To mark World Refugee Day, we meet Karen woman Gloria Snora Soe Morris, a trainee corrections officer and role model for other young people in her community... 

YOUNG Karen woman Gloria Snora Soe Morris believes in making the most of every opportunity and turning dreams into reality – and she wants others in her community to aim for the stars.

Thanks to a partnership between Bendigo Community Health Services and the Department of Justice and Regulation, the former refugee has spent five months working as a trainee community corrections officer in a role that has opened up professional pathways for others.

Gloria is the first Karen person to be employed by the department on a traineeship, but with plans to continue the program and take on another trainee in 2017, she won’t be the last.

Not only has the program given Gloria workplace experience in the human services field, it has helped ease the justice process for Karen offenders and shown other young members of her community that there are exciting workplace opportunities available to them.

“I was very shy at first because it was a huge step for me and I wasn’t sure if I was ready,” says the 21-year-old, who arrived in Bendigo from Thailand Karenni Refugee Camp 2 in March 2011.

“I remember my very first day at work – I was so scared, nervous and worried that I may not be able to do the tasks. But I did my very best and at the end, I overcame all my fears and gained my confidence back.

“Having supportive team members and manager made a huge difference. They assisted me and guided me when facing difficult tasks and I will always appreciate their encouragement.”

As a community corrections officer, Gloria has been managing more than 15 cases involving offenders who are ordered by the courts to carry out community work.

She liaises with her clients and the contracted work sites, sometimes performing home visits, and says she enjoys being able to help others with their needs, especially other Karen.

“This job is the first step towards a bright future for me,” she says.

“It creates opportunity and gives me a better chance getting into different roles within the workforce. It means a lot to me and my family and my community.

“While I am doing it for my own professional development, this job is also for my community because I want to show that if people are given a chance, we can do more and we can make a huge difference and we can contribute to the broader community.

“That is what this job means to me: a chance to be a success.”

The traineeship scheme was developed by managers at Justice and BCHS to support and build bridges with the local Karen community and provide ongoing employment pathways.

Gloria is grateful to both organisations for believing in her.

“I would like to thank the Department of Justice for giving me the opportunity and Bendigo Community Health Services for their hard work in making this happen for the very first time, that a Karen person is doing a traineeship with the Department of Justice.

“Thanks especially to the BCHS settlement team for having confidence in me to take this on.

“Everyone needs a chance to achieve their full potential and most of the time it is extremely difficult if you are from a culturally and linguistically diverse community, or English is not your first language.”

Department of Justice Loddon Mallee Regional General Manager Tania Morton says having Gloria as a trainee has been fabulous for everyone involved.

“It has been a real eye-opener for the staff, just working with someone who has come from a challenging and difficult pathway. It has been a good learning experience for them.

“But it has also been terrific for us as an organisation to support the community and help out what is an increasing population of Karen people in Bendigo.”

Tania says the department plans to expand the scheme by taking on another Karen trainee after Gloria finishes, and also hopes to offer a similar program in the Aboriginal community.

“We are looking at how we can support the community in broader cultural areas,” she says. “It is something the department is very committed to.”

Gloria is keen to see more organisations open their doors to the Karen community - and more young members accept the challenge.

“Do not be afraid to take the opportunity because you will never know your ability to do something until you try it,” she advises. “You should never let the opportunity pass you.

“I would like to see young people in my community doing different kind of jobs in different roles, and I want people to offer more opportunity for my fellow Karen young people to have the chance to participate in different professional roles.”

Joining the Department of Justice workforce opened Gloria’s eyes to a world of opportunity and she has this message for other young people within her community.

“If you want to have a stable, long-term job you need to start thinking about your future.

“Make your dream become a reality, as there are many service providers or organisations that would like to see you reach your goals.

“But to achieve your dream job in this country, English language is very important.

“So I would like to encourage you all to study hard and start dreaming for a sustainable job, so we can all have a brighter future. Then we can support our family and community.”

To learn more about our Humanitarian Settlement Services team and how they can help you, call our Central site on 03 5448 1600.