GROW program

Mr PEARSON (Essendon)  — On Friday I met Sam. Sam is working as a junior civil engineer on the removal of the Buckley Street level crossing. Close your eyes for a moment. What picture emerges when you think of a civil engineer named Sam working on a major engineering project? Are you seeing a tall, white Anglo-Australian male? If you are, then you are wrong on every measure. Samrawit is a young woman who emigrated from Ethiopia and is working on this exciting project.

For years African-Australians and support agencies have been telling me that one of the biggest hurdles to employment for communities from East Africa is a lack of connections. At the same time employers are telling these young graduates that they lack Australian experience. With no job available for them when they graduate, many do further studies, getting themselves into further debt without a guarantee of a job. That is why the government’s GROW program, which enables migrants and people from a disadvantaged background to obtain a career in the transport and construction industries, is so important. I want to thank the Minister for Public Transport and Mr Leane from the other place for their efforts in ensuring that this is happening. It is precisely because of this program that Sam is now working on the Buckley Street level crossing.

In the past I have spoken of my father-in-law, who as a proud member of the CFMEU worked on the Burnley Tunnel and Rod Laver Arena, projects which he was incredibly proud of. I want to ensure that in the decades to come migrants and refugees who have African heritage can feel that same level of pride and satisfaction. I want these communities to survey Melbourne in decades to come and say that they had a role in building this great city. I want to reach a stage where you walk through the corridors of government or a business or a department or agency and see African-Australians in leadership positions. Programs like GROW are a stepping stone to making this a reality.