When Mohammed Alshawsh’s eldest son was approaching the age of 18, he and his family faced a difficult decision.
A medical scientist from Yemen who had spent 14 years in Malaysia gaining a doctorate in immunology and becoming professor of Pharmacology at the prestigious Universiti Malaya, Dr Alshawsh had built a career and a life in the south-east-Asian nation.
But as his son, Ashraf, approached his 18th birthday, it was clear the family would have to move abroad because there was no prospect of Ashraf or his other four children getting a visa to remain in Malaysia beyond the age of 18.
“I spent 14 years in Malaysia completing a PhD in Immunology in 2012 and ultimately becoming Professor of Pharmacology at the Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur,” Dr Alshawsh said.
“I joined the Department of Pharmacology teaching undergraduates and graduate students – supervising Masters and PhD students - as well as doing research and applying for grants.
“We had a good life in Malaysia which is a diverse country with diverse cultures. But I had to apply for a visa each year and there was no prospect of my children getting a visa to live in Malaysia once they turned 18,” he said.
But salvation came in the form of Global Talent visa. The Australian Government’s Global Talent program provides a permanent visa for exceptionally talented and prominent individuals who can raise Australia’s standing in their field.
“I looked around and I decided Australia was the right place to raise my children and to start a new career. So I applied for permanent residency in Australia through the Global Talent program,” Dr Alshawsh said.
After receiving an invitation to apply, he and his family were granted visas. They arrived in Australia July 2022 but Dr Alshawsh went back to Malaysia for a time to finalise his work obligations.
Realising he needed some guidance to re-establish his career in Australia, Dr Alshawsh enrolled in refugee and migrant settlement agency AMES Australia’s Skilled Professional Migrant Program in October last year.
“The program supports skilled migrants to settle and find employment in Australia,” Dr Alshawsh said.
“And it was an excellent opportunity for me to connect with other skilled migrants and learn more about the Australian job market.
“It gave me strategies, networking opportunities and knowledge of Australian workplace culture. When I arrived I had no idea about Australian workplaces.
“Workplaces are more relaxed here. In Malaysia things are more stressful. But both places are really diverse which is fantastic.
“And the more relaxed work culture in Australia will give me more time to contribute to the community through volunteer work.
“The SPMP program also provided me with a mentor Dr Jeanette Pritchard who provided me with practical tips such as how to tailor a resume and cover letter to meet Australian expectations.
“My resume was over 20 pages but through the SPMP I reduced it to three pages. This helped me secure my job at Monash University.
“I’m grateful for the support and guidance provided throughout the program and I’m grateful for the mentorship which extends for six months after the program. I had regular online meetings and get tips and advice on how to secure a job.
“For people new to Australia, the program is excellent. It’s really useful and every new skilled migrant would benefit from attending this program.”
Dt Alshawsh is now working as a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Clinical Sciences, which is part of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science at Monash University.
He started his job this month (March) in a part-time role but was offered a full-time position starting in April.
Dr Alshawsh says his family are all happy and doing well in Australia.
He has five children, four at local schools, and an eldest son who is taking a gap year before going to university.
His wife is microbiologist, who is teaching casually at Victoria University and looking for a permanent role.
“We are all happy here in Australia. The kids are enjoying their education,” he said
But Dr Alshawsh still holds fears for his family and former colleagues in Yemen.
“There has been conflict in Yemen for nine years and we have not been able to go back to see my parents,’ he said.
“Some of my colleagues have not been paid a salary for seven years. They have spent their savings, some have gone to other countries – to Saudi Arabia or to Europe. Others are teaching a private schools to earn money.
“We are hoping the conflict ends soon and there seems to be some dialogue around that recently.” Dr Alshawsh said.