Shaping the WIL Vision Creating and sustaining WIL relationships Fostering WIL engagement Communicating and influencing Driving organisational outcomes WIL Context

The WIL Leadership Framework

WIL Leadership Vignette 08:

Engaging the Refugee Community of Greater Western Sydney



Loshini Naidoo
University of Western Sydney

What was learned from this:

  • The collaboration, sharing of information, expertise and resources builds WIL capacity across the institution.
  • University-school partnerships can structurally and culturally plan to foster and facilitate the mentoring of staff and students.
  • That the program contribution to the WIL knowledge base provides a level of coherence and linkage that facilitates innovation and good practice nationally and internationally.

Context of the event, experience or activity:

UWS is a multi-campus university that services the Greater Western Sydney region with a culturally and socially diverse population which is reflected in the considerable number of humanitarian refugees who have settled in the area since the beginning of the millennium. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that while some refugee students do achieve success in schools and subsequently tertiary education, there are however, many barriers that can negatively impact the ability of adolescent refugees to access tertiary education particularly of those individuals arriving with disrupted schooling experiences. The Refugee Action Support program shows that targeted learning and teaching strategies may be particularly beneficial educationally for refugees, schools and universities and have the potential to help meet both the academic and broader developmental goals of education.

RAS is a partnership program between the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities in Western and South Western Sydney regions. Pre-service teachers provide in-school and after school literacy tutoring to high school refugee students. This vignette links to Fostering WIL engagement, expertise and student learning.

Description of the event, experience or activity:

The Refugee Action Support Program (RAS)is based on principles that: argue for a move away from a 'one-size fits-all' approach to a more specialized, individualized approach for refugee background learners; recognize and celebrate the diversity of refugees and the specific barriers that refugees face in education access; links in with refugee community members and the institution; provides role models and mentors for students from refugee backgrounds in high schools; extends English language and literacy training so that students from refugee backgrounds can map a career path into tertiary education and provides cultural awareness training for both refugees and educators as well as resources for the engagement of staff (universities and schools) to support refugee access and to implement the strategies necessary to maximize retention in secondary schools and universities.


Professional development for mentor teachers was commissioned by EQ where input and feedback was sought from the university. The PD was trialled and reviewed very favourably and a decision was made to make it available to all mentor teachers in the region. A number of other strategies designed to give recognition to these teachers were also developed, amongst them an appreciation letter from the most senior director in EQ. The initiative has also led to the provision of fortnightly webinars for students in schools which takes some of the pressure off mentors to provide information about EQ processes and policies.

  • Case studies that identify the teaching, learning, cultural needs of students from refugee backgrounds which may enable/constrain their participation in tertiary education.
  • Training workshops and an implementation guide that develop models of university engagement with schools in the region and which inform university teaching learning practices that support improved participation for students of refugee background in tertiary education.

Loshini Naidoo co-ordinates the national and international award winning Refugee Action Support Project (RAS) in the School of Education.





Last Update: 23 April, 2014
Reference: Page 22