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Toowoomba AMEP Youth are happy campers

Toowoomba's AMEP Youth students raised funds for an overnight stay at Camp Cooby, located by Lake Cooby, offering rock climbing, archery, and canoeing. The students had a fantastic time, with many saying it was the highlight of their year.

Through the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), eligible migrants and refugees can access free English language classes to support their settlement journey. The AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs and delivered by TAFE Queensland.

Students ran fundraiser events throughout 2023 to raise enough money to make the camping trip a reality. Activities included food stalls, raffles, ribbon sales, and a final barbeque for hundreds at the Toowoomba campus.

Thanks to their hard work and support, the students raised an impressive $6,000 for the trip. Youth teacher Kelly Barron worked hard with fellow teachers to create a team commitment and enable as many students as possible to attend the camp. The fundraising efforts allowed forty students to attend this year and there is now a waitlist for the camp due to its popularity.

At Camp Cooby, the staff takes a holistic approach to help campers develop and grow. They do this by facilitating connections with their community, environment, and self. As a psychologist-owned camp, they conduct regular trauma-informed sessions before various activities such as mindfulness and team-building exercises. This approach is especially beneficial to AMEP students who may come from humanitarian backgrounds and may have experienced trauma.

Started in 2011 with only six students, the Toowoomba AMEP Youth program now boasts five classes with an expected sixth class next year. Career planning and pathway guidance, along with sports in the afternoon, have contributed to its growing success. Students are kept engaged by participating in other activities such as excursions, guest speaker sessions, and sports like swimming, basketball, hockey, and AFL.

The Youth classes also provided opportunities to connect with peers from the wider TAFE and Toowoomba community, such as the combined choir group. This arrangement not only enhances their learning experience but also broadens their social circles, allowing them to develop valuable relationships with people from different backgrounds and walks of life.

TAFE Queensland Toowoomba's Health faculty collaborated with the Youth students to host a morning tea, with a local senior’s club, as part of the 'Diverse-a-tea' project. Inspired by ABC's 'Old People's Home for Teenagers', the initiative aimed to foster connections and learning opportunities between retirees and teenagers.

This kind of community engagement is wonderful for all involved. The students learn new skills and the residents can interact with some of Toowoomba’s newest locals. Both groups have the opportunity to gain experience from each other’s different experiences and perspectives.

The success of the Toowoomba AMEP Youth program and its collaboration with Camp Cooby and the local community has been driven by keeping the students engaged while they learn and adapt to their new home in Australia. Overall, these initiatives have not only benefited the students but have also brought diverse groups together, creating lasting relationships within the community.

“Camp Cooby was the best thing I’ve ever done!” AMEP Youth student Sandra.

AMEP youth at Camp Cooby
AMEP youth around campfire
AMEP youth practice archery, at Camp Cooby