River Nile Learning Centre

Refugee women locked out of traditional education institutions are finding cultural connection and life skills at holistic English language classes.

Grant Type
Pitch In
Focus
Social Cohesion
Date
2023
Partner

Mariam (not her real name) arrived in Australia from the Horn of Africa with limited English and no social support network. Unable to enrol in traditional educational because of her visa status, she struggled with daily activities. She faced cultural and financial barriers. And she was also in a controlling relationship, which compounded her isolation and dependence.

Mariam found her way to the River Nile Learning Centre (RNLC) in North Melbourne, a not-for-profit established in 2017 to support adult women in Mariam’s exact circumstances. She took foundational English language classes and accessed food support services, MYKI passes, driving lessons and excursions. This winning combination helped her manage daily tasks and feel more connected.

After several months in the program, and with the support of RNLC’s Community Services and Social Support Worker, Mariam successfully navigated her legal separation. She has gained independence, employment, a supportive network and agency in her legal situation.

“Mariam’s transformation highlights the profound impact of RNLC's holistic approach,” says Rahel Davies, Executive Director at RNLC.

“We offer pre-accredited training, education and community-focused welfare support for adult, refugee women who can’t access education because of their older age, visa status, or personal circumstances.

“The women at RNLC face significant cultural, language, legal, technology and financial barriers that hinder their ability to integrate into Australian society and access services.

“Many have also experienced trauma in their past and are balancing family responsibilities, such as childcare and household management, with educational and professional pursuits.

“All of these factors mean RNLC must remain adaptable by continuously assessing needs and adjusting our services, ensuring effective support and helping participants overcome barriers to achieve their goals.”

At the Bennelong Foundation’s 2023 Melbourne Pitch In, RNLC secured funding for an additional English-language teacher with experience helping women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This delivered lessons covering practical language use in everyday contexts and integrated education across vital services, such as Foodbank, public transport and swimming lessons.

The Centre’s Community Services and Social Support Worker also assisted the women to navigate Centrelink, seek help with domestic violence issues and advocate for their children’s education. This comprehensive approach ensured that participants got well-rounded support, which empowered them and helped them settle in.

Louise McRoberts is the RNLC’s Foundation English and Digital Literacy Teacher. She believes creating a safe and welcoming environment, where women from diverse backgrounds can learn, share experiences and support one another, is essential for building trust, confidence, and resilience.

“The women at River Nile bring joy, care and laughter to the classroom. We share highs and lows and learn a great deal about each other's culture. I’ve seen confidence improve, I’ve seen practical skills improve and I’ve seen friendships grow and develop. This can only occur in a culturally safe and caring space,” Louise says.

“There is no other place like the River Nile Learning Centre and I am a better teacher for being part of it.”

Read more about River Nile Learning Centre here.

Impactful results

Making positive change

River Nile Learning Centre has enabled women refugees in Melbourne participate in education opportunities.

Outcome

Better access to education that opens pathways to future career opportunities.

Outcome

More opportunities for women refugees to learn, work and connect with others, and to have a voice.

The women at River Nile bring joy, care and laughter to the classroom. We share highs and lows and learn a great deal about each other's culture. I’ve seen confidence improve, I’ve seen practical skills improve and I’ve seen friendships grow and develop. This can only occur in a culturally safe and caring space.

Louise McRoberts

Foundation English and Digital Literacy Teacher at River Nile Learning Centre

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