Doctors driving taxis, engineers on assembly lines, teachers doing data entry…

It’s not a strange phenomenon. There is even a very flattering term to describe it — “brain waste” — applied to immigrants who were skilled professionals in their home countries, but since resettling, are unable to find work commensurate with their education and experience.

Indeed, the hoard of well-documented research identifies several barriers to proper employment: the non-recognition of qualifications; poor English language proficiency; lack of networks and local work experience; and, not surprisingly, discrimination.

What makes it infinitely more challenging is being a refugee, or, worse still, an asylum seeker. How does one find a job (let alone restart a career) when deportation or detention are potential realities?

Meet Diez, Janni, Said, Babak and Majid — a lawyer, a nurse, a dentist and two engineers — each one of whom, since arriving in Australia, have been unremittingly out of work or underemployed.

They may have once been victims of torture or persecution back home. Yet, in this country, they remain victims — falling prey to the toxic preconceptions held closely by a society they thought would welcome them; to punishing government policies; and to the polarising “us-and-them” rhetoric persistently pushed by the mainstream media.

All of them came here seeking asylum and seeking work.

And all of them, it seems, are still seeking hope.


The HopeSeekers‘ is a multimedia project produced, written, filmed, edited and published online by Min-Zhui Lee.