Refugee Week

Iraqi entrepreneur keen to restart family business in Australia

“There are challenges to adapting to a new country, but if you have a dream and vision, nothing is impossible.”

After leaving Iraq and spending over a year in Jordan, Roben Noonoo arrived in Australia as a refugee in February 2020 with his wife and son. Now he’s already making plans to establish his family business in his new home.

The Humanitarian Settlement Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs* and delivered by Settlement Services International (SSI), provided Mr Noonoo with a new life after he fled his home in Iraq due to the country’s political instability.

While living in Iraq, Mr Noonoo completed his tertiary studies in media and communications and worked for a cosmetic company. 

Steering away from his qualifications, he developed a new passion for business. He went into a partnership with his brother and together they took over their father’s company that specialised in selling dried fruit – specifically dates.

“My father and grandfather all worked in dates. They worked in a traditional way.

“I developed the business by having a food lab where I would be innovative. The dates I sold had things like pistachio and almonds in them.”

Originally the dates were sold from a small shop at the local markets. Through Mr Noonoo’s development of the business, they started selling their dates to upscale stores and online.

“I created a brand for myself. I was well-known with a good reputation.”

With a deep sense of pride and an unwavering ambition for the survival of his company, Mr Noonoo plans to restart his business in Australia with the support of SSI’s Ignite® program.

“I had this dream even before coming to Australia. At SSI they have a division that can help you when you have a business idea. 

“I got in contact with them and am starting to understand and research what I can do to make this happen.”

He has dedicated an extensive amount of time to researching the date market in Australia, attending fruit markets to understand their prices, distribution, quality and competitors.

“SSI Ignite has been amazed I’ve collected so much information about the market in a short space of time,” Mr Noonoo said.

As Mr Noonoo is still settling into his new life and his business idea is in its infancy, he is currently focusing on learning English at TAFE and getting his licence.

He has found SSI to be an important support system during his settlement journey.

“They (SSI) really want people to stand up on their own feet. They have given me so much, and now I want to give back to Australia.”

With exciting plans on the horizon, Mr Noonoo is optimistic about his future.

“There are challenges to adapting to a new country, but if you have a dream and vision, nothing is impossible.”

*Go to https://homeaffairs.gov.au/ for more information.