When Atefeh Hekmat sought refuge in Australia because of growing conflict in Iran, she used art as a therapy to adjust to her new life and now wants to help others heal the same way she did.
Thanks to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at TAFE NSW, she has confidently learnt English and now teaches community art classes out of a garage in her Merrylands home.
The Australian Government funds the AMEP English classes that Atefeh attends at TAFE NSW The Hills –Baulkham Hills where eligible migrants and refugees are provided with up to 510 hours of fee-free lessons and childcare.
“I’m a lot more confident with my English thanks to the AMEP program, which means I can now connect with other students from different age groups and cultural backgrounds,” Atefeh said.
Western Sydney is playing a major role in the settlement of the current flow of humanitarian arrivals, ensuring the right services and supports are in place to help rebuild the lives of more than 13,750 refugees who settle in Australia each year as part of Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program. 
Since settling in Western Sydney, Atefeh’s oil, acrylic, watercolour and charcoal paintings have been displayed at a number of local exhibitions and public spaces including Blacktown Hospital.
TAFE NSW AMEP Pathway Guidance Officer, Charu Parbhoo, said that the AMEP helps students learn vital skills that most of us take for granted.
“Learning how to open a bank account, access healthcare, find work and further study, listening, reading and writing skills, as well as learning about Australian society and culture, are just some of the everyday skills students learn.”
“Atefeh is the perfect example of how the AMEP is helping to change the lives of many people by providing students with access to the skills to be job-ready and give back to the community.”
Atefeh said she hopes to expand to a bigger art studio in the future, so she can reach more women.
“I am now applying for a loan so that I can have my art classes in a good studio. I would like to have a bigger space for my art students and to display some of my artwork.”
To enquire about the TAFE NSW Adult Migrant English Program visit tafensw.edu.au/amep or call 1800 114 707
Media contact: Jessica Cortis, TAFE NSW Media and Communications Business Partner, 0456 170 211