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Program to help refugees set up businesses in Australia effective for economy: report -

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NICK GRIMM: A report on a program helping people from refugee backgrounds set up businesses in Australia says the model is effective and should be expanded to support more people, including the 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq that are to be resettled in Australia.

It's found refugees are making a significant contribution to the local economy and that the program is assisting those who might lack the capital or knowledge of Australia to get a business off the ground.

Sarah Sedghi went along to meet some of those already benefiting from the program.

SARAH SEDGHI: Brothers Mahdi and Babak Jahangirzadeh came to Australia two years ago from Iran, seeking asylum. After nearly two months in detention they were granted bridging visas and just two months ago were given permission to work in Australia.

Mahdi now has ambitions of setting up a small design and painting company and Babak wants to make a living as an artist.

For them it's a chance to make a career out of something they love, as Mahdi explains:

MAHDI JAHANGIRZADEH: I'm a novelist. I do art too. And I start a business in Australia about painter.

SARAH SEDGHI: Back in Iran, the brothers' mosaic art can be seen in Tehran's Azadi Square.

But they say what they could make, paint or write was heavily restricted.

MAHDI JAHANGIRZADEH: I started writing and finished two big novels in Iran. And my friend said, "Yeah, this really is good. You can try, try, try your best." But the Iran government is closed for printing and say, "You must delete that. Delete that."

BABAK JAHANGIRZADEH: I do painting in Iran. And you know, this is very important for artists: to show art. I live in Australia for two years. I had more than 10 exhibitions. But I lived in Iran for 30 years: I had one exhibition.

SARAH SEDGHI: Having once had their own business in Iran, it's something they wanted to do here.

And they're getting help from the Ignite Small Business Start-ups program, set up by a not-for-profit refugee support agency, Settlement Services International.

JOCK COLLINS: Refugees can make an impact on business. They can fend for themselves. They can create employment.

SARAH SEDGHI: Jock Collins, a professor of social economics at the University of Technology Sydney's Business School, says the program could benefit more people from refugee backgrounds throughout Australia.

He's just prepared a report on the program being launched on Monday by the Sydney Business Chamber.

JOCK COLLINS: Refugees themselves will make an important contribution to Australian society and, through this example of entrepreneurship, to the Australian economy and the Australian business sector.

SARAH SEDGHI: He says many refugees want to and can contribute in Australia, but sometimes they lack capital to get started or their qualifications aren't recognised here.

JOCK COLLINS: It's a model that, for very little money but a lot of goodwill and generosity on the part of sort of experts who are volunteers to support these businesses, can in fact help a lot more newly arrived refugees establish a business against all the odds.

SARAH SEDGHI: So far the program has helped 30 people from refugee backgrounds set up a business.

While Mahdi Jahangirzadeh's business is new, he's got big ambitions for the future.

MAHDI JAHANGIRZADEH: My plan about that: I establish a small business for a few people. After, I get more project: big project.

NICK GRIMM: Artist and asylum seeker Mahdi Jahangirzadeh ending Sarah Sedghi's report.