Migrant Education: Empowering New Arrivals

See firsthand how a little education can go a long way for individuals and communities alike.

18 Jan 2017

“How [education] systems respond to migration has an enormous impact on the economic and social well-being of all members of the communities they serve, whether they have an immigrant background or not.” Andreas Schleicher Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Education allows people to realise their full potential as individuals, and as members of the community. Whether you are continuing on the education system you have been part of since your earliest days or you are coming in from a foreign culture and language, this remains true. To put it simply, whatever the desired path, you can achieve it with the help of education.

Learning environments allow people of all cultures to connect and grow together.

Reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) remind us that this goes beyond just building careers. Learning with others, particularly locals of a similar age, allows new immigrants to build a sense of belonging, and to help them feel at home in their new surrounds.

And what about the community as a whole? According to the Global Partnership for Education, across society, learning can help reduce poverty, grow the economy, improve cultural integration and promote gender equality.

The best example of this in our minds is the Altoobi family, who are proactively using their Australian education to do more for others.

A New Start With Migrant Education

In 2008 the Altoobi family, a set of parents, five brothers, and three sisters, arrived in Brisbane from Iraq.

It was during the first few weeks settling into a new country, learning a new culture and attempting to learn a new language that the middle brother, Yousif’s career path was decided. He just didn’t know it yet.

The family were orientated, welcomed and shown around by the Multicultural Development Association (MDA), a non-for-profit group, that years later, Yousif would end up working for.

Three months after leaving the turmoil of their homeland Yousif, his brothers Ali and Ahmed and sister Alia enrolled in TAFE Queensland Brisbane to learn English.

The Altoobi family represents what’s possible with community focused education

“We all started in the same class, learning English for beginners. We all passed with a Certificate IV in English,” he said.

“I went and worked in a factory for a while and then started a plumbing certificate, but realised I really wanted to get into community services so I came back to TAFE.”

At the same time Ahmed started a Diploma of Nursing. The pair graduated together at the end of 2015.

Their other brother Ali is studying part-time around raising a young family to be a dental technician and younger sister Alia, who was studying accounting has taken time off to start her own family.

Sister Lasa, also joined the siblings at TAFE and is currently studying a Diploma of Dental Technology to become a dental technician.

“It’s part of our culture to all be together, so it’s been very rewarding for us,” he said.

For Yousif, the decision to study has been among the best he had made. Having been accepted to university to upgrade his qualification, he is currently working part time at MDA helping other new arrivals make a safe home in Australia.

“When we arrived they helped us with housing and school, which is what I now do,” he said.

“Every client has their own story and their own experiences, so it’s mainly about learning as much as I can from them and to figure out what it is that they need.

“I know how hard it is, especially for new arrivals. I know they really struggle, especially if they can’t speak English, because they don’t have the experience with the culture, with the system.  My experience made me realise I wanted to do this, but when I did my Diploma of Community Services course it really opened my idea about how it feels for all different people as well.”

Find out more about our Adult Migrant English Program and our many other courses at tafebrisbane.edu.au.

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