Refugee and migrant students ready to RAW

The Ready, Arrive, Work Expo is empowering the next generation of change makers. Duyen Nguyen reports.

A student speaking on a stage. A student speaking on a stage.
Image: Auburn Girls High School Year 10 student Samia Noori spoke about fleeing from her home in Afghanistan.

Nearly 200 students from western Sydney have descended upon the Ready, Arrive, Work (RAW) Expo to engage with employers, tertiary institutions and community organisations and learn about future work and study pathways.

The RAW Expo was designed to inspire students from refugee and migrant backgrounds who may be unaware of the spectrum of opportunities available and was the first event of its kind.

Auburn Girls High School Year 10 student Samia Noori fled Afghanistan with her family two years ago and shared her story with expo participants.

“I had to say bye to my books, friends and the high mountains of my beloved country,” she said.

“Leaving a land and starting a new life is not easy. We went to school every day with a fear of terror attacks, and we had no tables or chairs.

“Now, I appreciate the privilege of being able to study and go to school with pride and excitement.”

Among the expo exhibitors were TAFE NSW, Western Sydney University, Training Services NSW, the Australian Defence Force, Productivity Boot Camp, Peter Warren Automotive and Community Corporate.

The NSW Department of Education’s Director of Pathways and Transitions, Ellen Lintjens, arrived in Australia from the Netherlands with $500 in her pocket.

She said it could be challenging for people who had recently arrived in the country to find out about education and work opportunities.

“It can be difficult for young people to make decisions about their education and career opportunities, with the added challenges of starting a new life in a different culture, with a new language,” she said.

“It can make the world of work beyond school quite intimidating.

“The expo has allowed students to explore and talk to prospective employers, tertiary education providers and career support services and join with their mates in a comfortable environment.

“They learned about opportunities they may have never heard of before and can be inspired by stories by people who have gone before them and found their own way.”

Among the speakers at the RAW Expo was former Fairfield West Public School student Shaun David. Mr David is the founder of ‘Plate it Forward’ and the son of Sri Lankan migrants.

He spoke about how he used to go to school every day and was embarrassed to bring food that looked and smelled different.

Mr David now operates 13 restaurants that employ more than 170 people from migrant communities, including many asylum seekers who had previously been excluded from the workforce for not knowing English.

“My embarrassment and fear turned into something I could be so proud of. I was able to celebrate my country, heritage and parents,” Mr David said.

“There is strength to be yourself. The world needs people who can showcase their talent and true depth.

“These students can do anything. They’re part of a generation of changemakers and it’s really inspiring to see them, their energy, passion and smiles.”

Students in a hallway. Students in a hallway.
Image: More than 200 western Sydney school students attended the expo.
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