Your Tradie Has A Story: Hedayat Osyan's Social Enterprise

Your Tradie Has A Story: Hedayat Osyan's Social Enterprise

Stories/377 , Issues/Refugees , Issues/Employment
Sydney NSW, Australia
21st Nov 2018
Your Tradie Has A Story: Hedayat Osyan's Social Enterprise
A tradie with a social conscience, Hedayat Osyan created a tiling company that empowers refugees with skills and employment.

"They were being exploited by their employer, by their colleagues and by their site manager because they cannot speak English. They were being treated like slaves. Because I am a former refugee from Afghanistan they came to me and said, 'you are one of us, can you help us? Think of a safe platform for us to work because we really want to work, but the companies we are working for are no good.'"

Nick Tiling Services has a lot more to do with social justice than your average tiling company. As a Sydney based social enterprise with a practical goal, it empower refugees with skills and employment. These are key ingredients to enable someone to re-establish their life. The enterprise is run with an experience-led understanding of the niche needs of refugee employees. However, there is no business owner named "Nick", rather 26 year old Hedayat Osyan. "In my own language, the word Nick is very meaningful. It means something good, something beneficial to the community. This is why I chose it. It is also a slightly easier word for Australians to pronounce..."

Pictured: Hedayat Osyan
Pictured: Hedayat Osyan

Hedayat Osyan found home in Australia in 2009 after almost a year of journeying from Ghazni in Afghanistan. As Hedayat is of the Haraza ethnic minority group, he was a target of persecution in his home country and he fled after his father was kidnapped by the Taliban. After being jailed in Medan for lacking the necessary documents to enter Indonesia, Hedayat escaped and boarded an old fishing boat for Australia where he eventually received a permanent Australian Visa. Hedayat reflects, "when I was in Afghanistan I hadn't this freedom and here I have everything... I'm really happy and I really appreciate the Australian Government, the Australian people who saved my life and I'm always trying very hard to give something back to the Australian people. This is my responsibility because they saved my life."

Hedayat is quick to point out that Nick Tiling Services was not his own idea. It was initially a thought process which begun at the end of 2016 when Hedayat started working for a construction company during his university holidays. Many of the his coworkers had worked for two months and yet had only received one months worth of pay. In his role as a youth advisor to young refugees, Hedayat kept hearing the same stories, the same worries and the same need for greater support. After being approached by his coworkers, he decided to postpone his phD and start the initiative. 

For the majority of refugees, the government currently offers the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) through the Department of Social Services alongside a Newstart Allowance. The focus of HSP is early practical support to humanitarian clients to help them become active members of the Australian community. HSP is more of a portal as, according to the Department's official factsheet, it focuses on assisting humanitarian entrants to gain access to mainstream services. Services provided under the HSP include arrival accomodation, assistance to register basic services and an orientation session on life in Australia. In special circumstances where humanitarian entrants have more complex needs, HSP will provide specialised and intensive services, but generally only up to six months. 

From Hedayat's lived experience, what is required is a much more detailed and engaged level of support. Hedayat believes that mentorship is key. "You have no idea... you have to start from scratch.  For example, I came from a poor and undeveloped rural town in the countryside of Afghanistan. I moved from there to one of the most developed and expensive cities in the world. That is definitely going to take time to get used to the change. I needed a mentor to help guide me through various situations."

Asher Hirsch a Senior Policy Officer at Refugee Council of Australia agrees with the current failures of the Government in adeqately addressing the needs of refugees. "The current Australian Government employment service, Jobactive, is failing refugees. New refugees face a range of challenges in the early years of settlement, including language barriers, education and local work experience. The Australian Government's employment service should recognise these barriers and provide support to overcome them, rather than punish people who are struggling to find work. At the same time, the Government's own statistics show that refugees are more entrepreneurial than other Australians, and we need a program that recognises this and utilises people's skills and experience to best contribute the Australian economy."

It is an indication of Hedayat's insight and management capabilities that the initiative currently employs 15 refugee tilers, after beginning with two. Hedayat is looking forward to further expansion, as he receives emails daily from refugees around the country willing to relocate to be employed in his business. 

"I try to teach them english, provide support and daily mentoring and advice. When they get a letter from some sort of organisation or the government, they do not know how to respond. So I help them and we've become like a little family. They are also a lot more confident now, especially now that they can speak english. My first tiler has told me that now they are looking for a house to buy." 

As social enterprise designed by refugees, run by refugees and for the benefit of refugees, Nick Tiling service significant improves the lives of refugees all while servicing the wider Sydney community.

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