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Reaching new heights

AMEP student Karina is reaching new heights. Her inspiring journey has taken her from being the first female fighter pilot in Chile to passing the Australian Aviation Exams and resuming her commercial aviation career.

Her determination and resilience have always been a driving force behind her extraordinary achievements, but Karina attributes much of her success to the support she received from her family as well as the community she found at TAFE Queensland.

Karina developed a love for aviation in her childhood when she flew for the first time with her grandfather on a business trip. Despite being scared at first, her grandfather's reassurance helped her begin to enjoy the experience.

“I remember looking through the window and seeing all the little houses and cows and thinking wow this is amazing, I really like this”.

This early experience sparked her dream of becoming a pilot and when the opportunity arose with the Chilean Defence Force, she seized it, despite facing significant opposition and scepticism.

“At the time it was just another day, but at this point in my life when I look back, it was hard. I had to push myself through difficult situations to get to where I am…It wasn’t easy. Some instructors and people thought that it was not a place for women”.

It was a challenging period, but in 2009 Karina broke through stereotypes and became the first female fighter pilot in the Chilean Air Force, a groundbreaking accomplishment for women in aviation.

After serving a distinguished career in the Air Force, Karina transitioned to commercial aviation, working in this field for several years before she and her husband made the life-changing decision to relocate their family to Australia.

To ease the settlement process, Karina enrolled in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at TAFE Queensland. Through the AMEP, eligible migrants and refugees can access free English language classes. The AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs and delivered by TAFE Queensland.

Karina faced numerous challenges on her journey, to regain her pilot accreditation in Australia, she had to pass a series of rigorous exams and assessments, all conducted in English, while she settled her children in their new home and school. She tackled these obstacles with determination, supported by her husband, who is also a pilot and had recently gone through the same exams.

Despite facing setbacks, including failing the Australian Aviation exams several times, Karina refused to be deterred, instead, she shared her experiences with her classmates, who rallied around her with unwavering support and encouragement.

Her perseverance ultimately paid off as she successfully passed her Australian Aviation Exams and received an offer of employment. Karina said that throughout this journey, the support and encouragement she received from her peers and the community played a crucial role in helping her feel welcome in her new environment and focus on developing her skills.

Vivian Reynolds, a TAFE Queensland educator, expressed admiration for Karina's determination and motivation, highlighting her ability to remain focused despite the barriers she had to overcome.

“Karina as a student was very motivated, there wasn’t a lot that I had to do as a teacher to keep Karina motivated but I think that is because of the barriers she’s had to overcome…She never gave up she continued to come to class and connect with the other students.”

Karina's inspiring story doesn't end there. She has now embarked on a mission to share her experiences with the Stronger Women, Stronger Community Innovative project, where she aims to empower and inspire others through her remarkable journey of triumph over adversity.