Victoria University's Melton Campus is offering English language courses to a diverse set of new migrants who make up a growing part of the shire's population boom.
Reflecting the fact that nearly one-quarter of Melton Shire residents are now born overseas, many of VU's Melton classrooms resemble the United Nations with students from up to a dozen countries learning together.
Dhammika Fernando, program manager of AMEP language studies, said many of the 60 language students now at VU Melton are newly arrived migrants eligible for the Federal Government's 510 hours of free English language classes. But many equally qualified new settlers are not taking advantage of the program, she said.
"We realise there are many more people out there who may think their English is good enough but they need to know there is so much more they could be learning about their new homeland and taking these classes for – including simply socialising," she said. Weekend and evening classes are available to accommodate busy schedules.
Several students including Alice Smilek from Taiwan have enhanced their language studies with an employment pathways program that provides added job-hunting skills.
With encouragement from her teachers, Alice has started selling handmade jewellery at a Williamstown craft market and putting to use some of her retail and customer service vocabulary. She hopes one day to work in the logistics industry, her previous profession in Taiwan and China.
Yar Gumwel from Sudan is a young mother who cares for six children ranging in age from one to 15. She came to Australia two years ago with her husband and two children, but now also takes care of her brother-in-law's three children, and has had another child since. She started classes learning the alphabet and now has good conversational English.
Ernst Wenger is a semi-retired student who travels to his native Switzerland each year to help run a family timber business. Ernst is unique as a fee-paying student and one of the program's few Europeans, and is a valued member of the program, Dhammika said.
"Each student brings their own stories and their own personalities to our classrooms and the teachers here all love being involved in that," she said.
A photo of the three profiled students is available.
For more information about VU Melton's English Language courses:
Program Manager, AMEP Access Programs
Ph: (03) 9919 7521 or Mobile: 0438 345 73
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Officer
Marketing and Communications Department
Ph: (03)9919 5487 or email@example.com