English language remains a barrier for work and study in Bendigo for young people from diverse backgrounds

Nay Chee Aung says young people from diverse backgrounds face many challenges in attempting to find work and study in Bendigo.
Nay Chee Aung says young people from diverse backgrounds face many challenges in attempting to find work and study in Bendigo.

WRITTEN English language requirements at TAFE and other institutes are a major barrier to young people from diverse backgrounds in Bendigo furthering their studies and finding work, a support worker believes.

Bendigo Community Health Services settlement case worker Nay Chee Aung attended a roundtable of business and community leaders, as well as young people from diverse backgrounds in Bendigo on Wednesday.

Nay Chee Aung – who predominantly works with people from the Karen community – said young people who had arrived in Bendigo during their teenage years were finding it difficult to make the transition to work or further study after they finished high school.

“Because of the English level required, they’re told they aren’t good enough to do a childcare course or a nursing course. They feel ashamed, embarrassed,” he said.

“I see many young people – more than 25 each year – when they finish school and I ask them what their plans are. They’ve finished their VCAL, they want to do a TAFE course, but instead they get pushed to another English class.

“I never find anyone who has good enough English to do these courses.”

Nay Chee Aung said employers often looked at a person’s name before determining if their English skills were likely to be sufficient for a certain position – and many had good spoken skills, but grammar and spelling was difficult.

“If you do not give a person a chance, there is no way they can prove they are good enough,” he said.

“Improving English classes in schools is something that needs to be looked at.”

Barriers to work and further study were just one of the topics of conversation at the roundtable, hosted by the Scanlon Foundation, which focused on issues facing young people from diverse backgrounds.

The Scanlon Foundation presented its latest discussion paper during the meeting, with polls and research demonstrating Australians’ attitudes towards cultural diversity. It found 84.6 per cent believed multiculturalism had been good for Australia.

Mojtaba Seyedi told the roundtable that it could be frustrating when the term “refugee” was used to define a person, rather than allowing them to define themselves as individuals.

He said people were also often judged on the method in which they arrived in Australia.

Scanlon Foundation chief executive officer Anthea Hancocks said the roundtable in Bendigo was an opportunity to hear more about the challenges facing young people in regional Victoria.

“Bendigo is becoming increasingly diverse,” she said.

“There are some great on-the-ground activities that are going on in Bendigo, some terrific programs and projects.

“We really want to tap into the opportunity to hear from young people from different cultural backgrounds, so we had an opportunity to hear the sorts of things that they experience.”