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Learning to Tour Our Natural Environs

18 Jan 2007

Growing up as the Australian-born daughter of Greek immigrants, Brunswick resident Dimi Bouzalas developed a passion for the natural environs of the Australian landscape, often taken to the remote wilderness by her Greek uncle who was the only family member to have a car.

Many of her young migrant friends, however, did not get the chance for the same experience of Australia's unique vistas.

Later, as Dimi worked as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, she realised other migrants and refugees did not access our parks and gardens often because of language barriers and lack of knowledge about our environment.

Now, as an ESL teacher at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT), Dimi will coordinate a new, free, training program for students fluent in a language other than English, who have an interest in nature, or want to be involved in our natural environment.

The program, the Bilingual Parks Tour Guide Course, is funded by the Victorian Government Office of Women's Policy and Parks Victoria who contributed $8,000 respectively to run the course at NMIT's Epping campus.

NMIT is offering the course in partnership with Merri Creek Management Committee, Parks Victoria and the City of Whittlesea and is an NMIT fully accredited course.

Dimi, who also works for the Merri Creek Management Committee part-time as a community engagement and environment officer, said she was one of the lucky ones to have learned about Australia's environment as a young girl, and it had always been her passion to do something for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to enable them to appreciate nature. Working, albeit as a volunteer tour guide in our natural environs, will give CALD communities the opportunity to engage with nature.

'Being able to discover fabulous parts of Victoria was so formative in my life and I now have the opportunity to help train migrant and refugee community members as tour guides for their communities.'

The 10-week course includes one seven hour day of study a week with tours of national parks and reserves.

It focuses on an introduction to the Parks Victoria parks' system, tours and activities of Whittlesea's local and regional parks, learning about local flora, fauna and natural landscapes, presentation skills, developing and adapting culturally specific resources and developing and delivering a park tour.

'The course will assist students to develop skills to enable them to lead walks for groups of people from their own language communities,' Dimi said.

'While the course is targeting working as a tour guide, it hopefully will lead to paid employment opportunities and pathways to further education in the environmental field,' she added.

There are 14 places available for both female and male students who are fluent in languages such as Arabic, Turkish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Swahili, Somali and Macedonian, to name a few, as well as having a good command of English.

Dimi said the course would also have a number of guest speakers such as park rangers who worked in the field to talk to the students about their first-hand experience.

The course starts in early March and runs till May.

Course inquiries: Dimi Bouzalas Tel: (03) 9380-8199.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on 03 9269 1579, 0413 483 182 or jamesgardener@nmit.edu.au

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.