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TAFE NSW training helps Afghan refugees launch new business

TAFE NSW Newcastle

TAFE NSW training helps Afghan refugees launch new business

Mehrullah Shams and Elina Husseini launch Golden Star Cleaning. Photo by Brydie Piaf

A customised TAFE NSW training program has enabled two Afghan refugees to launch their own cleaning business just before Refugee Week, which celebrates the positive contribution that refugees make to Australian society.

The Career Pathways team at TAFE NSW Newcastle collaborated with Mosaic Multicultural Connections to build a Skillset course that offered a mix of employability skills with vocational cleaning skills for refugees who had recently arrived in Australia and were ready to start working.

Mehrullah Shams and Elina Husseini moved to Australia to start a new life and were searching for employment when they decided to enrol in the Skillset Introduction to Cleaning Operations course.

Mr Shams said completing the TAFE NSW Skillset training gave him the skills he needed to launch his own cleaning business which now employs six graduates of the program.

“Completing the TAFE NSW Skillset program gave me the knowledge I needed to start my own business and as a business owner I can now support other refugees by providing work opportunities for my community,” he said.

Ms Husseini, who also works at Mosaic Multicultural Connections, assisted to develop the Skillset course and says she hopes to build on this program and continue to develop courses to help refugees gain qualifications.

“Finding a job is so important to help refugees settle into their new home,” she said.

“Most refugees are very keen to work – but don’t have the experience employers are looking for. Gaining a qualification, with the support of community organisations, will open doors to wonderful opportunities.”

Economic participation is vitally important to refugee settlement and integration. However, as of 30 September 2021, 62% of refugee job seekers had either limited formal education and/or low levels of English language skill.  

Research shows bridging the educational gap and supporting refugees to gain formal qualifications plays an important role in them securing work.  

TAFE NSW Head Teacher Cassandra Ralph says the goal was to build a customised course that would meet their training and education needs and establish work opportunities in their new home.

“The Skillset course combined units focused on commercial cleaning, as well as communication skills, Australian work health and safety standards and employability skills,” she said.

“The group really supported each other, which was important as we had four different languages being spoken and some had only been in the country for a short time.” 

“It is so wonderful to see their success, which demonstrates the effective method of delivering education in conjunction with vocational skills. We will continue providing this formal skills-based training, while working with local organisations to support refugees.”

Mosaic Multicultural Connections provided translators to assist with English language barriers and Hunter Adults Financial Collaborative provided mentoring and advice on the Australian Taxation System, business registration and setting up a bank account. 

Their service was provided through funding from the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation.

Catholic Care also assisted by providing employment opportunities in commercial and residential cleaning for the students. 


Media contact: Lauren McAllister, Communications Specialist,, 02 7920 5000.