Would you help a refugee find work in Gladstone?

THE Multicultural Development Association has launched a new initiative to place 500 refugees in jobs around Queensland.

The "Work and Welcome 500" initiative has been set up to give businesses the opportunity to host a refugee on a 12-week program at no cost to the employer.

All wages and training will be provided for by the MDA's Welcome Fund which is supported by donations from companies and individuals.

But would it work in Gladstone?

The Observer asked a number of locals and business owners for their thoughts on the issue and whether they would welcome a refugee into their business and the community.

Gladstone Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rick Hansen would support the program.

"One of the hardest things for someone who is new to the country is learning all the day-to-day processes of being here and finding work through the program would help that," he said.

"I would have to examine the details of the program but I think it would be a great benefit to certain businesses in the community who are having trouble finding good staff."

But Jake Mills, who has only just found work here with an engineering company after looking for more than a year, said the refugees should stay away from Gladstone.

"They should stay over where they come from. It's hard enough to find work up here as it is and if they start working it'll leave us Aussies out of everything," he said.

Plenty of locals are doing it tough now that the boom in Gladstone is over but Rob Hope from the job recruitment agency Workforce International said there were enough opportunities in town for refugees to pick up work.

"We need to do our bit to help those who need a hand," he said.

"I haven't got a problem with refugees being placed through this program because working at a recruitment agency I know a lot of people who don't want to work."

Michael Gibson who manages Lyndons, a building material supplier, said if anyone thought they'd say no to a free worker, they'd be lying.

"It's tough out there at the moment but it'd be a good incentive for businesses to get workers they wouldn't have to pay for," he said.

"My only concerns would be how they would work with other people and if they're unskilled, then we've already got plenty of them around."

Peter Davis from Nuellie de Fleur said he would be interested in the program but thought the language barrier might pose some problems for his business.

"We're always open to giving people work experience and if there's a position available at the end of the three months then that's a way we could go," he said.

"But as a business we are very customer service-based and so the language barrier could be an issue."

The owner of Runway7 Boutique on Goondoon St, Carla Soutar, wasn't sure if she would host a refugee at her shop.

"I would have to have a think about it. It'd be a good way to get them integrated into our community but as a business owner I look for long-term employment and wouldn't really be thinking about not having to pay for someone for 12 weeks," she said.

Local energy consultant and a member of the Greens Party, Craig Tomsett, didn't think the conditions in Gladstone were right for refugees.

"I support the program and think any help we can offer is great but it's nonsensical when the attitude of locals is so xenophobic. What would be the point in organising jobs for refugees when we've shown how uncaring we are?" he said.

Deputy Chair of the MDA Peter Forday said while the target of 500 job placements was an ambitious target, with up to 3500 refugees expected to arrive in Queensland over the next year, now was the time for the community to prepare.

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