THE Federal Government announced this week the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), previously capped at 510 hours per student, is now unlimited.
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The change is to help new migrants achieve functional English and is one that will benefit many AMEP students in the Coffs Shire.
One of these is a woman who fled war-torn Iraq to seek refuge in Australia.
Naaro Gharib has credited the course at TAFE NSW with helping her start a new life in Coffs Harbour.
Naaro and her family arrived in 2017 and she then enrolled in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP).
The program covers language and literacy training, as well as life skills such as how to open a bank account, access to healthcare and how to find a job.
Naaro found settling into classes quite difficult for a number of reasons; she is a mother of young children with no schooling history, an uncomfortable housing situation and some tensions due to the ongoing situations in Iraq.
Because of these factors, Naaro’s capacity for English language learning was limited.
Her volunteer tutor Sharen Harrigan suggested they try some gardening at the Community Gardens, knowing that Naaro was a farmer in Iraq and a different environment might assist the situation.
Ms Harrigan said the change in Naaro since they began spending time at the gardens is amazing.
“Having a practical application for our language communication has given Naaro a visual connection and an opportunity to build self-worth and independence.
Having this practical garden focus has changed the way we both look at English lessons,” Ms Harrigan said.
“Not only has Naaro’s English improved in this relaxed garden setting, her whole attitude has changed.
The clothes she wears are bright and fun, she brings ingredients to bake bread and traditional meals from Iraq in the wood fire oven at the gardens.
This weekly experience has helped her find her sense of identity again.”
Naaro said she enjoys her time at the gardens and is happy to have established herself within the community.
By Sandra MOON