Due to his experience working with large international organisations, Matiullah Kazmi (Kazmi) has provided valuable support to Ventia's Sustainability team in the past three months, analysing Ventia's current approach to social sustainability and preparing various other inputs. 

Kazmi (centre) pictured with members of the Skout, CareerSeekers and Ventia team.

Kazmi was born in Pakistan as an Afghan refugee, following his parents' move there in the late 1970's. He was lucky enough to be educated in Pakistan, achieving his Masters Degree in Sociology, but securing a good job there was less straightforward. 

After returning to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010, Kazmi worked with more than seven international organisations, including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. He also worked with the Australian missions in Afghanistan and supported AusAID and DFAT for the two phases of the Development Assistance Facility project (DAFA II & III).

"In my last role with the World Bank, I was responsible for preparing and implementing projects in compliance with their Environmental and Social Framework," Kazmi explains. "My primary focus was to enhance the capacity of ministries to assess and manage environmental and social risks and impacts. I supported around 10 projects in a variety of sectors, including transportation, energy, education, community development, and agriculture." 

A few of the areas I focused on in managing social risks were voluntary resettlement, labour and working conditions, community health and safety, cultural heritage management, stakeholder engagement, grievance redress mechanisms, and Indigenous people.


Moving to Australia

When the Taliban regained control in 2021, Kazmi, his wife and five children emigrated to Australia and started searching for his next steps in his career. 

Kazmi says it was through the community of fellow Afghan refugees in Melbourne that he was introduced to CareerSeekers, an organisation which partners with large organisations like Ventia to create paid internships for recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers. 

CareerSeekers helps them restart professional careers in Australia, providing local experience and developing a professional network - things that are usually a barrier to new Australians accessing employment. 

Throughout Kazmi's 12-week internship, he worked under the guidance of Group Manager Sustainability Alexandra Monson.

I undertook a deep dive of Ventia's sustainability approach, also helped the team with elements of the Reconciliation Action Plan, and looked into the data to track our progress against the Sustainability Development Goal (SDG) targets.

"Working on a Reconciliation Action Plan was also new for me, and I learned a lot about the work being done in reconciliation in Australia and Indigenous people," Kazmi elaborates.

"It was good to be able to put my skills to use in a different context." 

Kazmi spent time looking at Ventia's sustainability approach, Reconciliation Action Plan, and data to track progress against the Sustainability Development Goal (SDG) targets.

Support from CareerSeekers is key

Kazmi says the support he received from CareerSeekers was invaluable.

"They helped me get out of my comfort zone during the five-day training program," he says. "I reframed my reference around work opportunities and what I would consider doing. So rather than being too specific in the work I was seeking, which was a social impact role, I broadened it to Sustainability and the social elements within that." 

Kazmi says he also improved some of his personal and professional skills through CareerSeekers, including how to interview well. 

From Ventia, he says he gained an understanding of Australian workplace culture and importantly for him, our approach to sustainability and how our strategy is designed and implemented. 

"As a newcomer to Australia in 2021, I encountered few social impact jobs, and I was concerned about reshaping my experience and contextualising it," he explains. "Thanks to Ventia and CareerSeekers, I've learned how to reframe my past experiences within the context of sustainability where there are a lot of opportunities for growth."

Kazmi will continue to work at Ventia, but now in the Social Sustainability team, under the guidance of Loes Westerbeek. 

We feel very privileged to have Kazmi in our team as he brings a new perspective to our approach and thinking informed by his overseas experience.

Ventia has partnered with the not-for-profit social enterprise since 2019, and since that time has supported both mid-career interns and university students looking for work experience. 

"We got involved in the program to provide career opportunities to refugees like Kazmi to further our goal to create a diverse workforce that is representative of the community," Loes says. "I've been really privileged to support and work with many of the interns we've had come through the doors at Ventia over the years, many of whom we've been able to extend employment offers to." 

Group of CareerSeekers interns at a conference

Ventia has partnered with CareerSeekers, a not-for-profit social enterprise since 2019.

Read Ventia's Sustainability Report here