Talk for Life: English as an Additional Language (2020) - full transcript

A heart-heartwarming documentary about a life changing English language support program at an Australian primary school.



MARY-JANE: For someone to be able
to speak English in Australia,

I think it's the key
to being able to be part of society.

If you can't communicate,

you feel isolated, you feel lonely,

you're not connected.

Language is the ability to be able
to communicate with each other

and to make connections.

MA'SUMA: When we communicate,
we express what's in our heart.

We can tell a story,
tell where we came from,

tell them
what we want in this world.

But when you can't communicate
with someone,

when you can't tell them
what's in your heart,

that's like building a barrier
between you and others,

like building a wall around you.

It's crucial for children to be able

to speak fluently
and be able to express themselves.

Because, if you don't, you'll
be like that little bird in a cage -

you won't be able to fly.

You have wings,
but you are restricted.

JENNY: The percentage of our students

that come from
non-English-speaking backgrounds

is extremely high.

the students that we get here

have come because there's been
conflict and trauma

in their homeland.

Sleeping in your bed, thinking...

oh, any minute, something's
going to land on your house.

We're basically
just trapped in this one area

that's just full of our people.

We cannot go outside the area.

Otherwise you'll get killed.

We had to escape,
otherwise we wouldn't be alive today.

KEVIN: You really don't have
a lot of choice, you have to flee,

and some of the stories where people
have fled their home countries

are just tragic.

MARY-JANE: Some of them have come
from really traumatised backgrounds.

They're not trusting of people

So, to win them like that

is the first battle.

If you understand
where they're coming from culturally

and the experiences they've had,

you have a really good opportunity

to build a safe and good
relationship with the students,

that, actually,
then the barriers just break down.

MARY-JANE: If you feel uncomfortable,
if you don't feel safe,

if you feel nervous or anxious,

you're not going to be
the best version of yourself, no.

The whole process of settling in

and feeling comfortable
in their learning environment

begins immediately on arrival.

And we let them feel,
make sure that they feel,

that they're part of us now.

It was a privilege
for us to study here

because they make sure
that you feel home.

All the support that we had,
not just myself, my family,

we felt more like home,
we settled in much more easier.

And if it wasn't for them,

I don't know what we would've done
when we came here.

For us to actually have a program

that accelerates
their language acquisition

is just crucial,

because they can't access
the mainstream curriculum

until their English

is at a high enough level for
them to comprehend what's going on.

Everything that we do for them here

lays the foundation
for their future learning.

And if we can do it right,

then we're one step closer

to ensuring
that they have a better life.



KEVIN: Without language,

people can't participate
in the society.

So it's just absolutely critical.

It is the main need.

And, beyond that,

children need to be able to engage
in the Victorian Curriculum,

and that's in English.

So we have to be able
to teach students

to be able to speak English,
understand English,

listen to English
and write in English

so they can participate
in all of the structures

that are part
of the transactions of a society.

I've been here for a very long time,

and there's always been
an EAL Program.

And, originally, it was through

the Education Department sending out
an EAL teacher going by the data.

So, we ran just a normal EAL Program,

always been withdrawal, and that may
not be the model in many schools.

KEVIN: We've decided over time,

on the basis of evidence,

that a withdrawal program

is the best way to achieve the
outcomes that we need to achieve.

JENNY: So, we've had to always
bring our students out

because they've come
with no English generally.

So, it didn't work for us to have
EAL operating in the classroom.

That was when I started thinking,

"Maybe there's a better way
to structure this program.

"Maybe we do need to
have our program in stages."

As the years have passed,

it has become a bigger consideration

that we've had to cater for

because our school
is almost an EAL school.

KEVIN: We build on that.

We saw the potential for success

and the growth in children.

Like all the programs that we do,

if something's working,

we put more money
and more resources into it.

And that's why it's grown
to the stage it has now.

And it's been driven by
Jenny Mackay, in the first instance,

who headhunted some fantastic
teachers along the way.

Everybody, please take six cards.

Don't look at them, just take them
from the top.

Off you go. And then pass it on
to the next person.

So the EAL Program
at Dandenong North

is a three...
we call it a three-tiered program.

We have our New Arrivals Program

that caters for children

who have been in the country
for less than 12 months.

And then we have
a Transition Program

for children who have been in the
country for more than 12 months

but are leading
into the mainstream classroom,

so they're still not quite ready
to access mainstream curriculum.

So, that's our second phase.

And then our third phase,
we just call it EAL,

and it's catering for students

who were either born in Australia

or have been in Australia, say,
for more than three or four years.

So it's targeted to meet the needs
of children at each specific level.

And we identify their learning needs
quite quickly

because of the way
that the program is structured.

KEVIN: It's much more
than just language-based program.

To build on hope and purpose are
important elements of that program.

And to make people know
that they are part of a big family

when they've
left their families behind

is also very important too.

JENNY: It's a program that we've had
to develop over a long period of time

as our cohort of students
has changed.

Over time, we've had students
from the former Yugoslavia.

Greeks, Italians, Lebanese.

And, I think when I arrived,
it was moving into...

..there were Turkish students,

still some Greek students
coming through,

the Romanians started to come out.

We have currently lots of children

who are coming from
Afghanistan and Pakistan

because of the unrest
that's happening there.

We also get students
from Iraq, Syria.

Also getting students
from Sri Lanka as well.

The area of Dandenong
has always been

an area
where new arrivals will settle.

So, we get a range of students -

those who are refugees
and have had limited schooling,

and we also get students

who have had age-equivalent
schooling in their home country

because their parents have chosen
to resettle in Australia.

So there's really two types
that we cater for.

There you are, my lovelies.
Thank you.

Thank you. You're very welcome.

Thank you!

Most schools only have one stage -

just EAL in general

if they have any EAL students.

Sometimes they might not
even have a program at all

and the student will
just be in the classroom full-time.

However, obviously
at Dandenong North Primary School

we do have
that three-tiered approach.

And that really allows us
to cater for each stage,

making sure
that they are getting what they need

and that they feel more comfortable

by the end of the program

to be in the classroom.

Can somebody put up their hands
and tell me a conjunction?

Do we remember
what a 'conjunction' is?



A joining word?
(GASPS) Love you!

Good girl! A joining word!

Did you use a joining word
in your speaking?


My role in the EAL Program
is the New Arrivals teacher.

So I teach the students

who have just come
from another country

and they don't know
how to speak English.

So I'm their first port of call

in the education system in Australia.

So, I get to help them learn
how to adjust being in a classroom.

Some students
have never been in a class before

because of their backgrounds.

So, I get the pleasure of helping
them learn classroom routines,

classroom language,

as well as learning
how to speak, listen, read and write.


'But'. Excellent.

'And'! Fantastic.

'So'! Beautiful.

Daily routine starts with listening
and speaking about common topics,

so the weather, the date,

seasons, colours, shapes,

animals, food they like,

just to get them comfortable
and talking to each other.

Also talking about
what they already know

so then they already get
that little safety

before we start delving into things
that they may not know so well.

BOY: A noun is a name
of person, place, thing, animals.

Beautiful! Guys, everyone, so good!

We help them generate
meaningful sentences

by giving them worked examples,

which is one of the hits,

and giving them sentence starters

to initially know what a meaningful
sentence would look like.

STUDENTS: (READ) "The other fish."


How do you spell fish?


In the New Arrivals Program,

they might be working
on writing a very simple recount.

So, then when they move on
from New Arrivals Program

into my program, Transition,

I'm aware of what the New Arrivals
teacher has previously...

..the foundation that's been laid
with those children,

the learning that's happened.

And so then I build on the learnings
from the New Arrivals Program

and target the needs specifically.

Abby, put it in a sentence for me.


Fabio is good
at running long-distance.

"Fabio is good
at running long DISTANCES."

KAYLA: So, in the Transition stage,

we focus on speaking and listening,
reading and writing.

On a typical day, I would go through

maybe some sound flashcards,

focusing on different sounds.

