Allianz and Settlement Services International expand award-winning scholarship program to support refugee and migrant education

17 June 2022

Allianz Australia and Settlement Services International (SSI) proudly celebrated 37 new refugee scholarship recipients at the Allianz SSI scholarships ceremonies in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne this week. The scholarships will again support recipients in New South Wales, and thanks to additional funding from Allianz in 2022, will this year also support recipients in Queensland and Victoria.

The award-winning partnership between Allianz and SSI has been delivering new education and career opportunities for refugees and migrants since 2016. The scholarships are designed to directly support people from refugee backgrounds to minimise the financial barriers they experience in secondary school, vocational education and training, university, and skills and qualifications recognition.

To date, more than 200 (214) refugee education scholarships, totalling more than $400,000, have been awarded via the partnership, and 36 refugees have been supported into permanent employment with Allianz in a variety of skilled roles across Finance, Human Resources, Claims, IT, Underwriting, Workers' Compensation and Marketing.

Allianz Australia Managing Director Richard Feledy said, “At Allianz, our purpose is to help secure the future for our customers, employees and the community. As part of this, we are committed to supporting a diverse and inclusive society. The more we can bring together people with different experiences, ideas, and backgrounds, and create environments in which people can use their unique skills and perspectives, the stronger both businesses and societies will be.

“Quality education is a critical step in the journey of all young Australians to establish rewarding careers, however, many young people of refugee backgrounds are facing significant financial barriers to accessing that education. I am so proud of the work that Allianz and SSI are doing together to support these deserving young people in their journey to learn and achieve their goals.”

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said Allianz had again demonstrated its commitment to creating a meaningful, two-way partnership that did more than just tick a corporate social responsibility box: “Allianz understands that supporting individuals who have a refugee experience is not just about providing material aid and assisting people to survive,” she said.

“It’s also about making sure there are opportunities to learn, work and thrive. This is particularly important in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, where education has been interrupted by lockdowns. The pandemic has also highlighted the digital divide that affects refugee communities.

“As schools and other education institutes moved online over the last two years, we saw how a lack of access to technology or digital literacy was negatively affecting newly arrived students. With the help of organisations like Allianz and other partners in the community, we hope to close that divide and support students as they continue their education.”

A scholarship recipient from NSW, former Beverly Hills Girls High School student Roaa Ahmed, finally found safety in Australia after being forced to leave Egypt and then China.

“As a refugee and as a person who didn’t have basic human rights such as the right to live and express my opinions freely, I am strongly determined to study journalism,” she said.

“Our world is full of injustices and it’s now the time to give humans and specifically women and children the ability to practise their basic human rights, including access to education and living without fear.”

A scholarship recipient from Queensland, Patrick Bukize Mwandu, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, arrived in Australia in 2018 after living in a refugee camp for seven years. Last year he graduated from Redbank Plains State High School in Brisbane, intending to attend university and gain a major in accounting. He needed a part-time job to help his mother pay the rent and said the scholarship would help him settle down at university and take up opportunities.

“It will assist me to get a laptop that will allow MYOB. I've always had the passion of becoming an accountant or an entrepreneur,” he said. “I like doing accounting and problem solving. If I can work as an accountant, I could earn enough to support myself and my family and I will have a chance to achieve my dreams.”

A scholarship recipient from Queensland, Sayed Sahil Hashemi, is a refugee from Afghanistan who graduated from the Kabul University of Medical Sciences in 2020 despite facing several hazardous situations at the hands of the Taliban. He is now seeking to have his medical qualifications recognised in Australia.

“If my qualification is recognised, I am young, Australia will utilise my potential for the rest of my life,” he said.

A scholarship recipient from Victoria, Mikhail Kseri, came to Australia from Syria in 2017. He is working part-time while studying English because he is supporting family members in Australia and Iraq. Study has been difficult for him because he only has a mobile phone.

He said, “A laptop will help me in my English study and then I hope to achieve my dream of studying acting one day. I think I have the right skills to do this and I am determined to succeed.”

Scholarship recipients, their families and friends, supporters, teachers and volunteers, including representatives from community organisations and education providers, celebrated together via a livestreamed event across Allianz’s Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne offices.

The Allianz and SSI partnership has been recognised by the Australian Human Rights Commission, awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission Business Award in 2017. For more information, visit Allianz and SSI partnership.

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