Stavro Qashanna and Isho Gorgees

Fleeing a war-torn country and arriving in Australia to start a new life is a life-changing experience for anyone, particularly when you don't speak much English.

But that's exactly what Stavro Qashanna, 24, and Isho Gorgees, 22, did to escape ISIS's reign of terror in Iraq in the early 2010s, before finally being accepted as refugees by Australia in 2016.

Both grew up in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, and as Chaldean Catholic Christians, a persecuted minority group in Iraq, it was no longer safe to stay in the country.

Stavro and his family made their way to Jordan, where they stayed for two years, while Isho and nine members of his extended family sought refuge in Turkey. 

Both families applied for humanitarian visas to several countries, including the United States and Canada, before settling in Australia. 


Meeting at CareerSeekers internship

Despite their similar, harrowing journey, they only met recently during their CareerSeekers internship at Ventia this year.

CareerSeekers helps new arrivals successfully transition into the workforce, and Ventia has partnered with the not-for-profit social enterprise since 2019.

Ventia became involved in the program to provide career opportunities to refugees like Stavro and Isho to further our goal to create a diverse workforce that is representative of the community.

The 12-week paid internship provides mid-career professionals and university students with work experience in their chosen field to help them enter the Australian jobs market.


Valued team mebers of Sydney Roads Asset Performance Contract

As part of their internship, Stavro and Isho have been working on Ventia's Sydney Roads Asset Performance contract and have been such valuable members of the team their time with the program has been extended.

Stavro is in his final year of a Bachelor of Construction and Management degree and works with the civil maintenance team planning jobs to be completed, such as fixing potholes, replacing road signs, and undertaking mowing and cleaning.

Isho is in his third year of a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and works in the asset management team, analysing line markings, data and using software to assess infrastructure.

Stavro Qashanna and Isho Gorgees at the SRAPC depot

Pictured: Isho Gorgees (left) and Stavro Qashanna (right) been working on Ventia's Sydney Roads Asset Performance contract. 


Help with entering the job market

Both said the program was vital to helping them break into the Australian job market.

"We have a chance to get experience with this program and I'm learning a lot of things for my future career," Isho said.

They teach us how to do well in interviews and apply for different jobs and build our resumes and there's still contact between CareerSeekers and Ventia during our internship.

'I'm really liking it, and Ventia has a good working environment,' he said.

Stavro said it was very hard finding a job in Australia with no local experience.

"I was a labourer and supervisor for about three or four years, but it's very hard to find a good company," Stavro said.

"This program has helped me get experience in my field and I now have experience working with plans.

"I'm working for the community and I'm learning at the same time,' he said.

I love the culture and the environment at Ventia, and everyone is so happy to help, it's the Australian spirit.


Grateful to be in Australia

Despite their tumultuous journey, both are happy they came to Australia.

"I want to stay in Australia and keep working at Ventia," Isho said.

Australia is my home now.

Stavro is a mad soccer fan and used to support FC Barcelona, but now he cheers for the Socceroos.

"Words can't describe how grateful I am to come to this country," Stavro said. 

"They provided everything when we got here and I will never forget this." 


This story featured on ABC News - watch it here: