23 January, 2016

TAFE transforming lives for people seeking asylum

By the ASRC

TAFE provides opportunity and people seeking asylum in our community are living proof of this.

For Tanya, who was a lawyer in Colombia, training at TAFE for an aged care qualification has made a huge difference to finding her feet in Australia.

“The most important thing in my life is that I’m free,” she said.

Back in “rough and dangerous” Colombia, Tanya explained that “every day you are thinking ‘maybe today, this could be my last day’.” For Tanya’s brother that fateful day did arrive. He was killed in Colombia more than two years ago.

“But my problem (in Australia) is that my speciality in law is different. I can’t work here. So I try to change my profession,” she said.

Tanya turned to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), which she called her “family in Australia”.

“The ASRC approved (me) for study here in aged care. You need tools. Tools for good work. Tools for a good job,” she said.

Tanya is referring to a Victorian government initiative that is administered by the Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, which itself started as a TAFE project in 2001. Before people seeking asylum begin their TAFE journey, the ASRC undertakes a rigorous process that includes screening applicants to confirm they are genuine asylum seekers, determining their suitability for training and discussing course options and requirements at length with them.Asylum Seekers also have their fees paid by the ASRC. By removing these barriers, the ASRC has made TAFE study possible for a group who might otherwise miss out.

ASRC members are given access to Certificate I to Certificate 4 courses, particularly training for sectors in Victoria that are experiencing skills shortages such as aged care. The ASRC is the only asylum-seeker organisation that provides this type of service.

The courses have enabled ASRC members to find work, support themselves financially and contribute to the community. Importantly, they are also filling occupational shortfalls in much-needed areas of health, security, warehousing and construction.

For Tanya, gaining residency and re-training in Australia “changed my life completely”.

“I have a job; I have a good education here,” she said.

Yochum* who is studying a Cert IV Diploma of Aged Care has been fortunate to extend the skills already learned in his home country.

“I have qualifications from my home country so this course is relevant to my background. I chose this course because I enjoy helping people and caring for others. Helping people makes me happy.”

While preparing to finish his studies, Yochum* is getting hands-on experience in a role which he enjoys as it as a volunteer at a hospital in Footscray because “it is a job where you can help others”.

“I work as a visitor guide and help guests find their way around the hospital. It’s good because I get to work as a part of a team and it has given me the opportunity to meet lots of new people from different cultures and backgrounds.”

Yochum* is due to start a work placement at an aged care facility over the next few weeks which he is very excited for, as aged care is a job he’d like to do in the future.

In the past financial year alone, 159 ASRC members were enrolled in 202 courses across Victoria. The most popular courses are the Certificate III in Warehousing/Construction; Aged Care/Home and Community Care dual delivery Certificate III course and the Certificate II/III Security pathway.

Most of the students are aged between 20 and 40. Almost two-thirds of the students are male and the main countries of origin are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran.

The TAFE access service is one of 13 programs in the ASRC Innovation Hub, which seeks to empower people seeking asylum and whose mission is to support people to reach financial and social independence. People seeking asylum come with a wealth of skills and talents. In essence, it is the role of the Hub to enable people to THRIVE.

You can help protect, support and empower people seeking asylum by becoming a regular giver to the ASRC.

$20 a month can provide English classes for 80 people. $50 a month can provide emergency legal assistance in order to lodge their appeal for protection. See details in this magazine or visit the ASRC website.

*An alias has been used to protect the identity of this person