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From AMEP student to Entrepreneur

Conflict forced Totoya and her sisters to leave Sudan and live in a Kenyan refugee camp for 15 years, but since completing the AMEP she is a proud business owner and has no plans of slowing down. 

Totoya Hamuda has always had a passion for African hair styling and a strong desire to teach others. However, after arriving in Australia in 2015 as a refugee, she found it initially difficult to connect with locals and experienced culture shock.

“The fact we didn’t have any family or friends, it was really, really hard. But we had each other- my sisters- we managed to conquer everything to get where we are now” she said.

To overcome these difficulties, Totoya enrolled in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at the Bundamba campus shortly after settling in her new Australian home. The AMEP offers free English language classes to eligible migrants and refugees to help them better settle in Australia.

The AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs and delivered by TAFE Queensland across 34 Queensland locations.

“When we started TAFE they actually ask you what do you want, how can we help you? How can we support you?”

As well as equipping Totoya to improve her English literacy and understanding of Australian culture, the AMEP empowered her to pursue her goals.

Totoya was determined to open her own salon and seized every opportunity that came her way. While still in the AMEP, she also completed a Certificate III in Hairdressing (SHB30416) and attended various small business workshops and training events.

Upon finishing the AMEP in 2016, Totoya was unsure of her next move, but luckily her AMEP support team offered guidance. They advised her to reach out to the Office of Economic Development Ipswich and apply for their Activate Ipswich Program, in which she was successful.

She also enrolled in the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) program with Mission Providence, completing a Certificate III in Micro Business, and received 39 weeks of tax-free income to support her new business.

With her store key in hand, she finally got to see her dream come to life in her new salon, 'Totoya African Hair', located in Ipswich CBD. Totoya acknowledges AMEP and TAFE Queensland for their guidance and support to reach her goals.

“AMEP set us on the path we want to follow. It personally helped me, in getting to know everything about Australia as well as bringing me to this business which has been running for over six years.”

Initially running the business with just her sister, Totoya now employs nine staff and has recently moved to a bigger store in Richlands. Impressively, her clients travel to her from as far as Kingaroy! Now that Totoya is settled and confident in her business, she’s been giving back and helping other refugees like her by taking on AMEP students for work placement.

“TAFE Queensland supports us even now. They always check in and support us and bring people for us to work with.”

Totoya's journey from being a refugee, to now contributing to her community and running a successful business is truly inspiring.

The AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. In Queensland, the AMEP is delivered through TAFE Queensland.