SSI News Blog

Education for people from refugee and migrant backgrounds was the focus of a training event held by the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP), recently.

Loukia Zinopoulos, Settlement Services Manager for Settlement Services International, said the training event was a great opportunity for NSP members to hear how educational institutions could link recent migrants and people from refugee backgrounds to education and training opportunities.

NSW Settlement Partnership
Photos from the education training event.

While most of the presentation addressed how the educational institutions could assist students from a refugee or migrant background, it became clear that the institutions could benefit from the experience and expertise of the migrant resource centres, multicultural services and community organisations in the NSP.

At the training activity, NSP members discussed ways to empower clients to make informed decisions about study and the employment opportunities that might result from specific pathways.

It covered the services provided, gave an overview of education and training, and programs from the university sector, TAFE and Centrelink that support migrants and refugees, and explained how referrals can be made to TAFE for training and education opportunities.

Deborah Hyam, a faculty director at TAFE, said TAFE offered many beneficial services, including inclusive teaching practices industry involvement, multicultural communities on campus, hands-on, practical training, government-funded training with concessions and scholarships, outreach programs, counselling services, disability consultants and learner support programs.

Zarlasht Sarwari, a senior project officer for UNSW, said the university provided equity access for students experiencing disadvantage or hardship. There were scholarships and pathway programs to develop academic skills, including those for mature-age students who had never dreamed they would attend university.

Ms Sarwari said NSP partners had a role in helping students find people in the education sector who could support and encourage them.

Successful transition

Semra Tastan, project coordinator with Learning, Education Aspiration, Participation (LEAP) at Macquarie University, spoke of improving access and support for students under-represented at university. Macquarie University, she said, supported the successful transition of high school students from refugee backgrounds into higher education.

Fernando Giumentaro and Julian Jeyakumar from the Australian Government Department of Human Services said the department could help enable NSP partners to empower their clients. Multicultural Services Officers could assist clients to gain access to Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support services, they said.

The TAFE NSW workshop included speakers from TAFE in Western Sydney, South Western Sydney, and Sutherland College Sydney Institute. The workshop was led by Paula Abood, a community cultural development practitioner, filmmaker, writer and educator, led the workshop and spoke of the effect and influence of cultural misunderstandings, family context and access to financial support. She said it was possible to set clients up well if their re-entry into education was a positive experience.

No overseas qualifications precisely match Australian qualifications, NSP members were told, which often made it necessary to enrol in TAFE to get recognition. TAFE has higher education sections and is a stepping stone for skills development before university. It also has reverse pathways to add vocational training after getting an academic degree.

NSP members were told they should contact TAFE staff for assistance to find the right people with the right expertise for their clients. TAFE staff, in turn, may encourage students to connect with a migrant resource centre, where they can find company and encouragement.

TAFE offers language training in work settings and courses with embedded English language training, and it is investigating a program with SSI to match skills with functional language, NSP members heard.

Norma Fakhouri, a senior counsellor at Sutherland College, said, “the key is how we work together to share resources and become an ecosystem that is fluid and shares resources and knowledge.”

The NSP could help educators by assessing their clients: What do they have? Do they need money for internships, support for traineeships, or help with employability skills?

Migrants and people from refugee backgrounds, and their case workers, shouldn’t be shy to contact universities to explain the problems they are facing. Educators advised NSP members that they could speak to equity departments, who understand those problems.

Participants were told universities also needed to have conversations with people on the ground so they remained informed about key issues.

Success stories

Jamsheed’s Story

A driver in their car.

My name is Jamsheed Shaharyar. I am a refugee from Iran.

I was born to a middle class family in Iran, where my wealth was my family and I earned my income from a good job.

Read more ...