NEW-ZEALAND’S ON-ARRIVAL EDUCATION PROGRAMME FOR REFUGEES: AN ECOLOGICAL MODEL OF EMPOWERMENT AND HEALING
Auckland Univeristy of Technology (NEW ZEALAND)
This presentation will provide a brief expose´ of New Zealand’s on-arrival refugee programme, which is unique in that all quota refugees spend their first six weeks in the country at a reception centre. The education programme offered at the Centre in Auckland is carefully designed to ensure that individuals from refugee backgrounds feel welcome, safe, respected and empowered. Refugee background learners have frequently experienced extreme trauma or deprivation and numerous losses. However, they have also ‘survived’ these egregious conditions and teachers on the on-arrival programme recognise the strength, resilience, compassion and wisdom accrued from this experience. When these qualities are acknowledged by professionals, there is potential for empowerment as well as healing. A formal educational environment is a milieu where this acknowledgment can occur and this presentation will discuss the AUT programme designed within an ‘ecological’ and ‘rights-based’ framework and present a photographic datashow reflecting its implementation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
Although teachers may not “deal with trauma directly, they are part of the healing process. They give their students order and predictability. After the chaos and confusion of their lives, nothing is more comforting (for refugees) than routines…. Students need to receive the message that ‘school’ is a safe place. Order, ritual and predictability are part of this reassurance” (Pipher, 2003:104).
Likewise, affirmation of strengths, skills and personal identity contribute towards ‘healing’. Academic literature on refugee resettlement and recovery also informs us that individuals benefit from an authentic welcome, renewed safety as well as the development of trusting relationships in the new, permanent environment (Hayward, 2007). This session will discuss how these elements are incorporated into a formal learning context and how pedagogy can be ‘refugee-centred’ so that it contributes to the recovery process, healing and well-being of participants.
 Mary Pipher (2003) : “The Middle of Everywhere”, Harcourt Press, NY.