News & Media

Refugee finds opportunity at Bundoora building site

Sierra Leone’s Jonathan Sesay has come a long way since he arrived in Australia in 2007 after spending five years in a refugee camp in bordering Guinea.
Today Mr Sesay met the Minister for Major Projects Denis Napthine at the AgriBio facility, currently under construction at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus.

With the help of construction company Grocon, the 25 year-old has completed his carpentry pre-apprenticeship and is now working on the $288 million project which is set to be one of the country’s most high profile research facilities.

In 2002 Mr Sesay was forced to flee his country with his mother and sisters after the government was overturned and his father, an opposition politician, was executed by the Sierra Leone People’s Party in the country’s capital Freetown.

While waiting for the opportunity to come to Australia, Mr Sesay worked in the camp building houses for three years to help support his family.

Upon arriving in Australia Mr Sesay tried his hand at several jobs but it wasn’t until he was offered a construction role with Grocon in April 2009 under the company’s community employment program that Mr Sesay knew he had found his calling.

“I knew when I started working with Grocon that construction was something I really wanted to do. The experience I had back home and in the camp really laid the foundations for what has been so far an exciting career,” Mr Sesay said.

“I am so grateful to Grocon for giving me this opportunity and I have really enjoyed working on such a complex project like the biosciences facility.”

This technically challenging agricultural science facility is made up of laboratories, glasshouses and controlled environment rooms that will house up to 400 agricultural science researchers from across Victoria when it opens early next year.

Dr Napthine said he was in awe of all that Mr Sesay had achieved since arriving in Australia.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what Jonathan has been through in his life, but it is just fantastic to see him happy and in a job that offers him great opportunity and the promise of a positive future,” Dr Napthine said.
“Some Sierra Leonean refugees arrive in Australia with limited work skills, which makes vocational training opportunities and community skills programs like these all the more important.

“Mr Sesay is an impressive young man and I look forward to following his progress as he embarks on his carpentry apprenticeship,” Dr Napthine said.

AgriBio is a joint initiative of the Victorian Government, through the Department of Primary Industries, and La Trobe University and is being delivered by Major Projects Victoria. At the peak of construction there were more than 550 workers on site at AgrioBio