CQUni Sydney helps migrants and refugees with language and cultural awareness

Published:28 September 2015

Pictured are Ruth O'Neill and Gabriela Toth, Ruth with Mojdeh from Iran, Xiaodogn from China and part of a poster promoting LACE.

CQUniversity Sydney has been providing a community outreach program for migrants and refugees.

The LACE (Language and Cultural Exchange) program provides a pathway for recent migrants and refugees once they have completed an Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and/or are no longer eligible for free government-funded classes.

CQUni Academic Learning Adviser and program creator Ruth O'Neill says the campus service acknowledges how difficult it can be for migrants and refugees to settle into Australia and helps them by developing their communication skills, language competence and cultural awareness.

Ms O’Neill and Gabriela Toth, Head of Program- Foundation Studies, facilitate two free classes every Friday on Sydney Campus.

"Both classes aim to build participants’ confidence through functional communication to enable them to participate socially and economically in Australian society," Ms O'Neill says.

Mrs Toth added that “improving the conditions of other human beings, especially in the context of the current world refugee crisis, is both empowering and rewarding".

"The program instills in participants a sense of positivism, and connectedness, and encourages them to ‘be what they want to be’.”

The program’s principal partner is Mission Australia, which provides pathway advice to exiting students from Navitas-run AMEP programs and offers the LACE program as a third-party support service to its clients.

LACE is also promoted by several other external partners and has the potential to leverage these partnerships further at other CQUni campuses, whilst also bringing in new external partnerships and internal stakeholders in the form of both staff and students.

"Moving forward, it is hoped that the LACE program will also be offered to recent migrants and refugees on other campuses, beginning with Melbourne and Brisbane," Ms O'Neill says.

"It is also hoped that students at CQUni will get involved in the program by acting as teaching assistants, and that the program will lead to a research project identifying best practice in supporting participants. For now it is enough to realise that a difference is being made in people’s lives."

Xiaodogn from China attends with his wife. “The English I learn is practical and useful," he says. "I feel like my fluency is improving…. My wife and I can now speak sentences whereas before we could only use words”.

Mojdeh from Iran added: “I arrived in Australia three months ago. I did not have the self-confidence to communicate with native people. The communication class helped me to develop my English language skills….. it can help me take my English to the next level ….. and helps internationals to find a job because they know how to speak English".