Young children playing together on grass with mums nearby
Programs to support refugee students and families begin with early childhood education. © NSW Department of Education and Communities

Supporting Refugee Education


Government agencies, non-government organisations and community groups often work together to support settlement needs in health, education, employment and basic services. Some examples of partnerships in education are:

Learning Education Aspiration Participation (LEAP) Macquarie University

School- University partnerships enhance the capacity of schools to meet the diverse needs of their student populations. Mentoring programs encourage an individual approach to building student skill sets and helps them to navigate new schools, new culture, the Australian curricula and the multiple education and employment pathways on offer to them.

The LEAP program aims to support students NSW high school students from refugee backgrounds who strive for higher education. Macquarie University students work with the students, furthering the school students' knowledge about the tertiary education system in Australia, broadening and raising their aspirations towards further study, and empowering them to make informed decisions about their future.

More information

Learning Education Aspiration Participation (LEAP)

Macquarie University

Refugee Action Support (RAS) Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation

The Refugee Action Support (RAS) program is a language and literacy tutoring initiative. Volunteer pre-service teachers, social workers and speech pathologists are recruited and trained to provide weekly one-on-one and small group support for young students of background who are enrolled in participating NSW high schools and primary schools.

School staff observed significant growth in both skills and attitudes of refugee students as a result of the program. Teachers reported, “not only do the students benefit linguistically, they benefit on social and emotional levels, as they interact with an adult who shows that they care about their education.”

Additionally teachers have indicated that access to a “caring adult ... interested in them and their learning” has meant that refugee students have “built their confidence and made them think more about what they want to achieve ... and has made them more resourceful.”

More information

Refugee Action Support (RAS) [PDF] Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation

Watch interviews from the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation Network to find out more information about the Refugee Action Support program.

Social Inclusion Pathway for Refugee Youth (SIPRY)

The Social Inclusion Pathway for Refugee Youth (SIPRY) program was initially established by Fairfield High School and the local Centrelink as a way of raising youth employment prospects in the Fairfield region (SW Sydney).

SIPRY is targeted at newly arrived young refugees who have had disrupted education as a result of forced migration and are at risk of leaving or have left school.

SIPRY staff work with refugee students to look at possible employment and education pathways.

SIPRY staff coordinate assistance from outside agencies (such as Work Ventures, youth groups, community centers and universities) to support students and offer possible post-school employment pathways.

One achievement of the group is the work ventures information website.

Ready Arrive Work (RAW)

The Ready Arrive Work (RAW) program was initially developed by the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC), in partnership with Job Quest (Western Sydney) to assist newly arrived refugee students to understand the Australian workplace.

Schools realised that many refugee students were unfamiliar with concepts of daily work schedules. The RAW program aims to provide work readiness skills and career planning by working with Jobquest staff, ESL staff and careers advisors in schools; and real work experience for students through industry visits.

The RAW program is now delivered in high schools throughout New South Wales to refugee students that have been in Australia for less than five years. It also now incorporates the introduction of education pathways as well as career pathways.

A teaching and learning resource has been developed by DEC to support teachers to deliver the program in their own schools so that the program continues to be sustainable.

There are many different government and community organisations involved in the program, such as: NSW DEC, JobQuest, Board of Studies, Universities, TAFEs, School Based Apprenticeship and Traineeships (SBATs), industry representatives, NSW Police, Libraries, Department of Human Services, Multicultural Services (includes services offered by Migrant Resource Centres, settlement services and various ethnic and cultural organisations), Health (includes Area Health Services, especially NSW Refugee Health Service, Adolescence Health Team and Transcultural Mental Health Centre (TMHC).

It also includes organisations such as STARTTS and local mental health teams, Group Training Organisations (mostly government funded, they offer traineeship and apprenticeship positions, and can offer excellent career pathways for refugee students), Local Government Councils, Police and Citizen Youth Clubs, Youth Legal Services, The Street University.

Beginning School Well

Beginning School Well is an initiative developed by the NSW DEC to support refugee children and their families when they start school. The program aims to strengthen the confidence and resilience of refugee families, and foster a sense of belonging in communities.

The program reflects the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that ‘all children have the right to an education that lays a foundation for the rest of their lives, maximises their ability, and respects their family, cultural and other identities and languages.’

Programs provide a supported playgroup at selected schools that provides play-based sessions in a relaxed and welcoming environment. A trained coordinator facilitates the sessions.

Both the children and parents who are participating in the program receive support from a local mentor who speaks the family’s home language and understands the complex needs of refugee families.

Throughout each playgroup session, the facilitator and the mentor demonstrate quality play learning experiences that parents may replicate at home. Information about relevant topics including child development, child safety, health and hygiene is provided for parents. In some cases parents may continue with language classes, other playgroups or ‘Triple P’ parenting courses once their children have started Kindergarten. Children gain an understanding of school routines and classroom expectations.

Successful strategies have included:

  • encouraging parents and children to eat morning tea together and try different foods
  • digital cameras going home with families to take photos to bring back and discuss
  • flexibility between indoor and outdoor areas
  • stories read to children and access to books in home language for families
  • cotton recycled bags sourced to enable book borrowing for home
  • families able to keep the story books at the end of the playgroup.