From YMCA lifeguards to Ambulance Officers: the new program creating a more diverse workforce

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Pictured from left back to front: Awet (Brunswick Baths), Liiban (Dandenong Oasis), Ali (Casey Race), Emma (Dandenong Oasis), Wasana and Ghanieh (Coburg Leisure Centre)

Yesterday there were proud tears as seven new Ambulance Officers were celebrated as the first graduates of the new Life Saving Victoria and Ambulance Victoria Multicultural Employment Program.

For six of the seven graduates, who are current and former YMCA lifeguards and employees, this is an exciting next step into saving lives and helping the Victorian community.

First arriving in Australia as refugees and asylum seekers from Somali, Afghanistan, Iran, Eretria and Myanmar these young people were trained and employed through the Lifesaving Victoria and YMCA CALD program as lifeguards across Brunswick Baths, Dandenong Oasis, Casey RACE.

Through strong partnerships, with Ambulance Victoria and Life Saving Victoria, the new program is actively creating a more multicultural workforce and providing more employment opportunities.

“We have a very diverse community in Victoria, and all of our services in Victoria need to reflect that,” Anthony Carbines, Parliamentary Secretary for Health said yesterday at the event.

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Taken in 2017 - From left to right: CALD program past and current participants Lida, Emma, Baki, Murtaza, Syed Moiz, Liiban, Javed, Elaha, Asif, and Helber 

Emma from YMCA-managed Dandenong Oasis started her career pathway into health and safety four years ago. She describes the experience as “fascinating.”

“I was doing admin and David [from Life Saving Victoria] asked me if I wanted to be a lifeguard. I started working at Oasis and then I was asked to be an ambulance officer.”

Emma knows the importance of being a positive role model for women in her community,

“People would come up to me, as “this is a Muslim lifeguard” and ask me how. A little girl said she wanted to be a lifeguard like me. She thought it wasn’t possible,” she said.

Emma wants to eventually become a paramedic, get experience in regional and rural areas and return to work in the Dandenong area.

YMCA-managed Casey RACE gave Ali his first job in Australia after leaving Afghanistan. If it wasn’t the Lifesaving Victoria and YMCA CALD program, he is unsure where he would be now.  

“It opened doors and now I want to be a paramedic,” he said.

Liiban from Dandenong oasis says it’s more than just about a job, it’s about helping your community, which is especially important for diverse communities.

“It shows younger kids it’s possible and that there is a way,” he said.