Sixty Something: Changing my view on refugees 17



View Profile

Hello Sixty Something readers. Once again I am here to bore, delight or just take up a few minutes of your time as you read my few hundred words. By the time you have decided you like this or you want to tear me to pieces or whatever you think of it, I hopefully will have been and come home from my little hospital visit. In a week, I will be having a knee replacement. The joys of osteoarthritis. 

I have been on the waiting list for three years now – that’s the 90-day waiting list! I am sure there are others in my situation or worse with the health system the way it is, so I am not complaining folks, just stating facts. Hopefully, I will breeze through it and be back in no time, but let me tell you, it is a little scarier than the flying lesson I took last week. I was so thrilled it was finally going to happen, but after going to pre-admission, I was terrified. It is a little daunting when you are on your own I think.

Anyway, moving right along. By now you all know I had a flying lesson, which was possibly the scariest and at the same time, greatest thing I have done. At Sixty Something, there is nothing more uplifting than doing things you out of your comfort zone. Don’t put it off folks. You owe it to yourselves to do something that may be boring to others but will enhance your life.

Last night I went to my second TAFE class. This is what I would like to talk about mostly this week. I am learning how to teach refugees and migrants to speak English. Anyone can enrol for these classes. There are so many wanting to learn to speak English and not enough teachers. 

I am guilty of thinking at times that people shouldn’t come to this country unless they can speak the language. Last night, I met some refugees from two different countries and my attitudes changed. Refugees and migrants are different. A migrant chooses to live here for whatever reason and goes through the proper channels to do so. A refugee is someone who for whatever reason cannot live in their own country, although most want to. Some are political reasons and they fear for their lives, some have gone to other places for work and have been refused entry when they come home. I could go on and on but the reasons are mostly safety reasons and no fault of their own. 

I met a migrant who has been here for three years. She learned English through this program and is now studying it to teach others. Remember these classes are free and you don’t get paid to teach, you are a volunteer.

I then met two young men from two different countries and walks of life. They wanted desperately to learn our language. These men were so eager and polite. Both wanted to go home to their own countries but were realistic enough to know that it may never be possible. This is what we don’t realise: most refugees want to return home when possible. One of these men had been on a 17-year journey of trying to reach asylum before he made it to Australia. I could not imagine what it was like for him. He was full of gratitude.

Then I met a young woman. She had spent 22 years in a refugee camp in Nepal – 22 years! She was a small child when she was first sent there. She explained how eight people lived in a hut that was not waterproof. It washed away constantly and they put it back together. There was never enough food. It was not her choice to be there, but she HAD no choice. She was so grateful to be in Tasmania and to be able to learn English. She too hoped that one day she could go home. 

I am so grateful that I am sixty something and have the time to be able to take this class. I am so grateful that I have met these people and have learned that everything is not always as it seems. At sixty something with a not so great life behind me, I have lived the life of a queen compared to these people. I now look at them differently, with understanding and compassion. They look at me the same as they always have – with gratitude.

Would you ever teach English to refugees? Do you have a different perspective on refugees now?

Fran Spears

Born in 1953. Came to Hobart from the north west coast of Tassie to be closer to my son as I have mild chronic bronchitis. Mild and chronic in same sentence – even that makes me laugh. Have just completed and passed my diploma in Public Relations. Love to write and have lead a reasonably interesting life. My motto: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

  1. what an interesting story and one I have been waiting to read, I admire Fran, life has not been easy by means for her but she uses the intelligence and ability she has to help others..I hope your feeling ok Fran any operation is a trauma on the body..we are all thinking of you

  2. I read this story out of interest for the plight of these people and was building respect for you and your views until I read your motto for life and it blew your credibility out of the water.

    3 REPLY
    • I would not take that statement to literally Fran has just had a an operation and Fran lives alone, it is only her strength of character that takes her through life..I think that is what that motto is about

    • I took her motto as a “tongue-in-cheek” and light-hearted statement. Especially when she has demonstrated that she really does give a damn for her fellow beings. She is one to be admired.

    • I apologise to Fran. Not knowing her as you do I found her motto and writing a conundrum but I have more understanding now.

  3. Yes, I met a few who have become close friends and my mind is well and truly different to what it was before I became involved with them

  4. Heather sometimes people do things for the wrong reasons but in the end it can change their entire perspective. Let’s hope this is one of those times.

  5. I don’t think it’s anything wrong with accepting refugees as long as our governments do some advance planning and invest into the right infrastructure (and I’m not talking about detention centres). You need to have accommodation, EDUCATION and transport capacities in order to accept them. And, in the end, JOBS. What’s the point of bringing people in if they have no prospect to find work.We need to put emotions aside and be practical about it.

  6. Nicely written and you are not only helping the people coming to this country, your helping all of us, because it is impossible to communicate if they don’t speak the same language..get well soon

  7. Very interesting and informative Fran. I wonder if TAFE in Qld have the same course. Did you have to pay to do the course? Campbell Newman’s LNP govt cut many TAFE courses and those that were kept more than doubled in cost.

  8. I think Fran has hit the nail right on the head, the fact that the majority are here for a good reason and do want to learn English to communicate and to further their job prospects. It’s government policy that lets them down re the infrastructure needed for such people. So typical of present governments to expect volunteers to teach them English. With the right policies in place, the assimilation of these people could be so much easier. But then they still haven’t got it right with our indigenous people either, after decades of disastrous policies.

  9. Fran, firstly good luck with the knee replacement. Hopefully you’ll soon be running around like the crazy young chick you (probably) are at heart! I would love to be able to do something to help refugees but I can’t find anything in my rural area. Your story is lovely and well written. I don’t know how people can have such heartless attitudes to these people, some of whom have been through unimaginable horrors. Well said, Fran.

  10. I wish those who wish harm on refugees would watch Four Corners from last night. If you can watch that and still feel hatred, fear or loathing for these human beings, then you have a heart of stone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *