Out of the Cave and Into the Light

Out of the Cave and Into the Light

20 April, 2017


Ali and his wife finally feel like they have been given a new lease on life.

It has been a long, difficult road since they first came to Australia as refugees from Iran. Ali still fears for his life and the safety of family back home, so we are using an alias to protect his identity.

“When we came to Australia, we had no friends, we couldn’t have any communication with society because we didn’t know English, and so this college took us from our cave and brought us out into society.”

The couple have completed their Certificate III in Individual Support (aged care) at Macquarie Community College and, now working, are also due to complete their Certificate IV in mid April.

Every year, Macquarie assists immigrants like Ali who struggle to gain traction in work, study and community their new country. Without fluency in English, they can get stuck in a cycle of isolation, depression and menial work where they’re taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.

Community colleges provide crucial services in their settlement journey, allowing them to feel like they can be of value like they once were before war and circumstances tore their lives apart.

Inez completed the same Certificate III course in aged care as Ali. She came to Sydney from China six years ago to do a course at another RTO. She jokes, “I did not even understand enough English to know what course I was doing!”

Dropping out, she picked up a job in a Chinese restaurant where she rarely spoke English because of her Chinese customers and colleagues. Her social life revolved around her own cultural group and after a while she realised there was no benefit in living in a foreign country so far away from family.

“I thought, what’s the point of spending my whole life as a waitress in a restaurant in Australia?”

After one more false start at study, Inez finally commenced her Certificate III course at Macquarie Community College. She has now completed her qualification and is working as a community care worker for HammondCare.

Macquarie provides an effective learning ladder for students seeking vocational training and work. They can enter at any level on this ladder and move as many rungs as they wish to, beginning with English language Level 1 if necessary in readiness for career training.

Once confident with their English, they move to vocational courses with trainers who have many years of experience working with students who require additional English language support. Our trainers also work closely with support agencies in Western Sydney if their students require additional settlement assistance.

“Community colleges are integral to the broader training framework, where a one-size-fits-all model just doesn’t provide the support needed by students who have very specific needs,” says Ms Theresa Collignon, college CEO. "Some of our students have been traumatised by their experiences and they tend to find our College a safe place where they can get back on their feet." 

The difference that enables the College to provide this level of support is NSW Government funding. Called Community Services Obligation (CSO), this funding allows students to access additional language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) support if need be in the form of parallel English programs with a unique care services orientation.

Trainers like Kate (photograph) work with the LLN team members to specially tailor learning resources that focus on grammar, report writing, and pronunciation of professional medical terminology. In their multi-cultural classroom, they take a slower pace of learning, use simple, descriptive language, and break down questions.

“I build scenarios that are reflective of course literature and help my students apply knowledge in real life work placements, then get them to explain the situations to each other in class. We look at the cultural diversity that exists in the framework of the course and share traditional practises,” she says.

Vocational placement also plays a key role in the students’ progress from study to work. Encouraging students to take this as an opportunity to impress potential employers, and carefully matching them with service providers within half an hour’s travel from their home leads to 85 percent of aged care and community services students gaining employment by the time they graduate.

“The College is invested in providing a supportive and friendly environment, where students feel respected, valued and supported as they improve their English and reach their full potential,” says Ms Collignon.

“One of our greatest joys is to watch students who benefit from our supportive programs graduate and move on to learning success and long term employment.”

To find out more about our range of Accredited Courses call 1300 845 888 or visit our website. 

Loading Conversation