A community-focused English language program for Chaldean refugees has been awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award for Excellence in Community Engagement.
The 10-week program for the Chaldean community in Bossley Park, NSW, was coordinated by ACU Centre for Languages Academic Manager Svetlana Lukovic and Assistant Academic Manager Libby Rainsford. It followed a request from the Pro Vice-Chancellor, International, Chris Riley, that the centre work with church and community leaders to develop appropriate English language support.
The pair also acknowledged teachers Far Chiang and Fiona Steel, who delivered the program to the Bossley Park Chaldean community. Ms Chiang and Ms Steel travelled to Bossley Park each week and were able to adapt classes to meet the needs of community members.
Ms Libby Rainsford, Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven, and Mrs Svetlana Lukovic.
The Chaldeans are indigenous people of Iraq and are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Many Chaldeans have been forced to flee Iraq due to continuous attacks and persecution.
ACU has assisted the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil to establish the Catholic University of Erbil, priests and sisters from Erbil have studied at ACU on scholarships and church leaders from the Bossley Park community have completed English courses at the ACU Centre for Languages.
Over the past few years the Chaldean population in Bossley Park has grown, with more than 1000 families arriving from Iraq. ACU was made aware of the need for an English language program in the community.
In February the 10-week program commenced, with 70 community members attending weekly classes at the St Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church’s community centre in Bossley Park.
The program was open to all members of the community, however primarily targeted older people and women, many of whom have family responsibilities that make it difficult to access full-time English programs available to newly-arrived refugees.
“This program is really all about returning something to the community,” Mrs Lukovic said.
We know these people have gone through a lot of sadness and suffering. They want to be valued and useful members of the community.”
“We understood that we needed to use their faith and their cultural identity as a source of strength.”
The 10-week program culminated in a ceremony at ACU’s Mackillop Campus in North Sydney. “The participants were all very proud of completing the program, with many saying they now feel more confident,” Mrs Lukovic said.
Word has now spread throughout the community and there was high-demand for the next 10-week English language program, which commenced in September with 82 participants.
The team behind the program say they have also benefited both personally and professionally from delivering the program, describing it as ‘an incredible privilege’.
“It’s really rewarding for us to join this community and share this learning opportunity,” Ms Rainsford said.
While we were giving back to the community it was really a mutually beneficial and rewarding experience.”
Mrs Lukovic and Ms Rainsford said the Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award not only recognised their work but acknowledged the entire ACU Centre for Languages.
“It’s recognition of what the Centre for Languages has been doing for international students over the past 25 years,” Mrs Lukovic said.