From a war torn country to Australia, Ethar Al-hakem has taken every opportunity to progress her professional development. Recently completing a media internship with The Huddle, Al-hakem reflected on her experience.

Moving to Australia to live was a dream come true. I had to leave my home country, Yemen, due to war. I relocated to Malaysia for about two years and then moved to Australia when my partner had his skilled visa approved. We were so happy.

I will never forget those first moments and the beautiful feeling I had when arriving in Australia. I was thrilled to realise that people are kind and friendly, usually greeting me with a "hello" or "g’day", even if they do not know me. The friendliness helped a lot with the anxiety of moving to a new country. It felt like Australia welcomed me, and still welcomes me, as an immigrant, with open arms.

I like to think of myself as an ambitious, hard-working individual who loves learning and developing my skills. My aspiration to help the community was why I started looking for jobs. 

Unfortunately, getting a job was not an easy task. I faced many challenges, such as preparing my resume to suit the Australian labour market and meeting expectations, given I had no local experience and lacked professional networks ... or any network, for that matter.

I came across the media intern position at The Huddle via Brotherhood of St Laurence. I decided to apply for the job, given I had tangible experience from a volunteering role with my local community. The job also linked to my passion for working with young people from diverse cultural backgrounds. I was also thrilled to join The Huddle as it is a great organisation to learn, grow and add some local experience to my resume.

My first experience with The Huddle was the interview. I was very nervous and was worried about being rejected ... again. I interviewed with two female Huddle staff members who made the interview causal, relaxed and more about my personality than previous experiences. This approach made me feel comfortable to express myself and reduced my anxiety.

I was on top of the world when I learned I was successful in the role. I jumped into action with The Huddle by assisting the Media Coordinator in planning and organising the Autumn Huddle Holiday content plan. Across the Autumn Holidays, I created social media content, interviewed participants, staff and volunteers, wrote website articles and case studies for the State Government, whilst adhering to the OH&S child safety protocols and the COVIDSafe plan. It was a steep learning curve and was a self-fulfilling experience.

My favourite event was going to Chesterfield Farm. It was mesmerising to witness the progression of children throughout the day. At first, they distrusted touching the animals, then slowly curiosity overwhelmed them, and they built up their confidence and knowledge about how to interact with the animals. 

Overall, it was a great opportunity for me. It gave me the chance to develop my writing skills while telling the stories of and for communities. I thoroughly enjoyed talking and listening to participants and young people. Most importantly, my experience gave me hope that I can find a job in Australia despite the circumstances.

Like anything in life, it didn’t come without its challenges. It was hard for me to say goodbye to my coordinator after just two weeks in the role, and the last two weeks were from home due to COVID restrictions.  

To enhance this experience, I would recommend extending the internship over a longer period of time to gain more experience and insights into the role. 

I highly recommend working for The Huddle as the staff are kind, helpful and supportive. I have built networks and invaluable friendships, and importantly further developed my skill set. 

I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with The Huddle and get to know some amazing and kind people. I have gained valuable skills and knowledge, and I am grateful for their continuous support on my job hunting journey even after my internship. 

Huge thanks to The Huddle and all my colleagues and a special mention to Emily O’Halloran, Karla Zanardo, Maddy Ware, Lilly Skacej, Ruth Game and Riley Goodwin.

Ethar Al-hakem