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New Directions A Mentoring and Bilingual Community Work Project

26 Jan 2007

Living in a refugee camp in Kenya for 10 years after fleeing the war in Sudan, Monica Nyibol Aleu was inspired to improve the quality of life of other women of her Aweil community in Sudan's south who were living alongside her at the camp.

She set up training centres for women to learn English with aid workers in the camp and later helped develop community centres in the state of Aweil in Sudan for women to generate their own incomes from sewing.

Monica came to Australia as a refugee in August 2005. She now cares for her own four children, her brother's three children and her sister's four children, determined to support and nurture them and her community in this country, too.

After studying to improve her own English in the Adult Migrant English Program, Monica has now enrolled at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFEs (NMIT) Preston campus in a Certificate III English for Bilingual Community Work course.

This course aims to enhance employment opportunities in the community for bilingual workers through English language support, work skills and practical experience in the field.

In addition to this course, NMIT is also developing a two-year mentoring program for the students called the New Directions project, with the support of the Victorian Office of Multicultural Affairs (VOMA).

As part of the project, NMIT will work closely with community agencies that employ bilingual workers to discuss issues and assist in the recruitment, training and support of these bilingual workers.

Mentors will be matched with students in the course and will bring their own expertise and networks, both professional and social, to the partnership. These relationships build trust and confidence, with employment and training opportunities to follow. The mentors will be employees, retired professionals or advanced students from the community sector.

'There is a great need for bilingual and bicultural workers who bring language skills and cultural awareness to the job,' Project Officer Nancy Sugarman said.

They work across a whole range of community and government agencies in settlement, education, housing, health, child care and aged care.

'They already have a deep understanding of the needs of their community and often have qualifications and experience in the field in their own countries,' Nancy added.

'By employing bilingual workers, it is hoped services would become more accessible to the communities in need. The bilingual workers operate alongside and complement interpreters; they don't replace them. Our course and the New Directions project are a means to an end. It is about enabling successful settlement, employment and a meaningful contribution to our society,' she said.

For Monica, that's exactly what she wants.

'This course is very important to me as I want to help my community and continue with the work I was doing in Kenya,' she said.

'Many of the women of my community have had little education and I want to give them the opportunity to have a voice to say what they need and participate in decision-making. I want them to participate in the life here so we can all make a contribution to our new country and our new home

'We all need to learn what we can do here, because in Africa we knew what to do.'

Monica added while these women might be able to read a bill, pay a bill and talk through a telephone, they have to learn to be leaders at home and in the life of this country.

Monica has already begun leading here: she's formed a group called Mothers of Aweil Development Association (MADA) that meets every month. She now studies at NMIT full-time and cares for not only her children but those of her brother and sister who are still missing in Sudan.

The English for Bilingual Work course runs until the end of November. Mentors are needed for the New Directions project. Contact Nancy Sugarman for information and dates for information sessions Tel: NMIT 9269-8383

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.