“Learning English is the key to successful settlement”
TEDx speaker, 2022 Western Sydney Champion and 2023 Westpac Social Change Fellow Hedayat Osyan says learning English transformed his life. The founder of CommUnity Construction – a social enterprise that has created work and life opportunities for more than 75 refugees – said without good English, refugees are in danger of being exploited, underpaid and unable to settle effectively and live their best lives.
Hedayat (pictured above left and inset) is the keynote speaker at ’75 Years of the AMEP’, an event hosted by education provider Navitas Skilled Futures at the Highline Venue, Bankstown on Wednesday, July 26 at 10am.
Originally from Afghanistan, Hedayat came to Australia by boat from Indonesia, after fleeing the Taliban who attacked his home village. He risked his life for his freedom and, after being released from detention on Christmas Island, he was so grateful to Australia that he made it his life’s mission to give back, helping other refugees and asylum seekers through training, support and employment.
“English is not just a language; it is a fundamental skill that opens doors to countless opportunities,” Hedayat said.
“For refugees and migrants, mastering English is essential for integration, communication, and self-sufficiency. It is the key that unlocks access to education, employment, and the ability to contribute meaningfully to society.
“My first job in Australia was working on a construction site. I experienced first-hand how limited English, communication and digital skills could lead to exploitation and isolation. It puts people at an extreme disadvantage, not just in the workforce but in day-to-day life.
“Learning English transformed my life. It made me less vulnerable and empowered me with confidence and independence. No longer did I have to rely on others. It also paved the way for further education. I pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Politics and International Relations, followed by an Honours Degree in Arts and Design from the University of Canberra. Through hard work and determination, I realised my dream of becoming a social entrepreneur and giving back to the Australian community.”
The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is a free service to help eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants improve their English language skills and settle into Australia. Funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, it is a world-first program, launched in 1948, that has continued to evolve to help people participate more fully in their communities, learn about Australia, gain new skills for work and everyday life, and make friends in Australia. Free childcare is also available for children under school age.
Navitas Skilled Futures, which provides AMEP classes in colleges throughout South West Sydney (Bankstown, Cabramatta, Fairfield, Liverpool, Campbelltown) and Canberra, is also celebrating its 25th anniversary of delivering the AMEP, and is hosting this event. It will be attended by representatives from government, migrant and refugee services and community organisations, as well as past and present AMEP staff and students.
Three students will also speak at the event about their positive experience with the AMEP Program:
Salma Maher Aieshee, from Bangladesh, who not only found her dream job in IT after completing the AMEP and Pathways to Work sub-program, but also conquered her water phobia through the English for Swimming project. “My main goal was to improve my English communication and know the culture, meet people from different countries who has migrated like me, and to build a network. [The AMEP] helped me with all of these! But I had no idea that I will get so many other bonus gifts.”
Zein Arif, from Indonesia, who is working as a web designer while completing his Diploma of Design and Visual Communication at Western Sydney University: “I expected to improve my English, but I did not expect [the AMEP] would become the catalyst for transforming my life.”
Nezar Elias Alshikh, a recent arrival from Syria, where he worked for 35 years as a pediatrician. “When we came to Australia we faced many challenges. The first one is language, because I studied medicine in my country in Arabic. At Navitas I am improving my English language because I have good teachers and I study hard.” First I will improve my language and after that I will present my scientific competency to work as a pediatrician or General Practitioner in Australia, because I have 35 years’ experience in my country.”
Navitas Skilled Futures General Manager Jetinder Macfarlane said since 1998, Navitas had been privileged to provide the tools to more than 250,000 people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, to help them settle with confidence to integrate, work in, and contribute to, society and achieve their full potential.
“In our 25 years of delivering the Adult Migrant English Program, we are grateful for the strong relationships we have built up with organisations, businesses and individuals in the refugee and migrant space, collaborating on a range of courses, projects and initiatives to empower students and also help reinforce positive multicultural messaging to the wider community,” she said.
“In the program’s 75th year, we are delighted to be able to bring some of those people together and to hear from those for whom the AMEP has really helped to transform their lives.”