AN academic from Charles Sturt University (CSU) is calling for residents of regional cities to welcome refugees and embrace the opportunity to host the latest group from Syria.
Bathurst based Doctor Jae Major made the appeal after conducting a research program that examined what resources and practices were most effective for Sudanese students’ success in Orange, which is a secondary settlement site and Wagga Wagga, which is a primary settlement site.
Dr Major said the study found that a positive and welcoming community and the sense of community in regional towns had a positive effect on educational outcomes.
“What we found was that opportunities such as sports groups, church youth groups, PCYC and council-run holiday programs played a significant role in the feelings of inclusion and wellbeing for the young refugees,” Dr Major said.
“We also found that families felt many of these things were easier to access in a regional town compared to a big city because local people helped and supported that participation. Community members demonstrated a welcoming attitude and a willingness to offer practical support and friendship to those in need.
“I think that with the latest wave of Syrian refugees it would be great if the government looked at regional centres that could become primary sites for settlement.”
Dr Major conducted the study with Doctor Kiprono Langat, from CSU’s research institute for professional practice, learning and education, former CSU Associate Professor Jane Wilkinson and Adjunct Professor Ninetta Santoro.
She said it was a small study carried out in 2011 and 2012 and involved eight Sudanese refugee families with students ranging from those starting high school to those who were in years 10 and 11.
Unlike previous studies the focus was on what was helping the students succeed rather than what hurdles they faced.
As a result the study found that building students’ self-esteem and confidence, and their families’ ability to engage positively with community and schooling, all contribute to educational achievement.