), clearly, you’ve destroyed me, they’ve destroyed me this week. And, you know what? I think every one of my staff, other than my male staff member, because I only have one token man in the office, we have probably all shed tears the last two weeks (laughter). Crazy.”

She says she’s never seen a program like this before in her 20-plus-years in the sector in WA.

Leanne Chaproniere says the young women just wanted to turn their lives around.

“And someone just has to give them the opportunity. That it doesn’t have to be as deep as reconciliation or anything like that. It just doesn’t have to be. It just is. So why can’t we just do?”

Sonya Mourish agrees that it’s a simple thing to do.

“Well, I think that everyone should get along. We all live in the same world. We all bleed the same, so I don’t know why people should treat each other different.”

Reporter: “Have you been treated differently?”

“Yes, I have. And I didn’t like it. I actually spoken (talked) them out of it. At the end of it, they ended up liking me, so…”