Research project urges young refugees to aim higher
Informal educational models to better engage refugee youth, youth advisory groups to inform policy and a visual web resource to share higher education pathways for refugees are among the recommendations of a new research project aimed at connecting young refugees and migrants to their educational and employment aspirations.
The ‘Navigating Resettlement’ project conducted by Western Sydney University (WSU) worked with 119 adolescent refugees and migrants in the Blacktown area of Western Sydney.
The year-long project consisted of weekly sessions with participants and included IT and art workshops where refugees and migrants had the opportunity to create their own website.
The workshops also included a dedicated mentoring study centre with WSU students from the secondary education program as well as visits to Western Sydney University campuses in an effort to de-mystify the higher education experience.
Lead researcher for the project, Dr Karin Mackay from the School of Education at Western Sydney University, said the workshops helped the participants express themselves creatively and develop employability skills like digital literacy, decision-making and risk-taking.
“Despite increased interconnection through social media, loneliness and isolation and genuine connectedness are issues among the refugee and migrant community. What we found is that the creative space was where this genuine connection happened,” said Dr Mackay.
Alfred Mupenzi, Western Sydney University research assistant for the project, said there was a persistent attitude among refugees to aim for what they could achieve rather than hold unrealistically high expectations.
“We are working with refugees that don’t know anyone that went to University. They never imagined they would get the chance to get an education again so engaging them in conversations about their aspirations is a dream for them, which makes the Navigating Resettlement project even more important,” he said.
Both Dr Mackay and Mr Mupenzi will work together on a new Western Sydney University research project Navigating Home, which will seek to understand the meaning of ‘home’ to refugee and non-refugee youth. In particular, they will investigate the role of social media and how it impacts on connecting and potentially isolating communities.
It is their hope that the recommendations from the research will help to inform the design of future projects that target newly arrived youth from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist