OPINION: Propaganda put to bed by ANZ

COMMENT BY CAROLINE HUTCHINSON: IS IT just me or does every one believe common sense will usually prevail?

I am happy to be known for banging on about refugees.

Australia is an amazing country and since the 1940s we have accepted wave after wave of refugees.

There might have been some teething problems, but in general we learned to love their food, they appreciated our protection, and a generation down the track we were all richer for the experience.

Some time in the past 15 years there was a shift and suddenly every second politician was in a race to the bottom. I think the attitude of our current government and the government before it have shamed Australia.

But then I hear something great, which is much more fun to bang on about.

This week the district manager at ANZ Retail Banking Sunshine Coast, Vicki Clark, told me about a pilot program called Given The Chance.

Vicki has just interviewed five refugees living in Queensland and will employ one of them at the Maroochydore branch. The successful applicant will receive a six-month contract at the bank, with a view to full-time employment.

Given The Chance was launched in Melbourne, overseen by charity group the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Brotherhood chief executive Tony Nicholson says despite propaganda claiming refugees in Australia are largely unemployed, the truth is that when given a chance, refugees seize and make the most of it. This attitude flows through to their children, who have some of the highest workforce participation rates in Australia.

Mr Nicholson says 18 out of 20 participants in the recent ANZ program have gone on to permanent roles with the bank.

Locally, Vicki Clark has been interviewing candidates this week and says she is humbled by the experience, in awe of each jobseeker's courage and excited by their passion to build a new life in Australia. Vicki is right to be very proud of the ANZ's social-inclusion policy, but she knows the program makes economic sense too.

Bank managers in Victoria say their refugee employees are humble, resilient, unfailingly polite, have incredible dress sense and a sense of humour. The perfect employees.

Government doesn't listen to "bleeding hearts" like me, but I know it listens to the ANZ bank. So there's always hope.

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