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Open for all: Meet three of the hidden talents taking the next step with Jobsbank and Tennis Australia

Jan 12, 2022

Australian Open employees placed by Jobsbank

It’s a hot day in Melbourne.

From different parts of the city, Katrina Larsen, Luka Lazović and Ashish Naranje arrive to catch up with the Jobsbank team. All  three have been on the same journey since September, priority jobseekers who have landed a placement with the 2022 Australian Open via Jobsbank.

As we walk through Birrarung Marr to find a shady spot for a chat, their eyes catch Melbourne Park, and the world they will be part of in few days.

When we ask the three if they’ve ever visited the tournament, they exchange glances full of excitement, and the question sparks a vibrant conversation about their experience so far.

“Well, you have to have a little bit of sparkle to work here, don’t you think?” grins Katrina. “It’s an international event; you have to be interested in other people and different cultures; and I guess you have to be a collaborator.”

With its “open for all” ethos, the Australian Open and Tennis Australia are committed to creating diverse and inclusive environments, and have been working with Jobsbank’s Business Engagement team to place jobseekers who face barriers to employment in a range of roles at the Open. Working with such a high profile organisation, these short-term contracts are a valuable way to build skills and confidence, and help jobseekers ready themselves for long term employment.

For Ashish, a chef from Mumbai with extensive studies, accreditation and 15 years’ experience in the Hospitality and Food Industry, the AO was one of two dream jobs when he arrived from India in 2018, looking for new paths to expand his career.

After two years of struggling with hospitality jobs that were on and off during the lockdowns, Ashish discovered Jobsbank, and decided to connect.

“These last years have been so tough. It was already challenging in 2018 to connect to the market,” he says. “Everyone kept asking me if I had Australian experience … and it became even harder. My specialty has always been to be able to connect and interact with people. After these last two years, I feel I have lost part of my personal touch.”

Now, with a client service role with the Australian Open, Ashish is gaining valuable new experience with a world-renowned organisation.

“I’m thrilled!  I am looking forward to interacting with people and reconnecting with that part of my personality,” he explains. “I want to get to know people from different backgrounds and with different abilities, and understand how I can serve them best, each and every day.”

For Ashish the aspiration is for the Australian Open to be a learning experience. For Katrina, it’s more a way to discover a new path in life.

An experienced teacher and educator with post graduate studies, Katrina lived and worked in Japan for 17 years, returning to Australia three years ago. Since then, she has worked casually for many organisations but found it tough to find ongoing roles.

“Reconnecting to the market hasn’t been an easy task,” she says. “I always look at job ads to see what is around as I don’t have a permanent role at the moment. January is usually a slow month. When I came across the Australian Open job ad, I thought, ‘That would be something really different for me’”.

Researching Tennis Australia further, Katrina says everything she came across gave her the sense it was a diverse, inclusive workplace.

“It’s not very often you look at an organisation and you think ‘this could be me’,” she says. 

It’s a sense that has followed her throughout the process. “The interviews, the induction, the training – I can sense they are empathetic and inclusive”.

Katrina is working in retail services during the tournament, and is enthusiastic about the opportunity to get out and meet people after a two-year period of isolation.

“It will be wonderful to work for such a big organisation. Just being part of that atmosphere,” she says.

“Throughout my life people keep telling me I’m friendly and helpful, but most of the time we don’t think of these qualities as ‘skills’. This is the first time I get to see how they translate in a work environment. I am hoping to see something in myself that maybe I didn’t realise I had.”

Also in the cohort of employees Jobsbank has placed with the Australian Open is Luka, who arrived with his Australian wife in February 2020 from Serbia, to visit his father-in-law, who is in his 80s.

As borders closed, Luka’s original plan to stay six weeks changed abruptly. Two years later, Luka, who speaks four languages and is an experienced translator, has a Permanent Visa and is trying to build a career in Melbourne.

Has been given a role in player accreditation, meeting players and their support teams as they arrive at Melbourne Park.

“I’ve never been to an event this big, and I have always wanted to come to Australia to see the tennis,” he says. “I’m imagining something grand and spectacular with buzz and excitement.

I’ve been to Melbourne Park and it’s just gigantic — I recognise all the names as a tennis fan, but it’s something I’ve never seen before.”

Luka hasn’t dealt with international athletes before, and is excited at the prospect of learning new skill in what he refers to as a “once in lifetime job opportunity.”

“My long-term goal,” he says,” is to be part of a project similar to what you’re doing at Jobsbank – inclusion programs are my passion. I studied gender and developmental studies. I’ve applied for a lot of roles in foreign affairs and want to work for a project that creates social change.”

“This is a cohort that leaves the Australian Open with a positive job experience and feels confident to continue their employment journey,” says Jobsbank CEO Corinne Proske. “They have connected to the market, they have an updated CV, and they have training and new skills with an organisation known around the world.”

“When I went to get my uniform”, says Katrina, “I looked around and asked someone working there; ‘Is this the kind of organisation that once you get your foot in the door and you don’t mess up, they want to keep you?’ and they said ‘Yes. I’ve been working here for 10 years’. That got me thinking a bit. Maybe it is the start of something new. I look forward to the experience and to see what becomes of it.”

About Jobsbank

At Jobsbank we are passionate about inclusion and the difference it makes – not just to one person, but to teams and whole organisations. We believe in an Australia where everybody belongs. That’s why we’re helping to build more inclusive workplaces one business at time. Whether you have specific focus areas or you’re looking to achieve transformational change – our services are tailored to meet your specific needs and provides you with the insights and tools to deliver sustainable solutions.

Photo: Laura May Grogan


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