Western and Settlement Services International partner on multilingual workshops

Student ambassador Aeshah Al-Chalabi

Western Sydney University is helping refugees and asylum seekers learn about opportunities for further study, through a new partnership with Settlement Services International.

The University, with support from several student ambassadors, has contributed to a multilingual program of workshops developed by Settlement Services International and delivered online.

Widening Participation Engagement Community Project Officer, Bronwyn Williams, said the workshops attracted 120 participants and provided a vital point of contact during the coronavirus pandemic for those newly arrived in Australia.

“The online and in-language workshops have been hugely effective and have opened many doors,” said Bronwyn.

“We have seen people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, including those who may not have had the confidence to attend in person, join these sessions.”

“Our student ambassadors, representing the Arabic, Persian and African communities, have provided invaluable insights, each sharing their own unique educational journey.”

Reem Qrma, a twenty-four-year-old physiotherapy student at Western Sydney University, is one of the student ambassadors and says they are providing much more than translation services.

“I often translate for people in my community of Fairfield, but the workshops were the first time I’ve formally translated in Arabic and the response was heartening.”

“As a student from an Iraqi refugee background, I was able to share my knowledge and story with the participants.”

“It’s so important to provide those arriving in Australia with the information to continue their education. And it’s even more important for them to hear stories from people in similar situations who have reached their goals.”

“I was so lucky to speak English when I arrived in Australia. There are so many opportunities in this country but it can be a challenge to take the first step — the workshops give people hope.”

Student ambassador Aeshah Al-Chalabi, who completed Foundation Studies with the University’s The College and is now enrolled to study the Bachelor of Nursing, knows all about the challenges of learning English in a new country.

“When I arrived in Australia I didn’t know ‘yes’ from ‘no’,” said the twenty-one-year-old.

“I studied English intensively for a year and enrolled at St Marys Senior High School. It was here that I attended a session with Western Sydney University and started my journey towards becoming a nurse.”

“The workshops are a great way to build people’s confidence and to help them navigate next steps be it studying English, or going to University.”

Dr Alfred Mupenzi, a Senior Project Support Officer, Refugee, New and Emerging Communities and co-facilitator of the workshops, said hosting the sessions in-language not only helped those with limited English but made participants feel welcome.

“We know for refugees and asylum seekers, hearing from someone from their community who has been in a similar situation is important,” said Dr Mupenzi.

“Finding this new format and way to connect online, and strengthening our partnership with Settlement Services International, have been positive steps.”

“I encourage refugee and asylum seekers wanting to learn about the different pathways available to them, to join an upcoming workshop.”

For more information on the workshops, visit the Refugee, New & Emerging Communities website (opens in a new window).


31 March 2021

Ali Sardyga, Media Officer

Photo credit: Sally Tsoutas