Skilled Refugees Fill Staffing Demand at Aged Care Home

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Princes Court's Mildura team celebrate their two new physiotherapists from Lebanon
Princes Court's Mildura team celebrate their two new physiotherapists from Lebanon

Two refugees from Lebanon have joined a Mildura aged care home as full-time physiotherapists.

The new staff members were hired through recruitment agency Talent Beyond Boundaries, which specialises in finding employers for skilled refugees and displaced people.

Princes Court Homes CEO Jenny Garonne said having full-time onsite physiotherapists would mean better quality care for residents at its Mildura facility.

“It is really difficult to recruit allied health professionals to aged care (in Australia),” Ms Garonne said.

“Given that we had two highly qualified physiotherapists who were really looking for an opportunity in Australia, it was something that we decided to run with.

“We are currently required to pay contracted physiotherapists who provide a fantastic service, but we wanted to be able to directly employ some physiotherapists or occupational therapists within our organisation. We will be able to have that that more one-on-one direction with the physiotherapists and we’d be able to extend what we’re offering our residents.”

People with Lots to Give

The two physios are the first aged care staff members placed in Australia by Talent Beyond Boundaries, which also operates in the UK and Canada. Talent Beyond Boundaries CEO Stephanie Cousins said she hoped there would be more to follow.

“These are people who have had had really impressive careers in their previous lives, but have been uprooted by conflict,” Ms Cousins said. Many people come from Syria, where they had a thriving economy before the war. And they’re now stuck in in Jordan and Lebanon in really difficult circumstances.”

Talent Beyond Boundaries CEO Stephanie C says plenty of refugees can contribute to Australia's aged care industry
Talent Beyond Boundaries CEO Stephanie Cousins

“We’re hoping is to use this experience with Princes Care as an example to other aged care facilities. We have not just physiotherapists, but nurses, personal care assistants, medical professionals, other allied health professionals, and support staff, of course, as well.”

The recruitment process involved online interviews and assessment by the Australian Physiotherapy Council.

“We have thousands, literally thousands of skilled people on our database, living in Jordan and Lebanon, who would be absolutely delighted to work in a place like Mildura or Bendigo, Horsham, or any of these kinds of regional locations.

“So it’s really about just connecting the dots and helping those providers to see the opportunity and to recruit.”

Aged Care Workforce to Double by 2050

Australia’s aged care workforce must triple by 2050, according to Aged Care Services Australia. ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow said finding staff overseas is an option when they can’t be found locally.

“Getting allied health staff to work in the area that you are, sometimes is more difficult in rural areas,” said Ms Sparrow. “And getting allied health staff and actually, most kinds of staff that want to work in aged care is difficult generally.”

“We obviously need to make sure that we’ve got enough workers, and it would seem that requires a combination of making sure we’ve got locally sourced workers. But in some circumstances, it’s also appropriate that staff are coming in from other countries.

“I think that providers are really looking for more of the ways that they can make sure they’ve got the workforce that they need.”

“The best thing to happen to me in my life”

Syrian engineer Ibrahim Awad is now employed in Stanthorpe after going through Talent Beyond Boundaries.

“I just was looking for a job, but because I was Syrian living in Jordan, I wasn’t able to get one easily,” Mr Awad said.

Just being able to work legally in my profession, that was like the first thing (that helped me settle into Australia).”

“Now I have all my second life where I can do what I want, which is fantastic. I also like doing some hobbies here, like going to the ocean, learning surfing or rugby. It’s fantastic. It’s just opened up lots of opportunities for me. And also my financial situation is way better!

“It’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.”

Ms Garonne said it would be important to help their two new staff members integrate into the Mildura community when they arrive in a month’s time.

“Within our staff, we’ve got at least five to six different nationalities. With any employee, really, it’s about trying to make sure that they are comfortable in their environment. And we know also that we can connect them in with other organisations across the region.

“When they do finally get to Australia, and we can employ them, we’ll be working with them closely to try and help them assimilate into our community in the best way that we can.”

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