Good Practice

6 March 2019
Migrant driven to succeed
Picture: Sandra Morello
As published in the Border Watch.
Written by Sandra Morello.

Photo: Special Bond: Top Spot Auto Dismantlers company owner Peter Barrows and new arrival immigrant K’Bow Doh Htoo enjoy a casual chat.

New Mount Gambier arrival finds top spot to start life in Australia

Mount Gambier new arrival immigrant K’Bow Doh Htoo can be seen tinkering beneath cars at a city’s spare parts business.

With a wide smile and positive demeanour, K’Bow is an example how humanitarian immigrants are contributing to the city’s social and economic fabric.

A popular employee at Top Spot Auto Dismantlers, company owner Peter Barrows has nothing but praise for his trusted employee.

Sitting on the edge of a trailer, the pair can be seen laughing and enjoying each other’s company in the high-paced auto dismantling workshop.

Mr Barrows said he reached out to the Australian Migrant Resource Centre in Mount Gambier after struggling to find workers for his business.

The auto dismantling business is tough work given employees are often underneath cars arm deep in oil and grease.

But the 21-year-old K’Bow – who has had no knowledge of cars of tools – is thriving in this entry level automotive position.

In fact, his story is startling given he had never been in a car before arriving in Australia given much of his childhood was spent in a Thailand refugee camp.

K’Bow – who hailed from the Karenni state of Burma – fled persecution in 2007 at the age of 13.

Taking The Border Watch into the workshop, Mr Barrows encouraged other employers to consider taking on new arrivals.

“When K’Bow came to me he had no expertise in cars and had never used tools, but the speed in which he grew to learn this has just been amazing,” Mr Barrows said.

He said he had grown to become a valuable and reliable member of the team.

“This job is probably entry level into our industry and we have over the years struggled to find young people who believe there is a future,” Mr Barrows said.

“They would come here and they do not tend to last.”

Through growing frustration, Mr Barrows revealed he had a conversation with Anelia Blackie from the Migrant Resource Centre. Explaining K’Bow was appointed fulltime in October last year, he said K’Bow initially started one day per week because he still had education commitments.

“K’Bow has had a pretty average start to life so he came to Australia looking for opportunities. We have given him this opportunity and he has taken it with both arms,” Mr Barrows said.

“K’Bow is quick, accurate and arrives on time. He comes to work with a smile on his face and he smiles most of the day,” Mr Barrows said.

“There is nobody here who does not get along with him.” Ms Blackie – who is the centre’s manager – praised Mr Barrows for giving K’Bow the opportunity given it took the whole team to be involved in taking on a new arrival.

She said among the challenges facing new arrivals was grasping English. But Ms Blackie said new arrivals could learn English in a workplace, which enhanced their opportunities.

She said this was particularly important for people in his age group who were too old for school but did not feel they fit into a TAFE environment.

“Karenni people are usually very hard workers and are keen to find opportunities,” Ms Blackie said.

K’Bow – who arrived in Mount Gambier with his uncle and aunt in June 2017 – said he was thrilled Mr Barrows had given him the opportunity.

“I love learning about cars – I did not know much about cars before I started here,” K’Bow said.

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