“Migration should be considered as another form of education for both the new arrival and the locals. No-one is an empty vessel. Everyone brings something to the table and together a beautiful community can be built. However, underlying the success of any process of integration is language,” TAFE Gippsland’s Head of Transition Mabel Msopero explained, beautifully.
Mabel outlines that the biggest hurdle encountered by migrants in Gippsland is the insular nature of the region and, in particular, the workplaces.
“You have to be from ‘round here’ to be considered for employment in the majority of workplaces.
“Most migrants come from backgrounds where a person has to work to support their family. They get very frustrated when they are unable to be gainfully employed and in some cases end up having to rely on government support. In our classes, we have medical doctors, engineers of all different types, lawyers, etc. who have now accepted that they’re never going to get back into their original professions and are learning English in order to get any form of employment available or to enrol in vocational courses, like ECEC (early childhood education and care), community services, nursing or aged care.
The classes that Mabel refers to are the Certificates in Spoken and Written English (CSWE) that TAFE Gippsland delivers to people from non-English speaking backgrounds. The CSWE can form part of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), which provides up to 510 hours of English language tuition to eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants “to help learn foundational language and settlement skills to enable them to participate socially and economically in Australian society”.
The CSWE students range from 20 years to 65 years of age, sometimes older, and come from a diverse range of backgrounds, such as Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, South Sudan, China, Syria and more.
Mabel says that “the people who enrol in the AMEP usually come through the Special Humanitarian Program or on refugee visas”.
As part of the AMEP, TAFE Gippsland will soon be calling for Volunteer Home Tutors, who are available for two hours per week to do English teaching in the community. Training will be provided to the fine folk who volunteer before they’re matched with a client.
Speaking with Mabel, a migrant herself (firstly from Zimbabwe, then New Zealand) you begin to appreciate her passion for education, which she describes as two parts: “book and societal education”.
An open mind allows for an understanding and acceptance of differences in life
“Education provides knowledge of the world around us, broadens our perspective and helps us understand the world is bigger than our backyard… With a proper education, you tend to hold opinions substantiated by fact and reality, rather than assumptions. An open mind allows for an understanding and acceptance of differences in life… [It’s] about personal and professional growth. It is the tool to independence.”