Born in Melbourne to parents who migrated from Ethiopia, Asante Abubaker supports herself by working several jobs while also training as a naturopath.
For the past three years, the 24-year-old has been learning floristry at a small business in the inner Melbourne suburb of North Fitzroy.
For Ms. Abubaker, who lives in Truganina in the city’s west, it’s not just a job. She is also learning new skills, including administration, customer relations, orders, and deliveries. During the city’s COVID-19 lockdowns, she also says making colorful bouquets has given her a sense of purpose.
“It is beautiful to be able to make people happy and uplifted, and I feel a sense of connection with others,” she says. “By sending these flowers, I feel I am doing my bit for society.”
SBS visited The Beautiful Bunch ahead of the most recent Melbourne lockdown.
This week, while the business is allowed to stay open and home delivery is still permitted, it is not delivering to aged care homes or hospitals.
Migrants and unemployment
According to the Bureau of Statistics, almost half of Australia’s young people are first- or second-generation migrants, and one in four Australians aged 18 to 24 years were born overseas.
This group has faced severe employment challenges during the pandemic.
The Centre for Multicultural Youth says young people are being hit hardest by job losses and will suffer the long-term labor market consequences of the economic downturn. Those from refugee and migrant backgrounds are disproportionately affected.
“It is harder for them to find employment and build those skills they need to enter the workforce for the first time,” says Jane Marx, Ms. Abubaker’s employer at The Beautiful Bunch.
“So, working with us is a life-changing opportunity for many young women.”
Ms. Marx hired Ms. Abubaker four years ago, initially for her events business, Merchant Road. The social enterprise was set up in 2018 to help women from migrant, and refugee backgrounds start their careers.
But when events dried up during lockdown last year, it was forced to pivot.
“We started The Beautiful Bunch to do floral deliveries around Melbourne, and [online orders] ensured we could keep the business going,” Ms. Marx says. Data from MYOB Business Monitor shows that 39 percent of Victorian businesses were forced to adapt their offering before the latest lockdown, compared with a national average of 33 percent. Additionally, more than half of all Victorian small and medium-sized enterprises moved their business or services online, with 85 percent reporting it helped them stay afloat.