Breaking down the barriers to work


“Meals With Impact teaches us a lot and they’re very nice to everyone.” 

Many studies, surveys, and research projects have shown that migrant women with excellent qualifications and capabilities are unable to attain jobs once arriving in Australia. This can happen due to gender bias, racial discrimination, and a lack of local networks and connections that enhance access to job opportunities. The rare few who manage to get jobs often work significantly below their skill qualifications and can face discrimination and / or harassment in the workplace. 

Recent ABS data shows that women from migrant backgrounds have significantly lower workplace participation rates at 47.3% than men from the same backgrounds who are at 69.5%. One of our newer employees here at Meals With Impact, Sara, was a part of those statistics until she started working with us. 

“When I first came to Australia all the companies told me that I couldn’t work for them because I didn’t have any local experience even though I had lots of experience with big companies overseas.” 

Sara, a newly arrived migrant from Iran, had trouble finding a job in Melbourne before working at Meals With Impact. Although she’s an accomplished woman with qualifications attained in Iran, a Bachelor’s in Commercial Management and a Master’s in Executive Master of Business Administration, these are not recognised in Australia. This makes her ineligible to work in her field of commercial management at the level she previously worked at. 

“Working at Meals with Impact doesn’t feel like an everyday job, it feels like I’m with family all day.” 

When Sara started working for Meals With Impact she started getting the support and community she’d been seeking from the beginning. Although her jobs at the start were in the front of house and the cafe, Meals With Impact has recognised her potential and has been offering her work tasks that are more attuned to her skill set, such as administrative work in the HR department. Even though she is relatively new, she already feels like she’s working with family, surrounded by supportive women from different backgrounds.  

One of these women, Linda, had a previous negative workplace experience. 

Linda has always been a hard-working and determined woman who used to face workplace bullying and discrimination at her old job, which was exacerbated due to her English skills not being as apt as others.  

Her injuries were overlooked and she was given jobs that made them worse. This problem is highlighted in a study that shows how workplace exploitation is a recurring issue when it comes to migrant workers in Australia, especially with wages. There is a prevalent issue of exploitation in entry level jobs where migrant women are given work that contravenes Fair Work Commission guidelines and ethics, and often overlooks physical capacity, leading to injuries.  

“Meals With Impact help a lot because I need the experience and need to improve my conversation and communication skills.” 

When Linda started working at Meals With Impact she got shifts that work around her physio appointments, allowing her to look after her physical health. She’s heard and looked after by all the women in this community. Many of the women who work here have English language barriers, but they all work together through the challenges, like one big family.  

To quote Samuel Chamberlain, “The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one that hurdles the language barriers, makes friends amongst civilised people and warms the heart.”

Which is something that occurs daily here at Meals with Impact. 

Written by Atikinesh Abebe, Year 10 student on work experience with Meals with Impact.