Breaking the poverty cycle – Kate’s story as a refugee

Kate in front of MatchWorks office smiling.

Kate Ngo was only two years old when her family fled from Vietnam and spent 3 frightening days at sea in search of a better life.

It took years of hard work for her family to find a safe place to call home and break the poverty cycle. Fast-forward to today and the former refugee is not only thriving, she is using her lived experience to remove barriers to work for people who need extra support.

“It’s not only people with disability and refugees, but non-English speaking background and generally people who are struggling. They just need to be given a chance to realise their potentials and reach their goals,” she said.

“When I was living in the refugee camp, I had no idea what my potential was or what success could look like. Now I know it’s possible to break out of that cycle.”

A family in survival mode

Kate and her family endured incredible challenges after they fled their old life.  

“We were refugees living in a detention centre for eight and a half years until I was 10 years old,” Kate said.

Then the family was sent back to Vietnam after changes in the Hong Kong government.

“When we went back, we started from zero. We had no housing and food. We had to find a way to survive,” she said.

After 7 long years, Kate’s parents finally secured skilled work visas and the family moved to Australia in 2004. However with no money, and unable to speak English, more difficult years lay ahead.

“When I came to Australia, we were living in someone’s shed at the back of their house for 6 months,” Kate said.

“I recognised that it was not the best environment for me to thrive in, and I started upskilling myself.”

Kate finds inspiration and self-belief

Recognition from an English teacher inspired Kate and she continues to draw on these memories nearly 20 years later.

“She kept telling me that I had so much potential, and I could do so much for myself,” Kate said.

“They were very simple words, but it was the encouragement I needed.”

Kate studied business administration and did a Diploma of Community Service at night while working. Her determination paid off and after four years she secured a full-time role at MatchWorks, where she has now worked for more than 15 years.

“When I passed my probation with MatchWorks that’s when I broke out of my own poverty cycle,” she said.

“It’s not just the financial gain, it is the journey and development and being able to thrive. It’s also the opportunity to give back to the community and help those in need. If I hadn’t been given that opportunity I wouldn’t be here today.”

Kate Ngo is one of many MatchWorks team members across Australia with lived-experience as a refugee. In her management role in Disability Employment Services, Kate and her team work together to help remove barriers to employment and secure suitable employment pathways. Find out how our Employment Services teams can support you into work. Job Seekers – MatchWorks