When war broke out in her home country of Syria, Gemma fled to Australia with a number of her family. They shared a common hope for a better future.
Gemma’s native language is Arabic but she had also learned some English at school.
Having a basic understanding of the English language meant her family relied on her to help them navigate life in Australia in the early days and months.
“They were finding it very hard at the beginning, so I always felt pressure and that I was responsible to help them with their appointments and go with them anywhere so they don’t feel that pressure and they don’t feel that heaviness. So, I tried to make it easier for them and for their living,” shares Gemma.
“To be independent in Australia you just need to know simple language, you don’t have to be perfect. You just need some simple language to help you live and settle here."
“And it's very important if you want to study or work,” she says.
To further improve her English and help her with finishing her studies in Australia, Gemma joined AMEP classes at MAX.
“I was just very excited to improve my English language and to meet new people and to have new friends.”
Like many AMEP students at MAX, Gemma finds the combination of learning and building connections valuable.
“The things I enjoy most here at MAX is literally our relationship with everyone else, everyone is learning together and we became very close friends."
“Our relationships here is very good, we are all together and we love each other, and help each other. And you get to know a lot about different nationalities and you get to know more about them, learn about their customs and traditions” she shares.
For Gemma, the future is bright as she looks to complete her high school studies in Wollongong and head out, once again with the world at her feet.
The AMEP has been helping migrants like Gemma to grow their confidence in English and find their feet in Australia for many years. In fact, Government supported English programs for migrants have been running in Australia since 1948.
The AMEP is a Government funded service to help eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants with low English levels to improve their English language skills and settle into Australia.
AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, and MAX is subcontracted to deliver AMEP services through Navitas Skilled Futures.
Gemma joined her fellow students during Refugee Week in 2022. The MAX AMEP team welcomed students and migrant support partners from the community for a special celebration of culture, food and friendship.