After arriving in Australia in 2016 as a refugee from Afghanistan, Hamida Salehi faced a number of challenges. A migrant English language program gave her an opportunity for a fresh start – but she never expected the impact it would make.

Like many refugees, Hamida had a clear picture of the new life she wanted to build for herself in Australia. But she quickly found her goal of working in hospitality or retail was hindered by her English language limitations. She was struggling with everyday communication and her confidence was faltering as a result.

To combat these setbacks, Hamida enrolled in the Australian government-funded Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), which provides up to 510 hours of free English language tuition to eligible migrants and refugees.

It didn't take long at TAFE Queensland’s Inala campus before she started noticing the difference.

“My teachers and my case manager at TAFE were the ones who always encouraged me to say, ‘You can do it, Hamida!’” she said with a smile. “They gave me the practical skills and the knowledge to help me achieve my dream.”

After completing the AMEP, Hamida enrolled in the Work Ready program, which assists students transition to work through an additional 200 hours of tuition and work experience. The program gave Hamida her first opportunity in the Australian workforce with a work placement at Target.

Hamida was quickly getting closer to achieving her goal. During the next term she was referred to the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program, and commenced a pathway to employment course. Soon enough, she found herself standing at the doors of The Blue Fin Fishing Club; her second work placement provider.

Head Chef Brian Curran was immediately impressed with Hamida's work ethic. 

“From the beginning of Hamida’s work experience, we noticed that she was a hard worker. She was efficient, on time, always well-presented, and asked a lot of questions,” Brian said. 

Her hard work paid off and in early 2019, Hamida was offered an apprentice chef position at the club.

“When we heard that she was considering an offer of training with another company, we offered her a role at the Blue Fin — we didn’t want to lose her,” Brian said.

Today, Hamida is an integral part of the kitchen’s team. She continues to develop her English skills in the workplace and has even been teaching her co-workers the names of different foods and cooking instruments in Farsi, her native language.

“I am very happy, because I never thought this could happen to me. Before my work experience, I was very scared about going to work, and I thought I would never be able to work in Australia," Hamida said. 

“After my time in work experience, I gained confidence and felt I could do it, and find any job. It all depended on myself and my attitude to do well and work hard.”



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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