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Refugee gives back to community during tough times

TAFE NSW Granville

Refugee gives back to community during tough times

TAFE NSW student Alaa Al-Karam is volunteering with the CMRC

An Iraqi refugee, who fled to Australia in search of a better future, has turned her life around with TAFE NSW and is now helping new migrants settle into the Western Sydney community. 

Merrylands local Alaa Al-Karam honed her English skills through the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at TAFE NSW Granville, where she also learnt essential skills like how to open a bank account and access healthcare, as well as learn about Australian society and culture. 

Alaa recently graduated with a Certificate III in Advanced English for Further Study and Certificate IV in Community Services. She now volunteers at the Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) after undertaking work experience with the organisation. 

“TAFE NSW has equipped me with the hands-on skills I need to give back to the community and help other migrants adapt and contribute to Australian society,” Alaa said. 

As part of her volunteer work with CMRC, Alaa is an Arabic session facilitator and educates migrants on road safety rules. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she is also providing translating services to migrants so they can connect with crucial services like government agencies and real estate agents. 

The mother of two said it was a privilege to be able to help people through tough times and look back to see how far she had come in her studies. 

“The weight of things we’ve had to leave behind and challenges of learning an entirely new language, in a world where the culture is so different, has been a challenge I have embraced with the help and support of my TAFE NSW teachers.” 

The Federal Government has committed $30 million towards a national communication strategy to cater to communities where English is a second language.  

The CMRC is a not for profit community organisation that coordinates services for newly arrived migrants including settlement advice, community development activities and information and training sessions.  

CMRC Office Manager, Jayshree Pather, said Alaa had contributed positively to the settlement process of migrants. 

“It is great to see people like Alaa use the practical skills and knowledge she learnt at TAFE NSW to help make others’ lives better, which is our aim at CMRC,” Jayshree said 

TAFE NSW Career Pathways, Education and Aboriginal Languages Head of Skills Team, Ann Beerden, said Alaa was doing a great service to the Greater Western Sydney Region, where 43.6 per cent of people speak a language other than English at home.1 

“Growing communities across Western Sydney have much to gain from resettling migrants and refugees and we have already seen the important social contribution they make to our local community,” Ms Beerden said. 

The AMEP program is funded by the Australian Federal Government Department of Home Affairs and allows eligible migrants and refugees to access up to 510 hours of free English lessons. For more information on the AMEP, visit

To find out more about the English courses at TAFE NSW, visit, or call 131 601. 

Media Contact: Jessica Cortis, TAFE NSW Media and Communication Business Partner, 0456 170 211,