Transitions and aspirations of young Australians with refugee backgrounds: pathways to and through education

Year: 2018

Author: Miller, Emily, Ziaian, Tahereh, Baak, Melanie, de Anstiss, Helena, Margaret, Secombe

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Movement of people as refugees currently affects a wide range of global regions and communities. Resettlement options offered by some nations, such as Australia, provide opportunities for those who have had a refugee experience to live in relative safety. Employment and education are key to successful resettlement and positive acculturation and adaptation, providing host societies are welcoming, adaptive and responsive to new communities and individuals. Young people from refugee backgrounds exhibit a breadth of experience and skills that they build on through engagement with education, however there are a range of challenges that these young people face as they navigate unfamiliar systems, often within new cultural and linguistic frames.
This project investigated the education experiences of young Australians from refugee backgrounds, with a focus on the transition from school to higher education or employment. This mixed-methods study included a survey of over 600 South Australian youth, aged 15-24, who had a refugee experience in one of the three key regions of Africa, the Middle East or South Asia. Students from a range of educational settings, including high schools and universities, answered questions about their aspirations, educational experiences, and challenges or enablers of their individual education pathway. Key findings from quantitative data were collected through the questionnaire and deeper understanding was gleaned through qualitative interviews with young people, their family members and educators working in a range of settings.

Key findings suggest that many young people had high aspirations and were engaging well with their education, but also faced some challenges. The data suggest a range of ways that educational institutions can support provision of inclusive and flexible pathways to further education and employment for young people from refugee backgrounds. Implications of the findings as they relate to access and equity will be discussed.