From Boats to Businesses: The Remarkable Journey of Hazara Refugee Entrepreneurs in Adelaide

Jock Collins, Katherine Watson, Branka Krivokapic-Skoko

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)

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The research on Hazara refugee entrepreneurs in Adelaide, presented in the report, constitutes solid evidenced-based research to refute that argument. Hazara refugee entrepreneurs have overcome the highest imaginable barriers to establish a business in Adelaide. They overcame their lack of start-up capital by saving from meagre wages over many years, often in factories and unskilled manual jobs. They built strong Hazara community networks in Adelaide to overcome the lack of social capital that refugee entrepreneurs face in Australia. In a strange contradiction, a number of Hazara refugee entrepreneurs developed friendships with other Hazara they met during their period of mandatory detention in Australia, building their social capital and, in a number of instances, lifelong friendships and business partnerships with them. Today the Hazara community in Adelaide is thriving, optimistic, engaged and thankful for and committed to life in Australia. They went to English language classes to improve their linguistic capital that is needed to thrive as entrepreneurs in the Adelaide economy. Most adult Hazara boat-people arrived in Adelaide with little formal education, denied access to human capital by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Many younger Hazara had Australian schooling and acquired Australian human capital – often at tertiary level – so did not have the human capital barriers to entrepreneurship that their parents or older siblings faced. But another potentially insurmountable hurdle emerged: they could not get jobs in Adelaide in their professions. The sometimes subtle sometimes bald-faced labour market discrimination that they faced – no doubt in large part because of the bi-partisan negative discourse about boat-people in Australia – meant that they also looked to establishing a business as a way of earning a decent income and a better future in Australia.
The strong picture that emerges from this research is of Hazara refugee entrepreneurs as very hard working, risk taking individuals determined to provide their families a better life in Australia than the one that they had experienced in Afghanistan and during their long dangerous journey to Australia. Some had business experience themselves – or in their families – prior to coming to Australia, so had a passion to rekindle a similar opportunity in Australia. For the majority, the Australian business they established was their first. They were necessity entrepreneurs, moving into business because their mobility in the Australian labour market was blocked by formal and informal institutional racial discrimination. And yet these same Hazara refugee entrepreneurs did not subscribe to narratives that Australia was a racist society. Few had personal experiences of racism in Adelaide, and those who did merely commented that it was no worse than they experienced in Afghanistan and other countries. These Hazara refugee entrepreneurs were very positive of the future for themselves and their families – and their children – in Adelaide. They were very thankful for the opportunity given to them to seek refuge in Australia: eternally grateful and at the same time determined to make a success of their lives for the benefit of Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherUniversity of Technology Sydney
Commissioning bodyAustralian Research Council (ARC)
Number of pages152
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Grant Number

  • DP150104059


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