Since 1986, KU’s Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) team has been providing early education and care to thousands of children whose families have recently arrived as migrants or seeking humanitarian resettlement in Australia.

The AMEP is a free English tuition service funded by the Australian federal government to assist eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants with low English levels to improve their English language skills as they settle into Australian life.

For the past five years, KU has provided onsite early education and care to 3,500 children at Navitas Skilled Futures and Max Solutions English Colleges in North/Northwest Tasmania, ACT, Hunter, Illawarra and Sydney Southwest regions.

Right now, our AMEP teams are supporting families from countries that include Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine - to name a few.

COVID caused major disruption to the AMEP services, and now that restrictions have eased, KU is pleased to see a steady return of families once again. English tuition and access to early education and care was previously capped at 510 hours, however, from April 2021 AMEP families are now able to enjoy the services until they reach a high level of English proficiency. KU welcomed this policy change as a positive initiative for families in their settlement to Australia and for their children’s early learning and development.

Sabira Sukurma is KU’s Manager for AMEP and Community Programs. Having firsthand experience of migrating with a young family 28 years ago due to war conflicts in former Yugoslavia, she brings both lived and professional experience to her management role. Sabira recently spoke with Alumni Connect about her passion for supporting the settlement of migrant and refugee families to Australia for the past 23 years.

“Most migrant and refugee families in the AMEP have fled their home country due to political and war conflicts, determined to secure a safe and better life opportunities for their families. Some families have experienced huge trauma and have lost trust in the people and systems around them, so they often require a long time to heal and rebuild that trust again.

“The migration journey is a difficult and stressful process, yet one that builds enormous strength and resilience in those who live through this. Communication and cultural barriers are some of the obstacles of the settlement journey and the AMEP provides a first step for migrant families to learn English, navigate knowledge about Australian society and for their children to experience high quality early education environments.

“Migrant and refugee children make meaning of their new environments and the world around them based on the relationships and responses of adults in their lives. KU’s 40 AMEP educators are well positioned and skilled to help families on that journey and raise awareness of the importance of early childhood development and the value of play-based learning. Our teams are highly trained bilingual educators who have lived through their own migration and settlement experiences, and many have worked with KU for more than 15 years.

“Our bilingual educators support parents in their first language, not only in terms of navigating early education, but in a broader settlement context like paying bills, dealing with real estate, attending appointments, or understanding the education system.

“We operate six onsite creches that provide a platform for families to establish trusting and long-lasting relationships with our educators from their first orientation visit. Families can visit their children during their study breaks throughout the day, strengthening their trust knowing their children are safe and happy.

“From the child's perspective, our safe environments promote a smoother transition between home and the centre, and we use many visual signs, posters, body language, smiling faces, predictable routines to ensure a sense of belonging.

“We acknowledge each child in the context of their family, and we respect their cultures, languages, and child rearing practices as part of their identity. We take our time to get to know each of the families and provide the scaffolding for children to feel safe and connected in play, enjoy making new friends, and to learn English. Music and food are wonderful tools of connection with families. Throughout the year we celebrate many different cultural and religious events important to families and children.

“Children feel a powerful sense of belonging when they have a sense of identity, so our educators promote bilingualism and the importance of families not losing their first language and links to their heritage and cultural origins.

“We know that all families have different cultural understandings and expectations, so we highly encourage their involvement and ensure that their suggestions are implemented in our daily practice and curriculum. Parents’ involvement enables us to work productively together to enhance our quality of care while being culturally responsive.

“It is on the foundation of our positive relationships with families that our young children thrive to become strong and confident learners.”

- Sabira Sukurma, KU Manager for AMEP and Community Programs

KU is our place, where we all belong. A safe, calm community of children, parents and educators. We are very proud to welcome the large and diverse KU family of children, families and staff who experience KU with us each day. Side by side, we explore the world speaking different languages, through many cultures and with diverse perspectives. KU children learn it’s okay to be different, and we can all be different, together.