Short course empowers female refugees with digital skills

By Fiona West | June 2, 2021

Navitas English, in collaboration with Settlement Services International (SSI), has helped make everyday life activities easier for female refugees through a short practical course tailored specifically to their needs.

The all-female Everyday English and Digital Skills course, which ran for 10 weeks from Navitas English’s Fairfield and Liverpool colleges in Sydney’s south west, improved students’ language and conversational skills, while giving them the confidence to use essential smartphone applications and access government services.

The 10-week course, offered three hours per week as part of the Federal Government’s Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), was designed in partnership with SSI after staff in its Humanitarian Settlement Program identified the need among newly arrived female refugees.

Almost 40 refugees of all ages, from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Cambodia, participated in the course. They were provided with bilingual support.

Navitas English community liaison officer Basim Shamaon said not only did the course help participants engage with essential services, such as Medicare, banks and public transport, it had also improved their social and mental wellbeing.

“This short, tailored training focuses on the key skills these women need to feel connected with their community and to help them feel comfortable and confident accessing essential services.” 

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“Some of these women have come from a culture where women stay home and men go out. But in western society they are learning men and women are equal and they need to be able to share the duties of daily life.”

SSI General Manager Service Delivery – Settlement, Yamamah Agha, said that foundational language programs like AMEP generated benefits such as long-term employment outcomes and increased social participation.

“As a community-based organisation supporting new migrants and other vulnerable communities who often grapple with the English language, we directly see how the Navitas program further strengthens Australia’s resolve and success in the settlement and integration of migrant communities.”

Students learned a range of skills, particularly related to smartphone usage, including how to create a Gmail account, use QR codes, fill out online forms, secure passwords, and use essential government apps like Centrelink Plus, Trip View, Services NSW and Medicare.

Iraqi refugee Awrad Khudhur Elias Al-Kajy was referred to the Navitas program by SSI and said she found the Navitas course both beneficial and different to her prior learning in Iraq.

“Although I studied technology in Iraq, the lessons here are very different. I found them to be better as they went into more depth. I hope that SSI can provide us with similar courses and sessions in the future. 

“Iraq life is completely different, and we don’t rely on technology as much. So I hope that, through becoming comfortable using technology, I will continue to learn how to live in Australia.” 

A survey of participants showed that after the short course they rated their ability to use essential apps, and their improved digital and English skills, as “good” to “very good”.

A number of the students are continuing at Navitas, enrolling in new short courses to progress their learning.​

Navitas English is planning to run the course again at Fairfield and Liverpool next term.​

Notice: On 1 December 2021, Navitas English changed it’s name to Navitas Skilled Futures. This name change reflects our programs, the focus of our work, and our positive impact on the people we serve. Find out more here.

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