Uniting NSW.ACT supporting refugees in the community to access ECEC
The Sector > Provider > General News > Uniting NSW.ACT supporting refugees in the community to access ECEC

Uniting NSW.ACT supporting refugees in the community to access ECEC

by Freya Lucas

June 21, 2022

Hongmei Lei, a refugee from China, is a mother of two to five-year-old Annabelle and four-year-old Alston. She arrived in Australia as a student 10 years ago, and now lives in the Sydney suburb of Fairfield.


Due to language and financial barriers Hongmei struggled to understand the importance of putting her children into preschool, however, thanks to a friend’s advice she now receives support from Uniting Early Learning’s Links to Early Learning Program through ‘linker’ Truc Nguyen.


The Links to Early Learning program connects parents to quality options and aims to help preschool-aged children access early learning in the year or two before they start school. 


“We have many families who use this service from diverse backgrounds, especially from those who seek asylum,” explained Uniting Links to Early Learning coordinator Susie Wilkins.


“We don’t discriminate and understand the complexities like language and financial limitations when it comes to trying to access service and support programs. In fact, we take pride in the networks we have in the local communities we serve and find a lot of our clients through word of mouth.”


Since arriving in Australia language has been the biggest barrier for Hongmei. She started using the Links to Early Learning service after finding out about it from a friend. She needed some help when it came to getting her children into preschool and finding out what financial help she was entitled to, Ms Nguyen explained. 


“Hongmei had a lot of anxiety about how she would be able to communicate with the educators, so we found a service with someone who could speak Chinese and would be able to communicate back to her how her son Alston is doing in the service.”


Since connecting with the program, Alston attends Fairfield Preschool two days a week. 


“My son didn’t go to school and wasn’t learning anything,” Hongmei said. 


“Truc has really helped me a lot. She helped me get Alston into preschool and now he is learning so much.’’ 


Ms Nguyen calls Hongmei every Monday via video link, and encourages her to develop her language skills and read to the children. 


“Our staff can visit people at home to get things started and we are able to help families to find the service that best suits them and their child, which includes assisting them to complete all the paperwork for enrolment including applying for Child Care Subsidy, access to translation and interpretation services. Plus be on hand to answer the family’s queries or concerns in assisting the child to have a great start,’’ Ms Wilkins said.


Links to Early Learning has not been the only Uniting program Hongmei has used. She is also a participant in the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters, (HIPPY). This program supports parents by delivering a structured curriculum over 60-weeks consisting of learning activities designed to help children be ‘school ready’ and develop their love of learning. 


The program is dedicated to helping and prioritising people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities in locations where they may not have existing support networks.  


Uniting NSW.ACT’s HIPPY tutors support between 10-15 local families at one time and offer the program virtually, which ensures everyone is as connected as possible.


For more information about Uniting services such as Links to Early Learning Program and the Home Interaction Program for Parents call 1800 864 846 or email [email protected].

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