From refugee to Business Development Manager at Navitas English
Born in Pakistan as a member of the Hazara ethnic minority, Farzana graduated from university with a Bachelor Degree in Science and Education. She worked as a Master Trainer with UNICEF on a young women’s empowerment initiative called “The Girl Child” that addressed the needs and challenges young women were facing by promoting their empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
Being an educated woman in Pakistan wasn’t an easy life. In 2010, Farzana was forced to leave her home country and flee to Australia due to the increasing level of discrimination and persecution that was not only putting her life in danger, but also that of her family. It took five years for her two sons, then aged 11 and 12, to be granted permission to join her in Australia in 2015.
“Due to the ongoing attacks in Pakistan, we lived in fear and were forced to restrict our movements. This led to economic hardship and curtailed access to education and employment, prompting large numbers of Hazara people to flee the country,” Farzana said.
Like many others new to the country, Farzana found the local accent challenging at first.
“Aussie accents were difficult to understand, particularly the use of slang and colloquialisms that often did not make any sense,” she said.
An Australian resident for eight years now – and having navigated herself through the country’s government-funded settlement services, including an English language training course – Farzana identifies as a former refugee. She counts herself as one of the luckier ones.
In the first year of living in Australia, Farzana was offered a role working with Navitas English, which has delivered critical language programs for more than 20,000 migrants and refugees, including the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). Navitas English recognised her skills and qualifications, coupled with her fluency in five languages (Hazaragi, Farsi, Dari, Urdu and Hindi), as well as English.
Being multilingual had its advantages in the job, enabling Farzana to communicate with AMEP clients and refugee support groups in the local community. Her empathy remains an asset in helping new refugees facing the challenges of arriving in a foreign country during times of immense change in their lives.
“I’ve come to a place now where I feel settled and at peace. I’ve been reunited with my sons and I have a career that makes a difference in people’s lives by supporting migrants and refugees in the local community to rebuild their lives in Australia.”
One of those under Farzana’s care was Rawah Sattouf who has lived in Australia for 15 months with her husband and two children aged seven and four. After escaping the Syrian war, the family fled to Lebanon before receiving refugee status. They relocated to Australia, where Rawah is an (AMEP) client at Navitas English Bankstown.
“When we arrived, everything was difficult. The language, the streets, and my husband didn’t drive. Our neighbours helped us with everything, taking my children to school, going to the shops. But now, it’s easy. I have learned how to do everything,” said Rawah.
Rawah was an architect in Syria and hopes to resume her profession in Australia in the coming years. Learning English has been the first step towards beginning her higher qualifications in Australia, with courses in architecture or perhaps childcare on her agenda.
“I have made many friends at Navitas. I enjoy the writing and using the computers. In summer, I went to the pool and the beach with my children. I’m so happy for my children here,” she said.
Farzana’s studies are progressing well and she is currently studying for her Master of Business Administration while working as Regional Business Development Manager at Navitas English. Her energy for supporting refugees and migrants extends beyond the workplace to volunteer roles with local groups and community organisations, earning her a Certificate of Achievement and nomination for Auburn Council’s Citizen of the Year in 2017. During her time in Australia she’s seen an enhancement of the settlement services and recognises the value in celebrating Refugee Week to create a more cohesive community.
“I enjoy living in Australia, particularly in Western Sydney because of its multiculturalism, friendly and open-minded people and because of the many places and beautiful attractions. I feel safe, free from persecution, violence and fear,” said Farzana.
“It is important to celebrate Refugee Week to raise awareness and educate the public about who refugees are, why they have come to Australia and to help people understand the challenges refugees face coming here,” she said.
All five Navitas English colleges across Western Sydney will mark Refugee Week this month by hosting or attending events recognising the contributions made and journeys undertaken by former refugee clients and staff. As part of local community’s celebrations, Cabramatta and Liverpool Navitas English clients have been invited to ‘Coffee with a Cop’ to meet and socialise with police from their local area command.
Michael Cox, General Manager of Government Services and Employment programs at Navitas, has seen the AMEP and other settlement programs develop to meet the changing needs of clients during the past 20 years.
“It’s heartening to see the growth in Refugee Week engagement each year,” he said.
“It is a unique opportunity for our staff and migrant and refugee arrivals to create stronger connections with each other and their local communities. Refugee Week provides all people with a chance reflect on the settlement experience both the opportunities and challenges, and celebrate their life in Australia.”
Navitas English is contracted by Australian government agencies to deliver programs that help students from diverse backgrounds to improve their English language and employability skills.
Since 1988, Navitas English has been delivering the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) to migrants and refugees on behalf of the Australian Government, and in 2010 successfully tendered to deliver the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program to jobseekers with language, literacy and numeracy barriers to employment and career pathways. The AMEP is delivered through colleges in South Western Sydney and the ACT, while the SEE program is delivered from sites across metropolitan Sydney.
Along with these major programs, the Navitas English team continues to deliver and tender for other vital programs in areas such as youth employment and career pathways.