Meet Amina

Amina came to Australia under the humanitarian programme. Many refugees and new migrants like Amina bring with them professional training, skills and experience, and want to give back.

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Amina teaching in a class room

I did not want to leave my home, my friends or my business. Home was Aleppo, Syria, where I ran my English language centre. I loved my life and did everything I could to hold on to it. But one moment on a bus changed everything.

Teaching means everything to me, it is my life and I love it. When I’m in the classroom, I forget everything else.

I was travelling to Damascus when an armed gang opened fire on the bus. I was thrown into the air and landed hard on the floor. The first thing I saw was that the girl next to me had been shot in the head. I was hysterical. At the hospital they removed the shrapnel from my body but they couldn’t take away the sound of gunfire. It has been over two years but I can still hear it ringing in my ears. After that, I was scared all the time and knew that I had to leave.

When I arrived in Melbourne, I was excited to be reunited with my sons. I was suffering from trauma and not in a good place emotionally. I was so hurt inside that at first I couldn’t see the beauty of Australia. Leaving my life behind and starting anew at my age was daunting. I have always been independent, and I struggled with having to depend on my sons for everything in the early days.

I desperately wanted to get back to teaching and use my skills here in Australia. I had been teaching English in Aleppo for years. Teaching means everything to me, it is my life and I love it. When I’m in the classroom, I forget everything else. I looked into how I could teach here and it became clear that I would need to get an Australian qualification.

I am a grandmother in my sixties. But even I had to go back to university if I wanted to work as a teacher, so I did. I enrolled at Victoria University to get my Graduate Diploma in Education. It was the best thing I could have done. I started making friends, gained confidence and it allowed me to teach again.

My first day back in the classroom was so exciting. I started volunteering as an English teacher to other refugees. It has given me the chance to help others and contribute to Australian society. My experience helps me to help them. I understand and recognise their challenges.

When my students see how engaged I am in my own education and how much I love my job, they feel inspired to study. My advice to them is always the same: first, learn English. Second, study or look for a job. Finally, I tell them to become an active member of the community.

Giving refugees like I once was access to education is an essential part of helping them to fully participate in Australian society. I meet so many skilled professionals in my class who have a lot to offer.

I am eager to be part of this society and I didn’t come to Australia to be a burden. I came to contribute and make a difference.

Today I dream of starting a business in Melbourne. Perhaps, a language centre just like the one I had in Aleppo.

Amina came to Australia under the humanitarian programme. Many refugees and new migrants like Amina bring with them professional training, skills and experience, and want to give back.

Help refugees and new migrants thrive in their communities by volunteering to teach English, or providing mentoring and training to new arrivals.

Find out more at www.dss.gov.au/helpingrefugees

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