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TAFE NSW Miller and Smithfield Public School helping refugee parents learn English

Fleeing from war torn Syria, leaving behind everything you know is a terrifying experience. Especially if you are moving to a country like Australia and you cannot speak a word of English.

Thirty seven year old Rasha Alshaer moved to Australia with her husband and two children a year ago. Possessing a very basic understanding of English when she arrived, Rasha is adjusting to her new life, and language, with the help of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) delivered by TAFE NSW Miller onsite at Smithfield Public School.

Smithfield Public School has been offering English classes for the parents of children who attend the school since 2018. For convenience, the classes are facilitated at the school, meaning parents like Rasha only have to make one stop each morning.

“I came to Australia with my mother who is very sick. After three months, my mother had to have open-heart surgery. I didn’t speak English very well, I want to learn English more and know everything which is why I started coming to class six months ago,” said Rasha Alshaer.

“My husband does not speak English, only Arabic and French, so I need to learn. When I go shopping, I understand better. When I first came here, [it was a] little bit hard to go to the city and get around, now it’s better, it’s easier.”

As a qualified teacher, Rasha also volunteers at the school helping with craft in the library or assisting her daughter’s class with maths.

“I worked as a music teacher in Syria. I like helping people, which is why I am a teacher.  In the future, I hope to teach music in Australia.

Rasha is one of 18 women who attend the AMEP classes at Smithfield Public School, which also teaches the parents how to navigate Australian customs, culture and transport. It is also an opportunity for them to connect with women who are in a similar situation as themselves.

“I do not have many friends here, only relatives, but I make friends with my classmates.”

The majority of women are from the Middle East and are encouraged to only speak English during class time so that they can improve their speaking and listening skills.

Smithfield Public School worked with TAFE NSW Miller to design an AMEP program that would suit the needs of the school community.

Jodi Harris, Relieving Principal, Smithfield Pubic School said “We decided to work with TAFE NSW Miller to provide an AMEP program as we discovered that many of our families were not able to access the English classes offered to new arrivals due to family commitments and a lack of understanding of how to catch  public transport.”

“Many mothers have toddlers to care for and they don’t have family support around them for child minding.

“By offering part time English language classes, through TAFE NSW Miller’s AMEP program onsite at Smithfield Public School, with the support of childcare through Gowrie, means that the mothers are now able to engage in weekly English language learning.

“The parents are extremely happy with this option, they are able to get to school easily and the part time schedule enables them to still meet the needs of their families. The mothers also feel safe as it is a familiar environment and they do not need to navigate public transport to get here.

“Smithfield Public School is happy to support the program as without it, many of these women are at risk of being isolated within the community due to their lack of English.”

Maya Alassaad has been in Australia for three years after moving from Palestine to the UAE and then to Australia with her Australian husband and three children. 

When she arrived, Maya could only speak basic English, so she started attending the AMEP classes this year, she is enjoying learning and making new friends.

“Life in Australia is very good. I like the classes as I learn everything. I learn conversation, grammar and it’s good for me to learn English,” said Maya Alassaad.

“I speak Arabic to my children at home as I want them to learn. When I moved it was hard at first, but now I come to class three days a week.

“Our teacher is very nice, she is very good at explaining things and I like learning things that will help me in my day to day life.”

Maya holds a Diploma in Pharmacy and has experience working as a pharmacist in Syria; she hopes that she will be able to eventually gain employment as a pharmacist in Australia.

Funded by the Australian Government, TAFE NSW is the main provider of AMEP in NSW, providing up to 510 hours of free English language tuition to eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants to assist them with settlement in Australia.

To register for the program visit www.tafensw.edu.au/amep

Media contact: Teresa Lane, TAFE NSW Media and Communications Business Partner 9796 5476, mobile 0412 773 887