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Housing : November 2008
I was getting busier and busier. Then a friend ofminewhowas a bricklayer announced out of the blue that he had a visa and was emigrating toAustralia.He was aboutmy agewith a similar family and I thought if he can do it,why can’t I?’ There was an initial setback.Rob’s decade-and-a-half of work did not include any paper qualifications.And rules that had previously allowedwork experience to be automatically taken into account had been changed a few months before he arrived on the NSWCentral Coast in November 2006 with wife Julie and childrenAnnabelle and Katie. His first few monthswere spent in a frustrating round of government departments and educational institutions trying to establish just what he needed to begin work.A teacher at the Ourimbah TAFE, Phil Dawson, came to his aid and Rob was able to gain some recognition of prior learning with classes at the TAFE. He eventuallyreceived the required qualification as a carpenter. ‘Things began to pick up after that,’ he says. ‘I was getting a few decking jobs, hanging doors, that sort of thing, but I really wanted to get back to the stage I was at in the UK where I was doing extensions and renovations.’ Phil Dawson then put himin touch with HIA where he discovered a short course for builders in his area which seemed ideal. ‘It meant that withmy references, I could complete the course in six months,’ he says. ‘Work is picking up, and I already have a renovation in the pipeline for early next year’ ‘I already had a vision of starting my own business and we had invested in an industrial unit at Kincumber, so between January and June this year I was doing this course, trying to continuewithmy carpentry jobs while setting up the unit. ‘Fortunatelywe didn’t arrive here as paupers…but you don’t like to watch your hard-earned savings gradually being spentwhile you can’t work properly for a living.’ By June it seemed the familywas about to head into smoother waters.The course ended and Rob opened a door sales and manufacturing business, Doors Sincerely.All that was requiredwas the HOUSING NOVEMBER 2008 Untangling the tape formal registration with the Department of Fair Trading.Then disaster struck. ‘The department refused to recognise my British references even though its own field officer had toldme at the course induction they would be okay, and therewas nothing on the website to say they would not be accepted,’he says. ‘It was a terrible shock. But I wasn’t giving up and I approachedmy localMP who passed the issue on to the NSWFair TradingMinister, Linda Burney, and I also askedHIA to help.’ His case was taken up by HIA’s executive director of Business Information Services, Elizabeth Greenwood,who immediately approached the Department of Fair Trade. She was promised the case would be reviewed. ‘On the following day she told me Linda Burney had written to the department telling themto institute an appeal process.’ An anxiousweekend passed before he received a call fromthe licensing appeals department saying it had overturned the original ruling and the licence would be granted. Rob Clark’s case has highlighted anomalies in regulations between the NSW and Commonwealth governments which he hopes will be ironed out so that future migrants do not suffer the same experience. ‘How is it that the Commonwealth Immigration Department allowed me to enter the country with my UK references which the NSW Government then said were unacceptable,’ he says. ‘In my dealings with the fair trading department I got the impression they really wanted me to make an appeal so things could be sorted out. Elizabeth Greenwood also told me they were prepared to sit down with me if I could suggest ways the system can be improved, and I would certainly be prepared to do that.’ The family now feel they can get on with their lives. ‘Work is picking up, and I already have a renovation in the pipeline for early next year,’Rob says. ‘There are a lot of older houses around Kincumber and it’s an area where wealthy people from Sydney are building homes, so it’sa good place to work.’ H 91