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Champion of migrant integration advocates a ‘two-way embrace’

Published:10 November 2016

1 and 2: CQUni doctoral student and renowned migrant settlement coordinator Ataus Samad pictured with recent migrants to Australia. 3 and 4: Migrants are welcomed to Biloela. 5: Ataus pictured on CQUni Rockhampton North campus.

Integration of migrants and refugees coming to Australia should be a ‘two-way’ embrace.

That’s according to CQUniversity doctoral student and renowned migrant settlement coordinator Ataus Samad, who says the focus should be on creating ‘one Australia’ rather than separate communities within Australia.

Mr Samad, who came from Bangladesh in 2007 as a skilled migrant who went on to pursue postgraduate studies, has been appointed as a member of the Multicultural Queensland Advisory Council in recognition of previous success integrating migrants.

The Multicultural Queensland Advisory Council aims to identify aspirations of migrants and barriers to success, to help implement strategies for improved outcomes. It acknowledges that a diverse, dynamic and cohesive society will deliver important benefits for all Queenslanders.

In past years, he has worked in Biloela, Rockhampton and the Lockyer Valley as a project coordinator offering support and employment links to help settle new refugees and migrants.

“It is more effective for integration if we are settling new arrivals in regional communities rather than in larger cities,” Mr Samad says.

“In larger cities they are able to stay within their ethnic groups without having to mix with the wider community, whereas in smaller communities everyone knows everyone and they are more supportive.

“I believe there is a social obligation to work together for integration.”

Mr Samad says he helped convince farmers in the Lockyer Valley that employing migrants was more beneficial than relying on backpackers or seasonal workers.

“By organising horticulture training and then employing migrants it helped to build the fabric of the Lockyer Valley community and the talent remains longer-term,” he says.

Mr Samad says Australia has plenty to gain from welcoming migrants who can provide a bridge of contacts with influential people in their home country.

In recent years he has volunteered with the CQ Multicultural Association, the Rockhampton Access and Equity Reference Group, the Cultural Diversity Reference Group, and planning groups for Harmony Day and the Taste of the World Festival.

His Biloela settlement project involving dozens of Christian Burmese people sparked plenty of plaudits, including coverage by ABC Radio and reportage in the thesis of a Masters student from the University of Queensland.

“With our settlement projects we involved the media early on to ensure the community had ownership of the process and to avoid misunderstandings,” Mr Samad says.

“In Biloela in particular, the whole town knew what we were doing and how we were doing it … it was very transparent.”

Mr Samad says he thrives on individual success stories, including the Afghan girl now working in a bank and several members of a migrant family gaining work on a potato farm.

“Successful job outcomes can change the wider dynamic of the entire migrant family,” he says.  Mr Samad completed his Masters on ‘work-life conflict in the university setting’ and is in the final stages of his PhD studies of ‘the effect of leadership styles on employee wellbeing and organisational outcomes within an Australian regional university’.

Longer-term, he is keen to work as an academic at CQUniversity, where he can offer his experience to colleagues who may be keen to study the integration of migrants.