For Esther Muganwa, standing on the sidelines has never been an option. As a young girl, she fled the war-torn Republic of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), but still faced years of turbulence to come.

Routine education was replaced with the need to survive. With just seven years of interrupted schooling under her belt, Esther spent much of her young life as a refugee, relocating to unfamiliar countries.

In early adulthood, she spent seven years living in a Ugandan refugee camp — her final upheaval before migrating to Australia in 2016. She arrived in Townsville with young children in her arms, a harsh language barrier before her, and the need to work to support her family.

To help find a job in Australia, Esther enrolled in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at TAFE Queensland’s Pimlico campus. The program offers new migrants an opportunity to learn English and helps them settle into their new life in Australia.

Esther completed the program with 510 hours of English classes to her name, and a newfound confidence in her ability to learn. Soon, she set her sights on a new goal: a pathway to vocational training.

Through recommendations from TAFE Queensland, Esther was referred to the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program. The class offers 610 hours of language, literacy and numeracy training to help students on their journey to further study or employment.

As Esther continued her studies, her eldest son Eli was starting school. He soon found himself drawn to the basketball court, watching on with intrigue as other students played.

But there was just one problem: Eli needed parental approval to play. And while Esther’s confidence had grown in the classroom, putting her language skills into practice was a whole new ballgame.

Esther approached her SEE teacher who designed a dialogue for them to practice. Once Esther was confident in her abilities, the teacher retrieved the name and phone number of the school’s basketball coach and Esther made the call.

Thanks to the rehearsals with her teacher, Esther was able to ask questions about the number of days of training, when and where games would be held, what uniforms she would have to buy, and what the sign up process involved.

As a result, Eli is now a proud member of his school’s basketball team.

“I am proud that my English learning in class has given my son such a wonderful opportunity,” Esther said. “It is something that I could never dream about when I was growing up in Africa.”

Esther has credited her SEE teacher for helping to build her confidence and connect with the community.

“All of this is only possible because of my SEE program and my wonderful teacher,” she said with a smile. “I am learning more every day. I want my children to follow my example.”

For most people, walking onto a basketball court wouldn’t be cause for celebration. But for Esther, Eli, and the Muganwa family, it’s the end to a lifetime of running away, and the start of a brand new life in Australia.

Learn more about AMEP Learn more about SEE


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


The Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

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