‘I would call it a social capital building exercise’: the nature of networks that enable women with a refugee background to access sustainable employment in regional Australia.
Securing sustainable employment enables the successful settlement of women from refugee backgrounds into regional Australia however, the path to its attainment is complex. Work that takes advantage of the breadth of their skills or offers sustainable careers is not readily available. Further, having to seek refuge suggests that women bring embodied memories of trauma which may, in turn, continue to impact on their health. A pilot program was funded to support women from refugee backgrounds as they navigated the employment pathway. This paper reports the findings from an action research study which was associated with the pilot program. As social capital enables people to be ‘hired, healthy, happy and housed’ (Woolcock 1998, p.154), the study investigated the form and function of the networks that enabled these women. Findings revealed the women engaged in building a network that increased the number of people that they knew as both friends and professional paths to employment. They were keen to be embedded in the geographical and cultural landscape. Further this engagement provided opportunities to mobilise and further develop their skills. This interwoven web of connections fostered women’s safety and enabled them to discover their unique pathways to sustainable employment.