Unlocking the Potential of Women from Migrant & Refugee Backgrounds 

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As Meals with Impact heads into its 18th month of operation, we continue to focus on our mission to provide meaningful employment to women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, and to address the systemic barriers to economic participation faced by this cohort.  

 -Written by Talaska Despotellis 

Many studies reveal a gap between the economic participation of people born in Australia, and those from migrant or refugee backgrounds. However, recent research has also begun to reveal a significant gap between women from migrant and refugee backgrounds and their male counterparts. According to recent ABS data, women from migrant and refugee backgrounds have a significantly lower rate of workforce participation compared to men from these backgrounds — 47.3 per cent compared with 69.5 per cent. 

Concerningly, a study from the Australian Institute of Family Studies outlines that these low levels of employment for refugee and migrant women do not improve over time. In fact, even after ten years of living in Australia, a significant number of women involved in the study continued to have low levels of employment and education. 


Meals with Impact is proud to be the first job for many of our staff members, and strives to create a welcoming and empowering environment for our team. Our mission and success in increasing the economic and social participation of women from refugee and migrant backgrounds has been achieved through three key areas: 

Recognising the strengths and potential of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds. 

The women working at Meals with Impact all demonstrate incredible strength, resilience, and an eagerness to learn and develop. We acknowledge that while many enter our workplace with lower levels of English, many speak an additional two, three, or even eight languages and dialects. We understand that while many do not have previous work experience in a formal work environment, many have experienced the busy workload of parenthood and running a family home, and are extremely talented at multitasking, delegating, and leadership. We also know that while some staff may not come with technical kitchen skills, all have brought an innate understanding and passion for cooking, hospitality, and knowledge of traditional cuisines. By acknowledging and promoting these strengths, we aim to create an empowering environment that builds the confidence and ability of our team. In turn, this will help them to recognise their skills and experience, and to apply this expertise to future employment opportunities. 

Removing barriers to participation 

Creating an inclusive workplace is a crucial basis of our practice at Meals with Impact, and in enabling our employees to maintain sustainable work that fits in with their lives and responsibilities. Our Family First policy recognises the important role that many of our employees play as primary caregivers, and allows for shift flexibility to balance work life with family. Furthermore, recognising cultural events and celebrations such as Lunar New Year and Ramadan provides our staff with the respect and time needed to practice and observe their cultures. Lastly, recognising the unique health needs of our employees and adjusting workplace tasks based on the physical ability of each individual is key for us in fostering an inclusive workplace for all. 

Creating opportunities and upskilling the workforce for further opportunities 

A core part of our work is to upskill and increase the capacity of our industry partners to hire women from refugee and migrant backgrounds. A recent study from the University of Sydney Business School has highlighted the need for further work in this space, as it reveals that while many Australian employers are open to hiring people from refugee backgrounds, very few follow through with their intentions. Under-resourcing, complex recruitment processes, and a lack of support are the main reasons cited for this gap between intention and action.  

Through creating streamlined referral processes and offering ongoing recruitment and post-placement support, Meals with Impact is working to inspire confidence in businesses wanting to diversify their talent pool, and to support women facing employment barriers. We are also committed to supporting businesses to recognise the strengths and value in hiring women from diverse backgrounds.  

As we embark on our next venture of opening our Docklands café, we are excited to grow the work and upskilling opportunities for our employees. We are also looking forward to connecting with new referrals for our program, and building our industry partnerships.  

If you are interested in getting involved, get in touch! Reach out via our contact page, and follow our journey on Instagram @meals_with_impact.