Manufacturing social change
Securing stable paid employment is a challenge confronting more people than ever since COVID-19 hit Australia, especially so for groups holding insecure work in unskilled jobs. Unsurprisingly, migrants and refugees traditionally form one of the major cohorts in unstable work, which is often unsuited to their experience and abilities.
Migrants and refugees often arrive in Australia bringing with them skills that certainly make them worthy of employment however limited opportunities to work in their specialised fields leave them with no choice but to search for employment in other areas. Employment opportunities are also often based on “who you know” and those who are new or disconnected from established communities are left unaware of existing opportunities. Additional barriers associated with language, visas and caring responsibilities further add to the challenges of mainstream employment.
Through their experiences working with migrant and refugee communities, Assembled Threads Co-Founders Edwina Walsh and Danielle Heaven have observed sewing to be one of the most dominant skillsets held by migrants and refugees when they arrive in Australia.
Before the dramatic effects of globalisation there were plenty of job opportunities for migrants and refugees in a thriving Australian textile and clothing industry which supported local economies through employment. With the ability to access cheap overseas labour, most companies shifted to offshore manufacturing which removed whole sectors of the local labour force in many manufacturing industries.
In recent times, there has been a growing interest in Australian made textiles, and Assembled Threads have partnered with the Moonee Valley Council to create their first manufactuirng hub to connect with those who despite having sewing skills, have been marginalised from mainstream employment. Providing localised and flexible employment is key for people with barriers to participation such as limited English and caring responsibilities.
Through connecting with the community, Assembled Threads was able to speak to Luisa Muscara about the significance of sewing to her Mum who arrived in Australia 40 years ago. Her story brings to light the dependency some migrant women have on sewing as a means for providing for their families.
“At 16, my beautiful Mum migrated to Australia after a three-month journey by boat. From her late teens, she did small sewing jobs to help with family expenses. She would often be sitting at her machine late at night sewing with us kids at her feet, the small warm sewing light illuminating our faces.”
Skill-based training provides valuable opportunities for migrants and refugees to gain an industry-recognised qualification that makes them employable, giving them the hope of a bright future.
Additionally, and of equal importance, participants have the opportunity to earn an income, strengthen their English language skills and build their confidence all within a safe and welcoming space. Holmesglen TAFE School of Fashion will be delivering a training program that will bring participants skills up to Australian commercial manufacturing standards.
Luisa expressed her appreciation for Assembled Threads and hopes to share her Mum’s story to empower migrants participating in training programs.
“Thank you for your work with our migrant community. I would love the opportunity to connect personally with the participants in your program so I can share with them the story of my mum and personally tell them how amazing their contribution is - for themselves, their families and their communities."
Assembled Threads is a social enterprise manufacturing jobs and clothing essentials. With your valuable support, Assembled threads can set up satellite manufacturing hubs, providing much-needed training and employment opportunities for those marginalised and continue to build a more equitable and ethical local textile industry.
Help launch Assembled Threads today by supporting and sharing their Crowdunding Campaign