Born and raised in Taiwan with a background in dietician studies, Hailey Lee migrated to Australia ten years ago to start a new life in Australia with her husband.
Her early years as a migrant, however, had its challenges.
“When I first arrived, I found Bendigo city too quiet and I was feeling a little lonely. I experienced a culture shock and a language barrier because I only knew basic English,” Hailey shared.
After starting a family, Hailey focused on raising her two children. When her youngest child turned one-and-a-half years old, Hailey decided it was time to make a change and pursue a career for herself.
Hailey’s first step was to enrol in Bendigo TAFE’s Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), with her children attending the free AMEP childcare program during her studies.
“I really enjoyed studying at Bendigo TAFE. I met people from all over the world and teachers were so nice. I became confident,” she said.
An in-class presentation by SisterWorks, a not-for-profit social enterprise, soon set Hailey on the fast-track to a new career.
She began volunteering with SisterWorks, providing other women who are refugees, asylum seekers or migrants with support to settle in Australia and gain economic empowerment through work and entrepreneurship.
Following English studies, she enrolled in the Diploma of Community Services with Bendigo TAFE in 2021 and completed work placement at SisterWorks as part of the diploma.
Hailey was subsequently offered a job with SisterWorks in client support, a role she began in April this year. Part of the intake and social enterprise support team, Hailey connects participants with resources and links them to appropriate services, training and job opportunities. She also helps with the production of locally made products that are available at SisterWorks’ pop-up markets.
“It's rewarding to see the participants becoming more confident, happier and being able to find a job they like. We offer a warm, welcoming, and safe space for the community; some people see this space as home,” Hailey said.
Hailey has one message for others hoping to take life in a new direction.
“Don’t give up even though things sometimes seem to be too far to achieve,” she said.
“As long as you keep trying, you will achieve your goals. You’re not alone; there’re so many people out there who are willing to support you.”
Bendigo TAFE’s Adult Migrant English Program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. The program provides free English language lessons to eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants aged 18 years and over.
Linda Beinke, lead educator in vocational English at Bendigo TAFE, said recent reforms in AMEP have enabled many students to enrol in formal English training in pursuit of their career goals.
“We have many inspiring students such as Hailey in the AMEP program. It was such a privilege for us to play a part in her journey,” she said.
“Since April 2021, reforms in the AMEP have allowed eligible migrants to access the program for longer and until they reach a higher level of proficiency.
“We have seen an increasing number of students return to the AMEP to support them in fulfilling their career aspirations.”
Find out more about the AMEP course at Bendigo TAFE here: https://www.bendigotafe.edu.au/courses/AMEP