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.
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.
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.