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TAFE NSW Ryde providing refugees a recipe for a new life


TAFE NSW Ryde providing refugees a recipe for a new life

The cohort and their TAFE NSW teacher, Deborah Whitebread on their graduation day

31 October 2023

TAFE NSW Ryde is helping to change the lives of local Armenian migrants by providing women with access to the training they need to participate fully in the local community and the economy.

Thirteen Armenian women who migrated from Syria to escape ongoing civil war have found local jobs as well as improved English language skills, newfound confidence and an encouraging network to support their transition to Australian life after completing a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery at TAFE NSW Ryde.

When Vartni Tarakjian and Elizabeth Keureumlian began the course in 2021, they were confident chefs in their own homes but lacked confidence to contribute to their local community and join the workforce.

“Studying commercial cookery at TAFE NSW has brought us together to become a family away from home, through our shared love of food and shared life experiences”, Vartni said.

“For me, studying during lockdown in 2021 was very hard – we didn’t have computers and my English was not as good as it is now – I was very depressed. The encouragement of these women and the support of our teachers motivated me to keep going.”

English language skills and local social networks play a major role in the settlement and economic outcomes of migrants, with research finding higher English proficiency leads to higher income, more hours of work per week and improved social integration[1].

Elizabeth said, “Our teacher Deborah was very patient and kind with us. She taught us cooking skills and techniques that now I can use every day at home, but more importantly, she believed in us.”

“Through this course I have seen how welcoming Australians are and have learned how Australia works. It’s a very big achievement for us to be able to complete study in Australia,” she said.

TAFE NSW Head Teacher Commercial Cookery Deborah Whitebread said it has been a delight to watch these students build their knowledge and skills and see such an increase in their confidence and expressive English communication through the hands-on course.

“The students are using their newfound English language skills and practical skills in their respective workplaces across commercial kitchens, bakeries, even schools and early childcare centres,” Ms Whitebread said.

“It was a real challenge for many of them because English is their fourth language, and they’re also learning French words at the same time since cookery is based around French technique,” she said.

“It’s been a community effort to support this group, thanks to the connections between TAFE NSW and support networks like Settlement Services International and multicultural community groups. It’s the perfect example of how TAFE NSW is helping new residents to Australia change their lives by getting the skills to start a new career.”

Media contact: TAFE NSW Media Centre,, 02 7920 5000​​​​.