Research project aims to navigate aspirations of refugees and migrants

Professor Peter Shergold, Chancellor of WSU, and researchers Karin Mackay and Mohamad Moustakim with particpants at the Navigating Resettlement launch. Photo: Tracy Buckridge

Recommendations have been launched from a Navigating Resettlement research project which looked at ways to connect young refugees and migrants to their educational and employment aspirations.

The year- long project was commissioned by SydWest Multicultural Services in collaboration with the Centre for Educational Research (CER) at Western Sydney University and worked with 119 adolescent refugees and migrants in the Blacktown area.

Among the 8 key recommendations that came from the research was the need to provide informal educational models to better engage refugee youth as well as establish a youth advisory group for Western Sydney refugees and migrants to inform policy that impacts upon them. The research also suggested there was a need to develop a visual web resource to share higher education pathways for refugees.

The Navigating Resettlement project consisted of weekly sessions with participants and included IT and art workshops where refugees and migrants had the opportunity to create their own website. The workshops also included a dedicated mentoring study centre with WSU students from the secondary education program as well as visits to Western Sydney University campuses in an effort to de mystify the higher education experience.

Lead researcher for the project, Dr Karin Mackay from the School of Education at Western Sydney University, said the workshops helped the participants express themselves creatively and develop employability skills like digital literacy, decision-making and risk-taking.

“Despite increased interconnection through social media, loneliness and isolation and genuine connectedness is an issue among the refugee and migrant community. What we found is that the creative space was where this genuine connection happened,” said Dr Mackay.

Greater Western Sydney is a major destination for refugee groups. Three quarters of the refugee intake between 2007 and 2016 originally settled in Western Sydney. Whilst the region benefits from the cultural diversity and initiative of these new communities, it also shares the responsibilities and challenges of resettlement like language barriers, uncertainty of living circumstances and feelings of loneliness which makes life challenging for young refugees in the early stages of transitioning into Australian life.

Alfred Mupenzi, Western Sydney University research assistant for the project, said there was a persistent attitude among refugees to aim for what they could achieve rather than hold unrealistically high expectations.

“We are working with refugees that don’t know anyone that went to University.  They never imagined they would get the chance to get an education again so engaging them in conversations about their aspirations is a dream for them, which makes the Navigating Resettlement project even more important,” he said.

Both Dr Mackay and Alfred will work together on a new Western Sydney University research project Navigating Home, which will seek to understand the meaning of ‘home’ to refugee and non-refugee youth. In particular, they will investigate the role of social media and how it impacts on connecting and potentially isolating communities.

It is their hope that the recommendations from the research will help to inform the design of future projects that target newly arrived youth from refugee and migrant backgrounds.


30 July 2018

Jessica Cortis, Media Officer