We would look at some spelling,

focus on sounds
that they need help with.

Reading - we would focus on

their comprehension
of what they've understood,

obviously how they read as well.

And writing - we'd make sure
that we're using proper punctuation

and structure.

You know,
there's different text types

that we need to make sure
that they understand

this is what's in a narrative
or this is in a recount.

So we start then adding more details

and we break it down into

looking at the text structure
more specifically

and the linguistic features

that are necessary to ensure

that the writing's
cohesive and meaningful.

So, at each level,

because we work so closely together,

we're able to know
what each stage is doing,

and then build onto that.

CAROL: 'Too' - long or short?

'Too'... Long!


The main purpose of our EAL Program

is to get these students ready

to be able
to work in their classrooms

more independently.

One of my main focuses
is the vocabulary,

so to make sure that the children
are front-loaded with vocabulary

that they're likely
to use in their classroom.

The children, at that stage,

are very much more comfortable
in the school environment.

They're also very much more capable

in terms of their
understanding and use of English.

So, it's a wonderful stage
that the children are in.

And when they come to me,

I adore them, obviously,

and I do a lot of language
experience of shared experiences

so that we can get involved
in activities and tasks together

and then write and talk and read
about these.

(READS) They breach like whales.

Good girl. And you missed
what word when you were...

Yeah, I heard you say it.

You just forgot to write it.

Good job, darling. Off you go.

Well, I like to do songs and rhymes
to make them feel comfortable.

And I often do that, particularly
at the beginning of the year.

We do some rhymes and songs,

and it sort of takes away their
inhibitions, then they start talking.

And it's the best way, I think,

to get them feeling
confident and comfortable.

What's the first keyword there,

STUDENT: 'Most'?
'Most', yeah.

Who can help?


'Most spent'. Good.

"Most of the time
he spent eating leaves."

What's the next keyword?

There've been many students that
have come through the EAL Program

over the years,

and it's actually really lovely

to see how they have developed
and grown.

So, they've come in,
they've not got a word of English,

they don't understand
how schools operate in Australia.

They proceed through the New
Arrivals Program, through Transition

and into EAL.

And you see the growth,

you see how their understanding
of language

and their understanding of school

and how they become
competent learners

in English and in the school system.

I think the EAL Program at Dandenong
North has a perfect balance.

We are able to cater

for the emotional needs,
practical needs of the children

as well as the academic needs.

And once all of those things
are covered,

they're able to learn
at the rate they need to

to be able to go into the classroom.

And I think we cover it beautifully.

ROSEMARY: Australia is a great place
to live because...

There's no war?

There's no war. Australia
is a great place to live...

Everyone is kind. I guess
everyone... everyone is kind.

Everyone is kind. Abby?


Thank you.


Everyone cares.

OK. So, Australia
is a great place to live because...

It's a free country?
It's a free country. Fabs?

And they have more education
in the school.

If this program did not exist,

it would be
a very grim and sad situation

where the newly arrived students

will be in their mainstream

they will be sleepy, tired,

because of the overload
of sensory input

because of the new environment

and the new language
being spoken around them.

They may feel intimidated,
they may not feel safe,

they won't talk if that's the case.

But they come to Transition
and EAL - it's smaller group.

They feel comfortable

because everyone
is at the same level as each other.

From a teacher's perspective
in the classroom,

it would be extremely challenging.

Curriculum is already
quite dense and challenging,

and classroom teachers have got
a really large range of students

that they have to meet the needs of
on a daily basis.

Having a child with no English
or little English

adds another layer to it,
another dimension.

If you have a classroom
full of maybe 28 students,

and you've got one student
in that class

that's come to the country
with no English,

they definitely need a more

intensive small-group program

to help them catch up to where they
are with the rest of their peers.

New Arrival students
and EAL students

really do need a different type
of program and teaching.

It has to be very oral-based

and it to have lots of visuals

and needs to be broken into
very small steps of instruction.

Because what we don't want

is for our class teachers

to have to slow down the instruction
rate of the majority of students.

We've got intervention programs here
that will bring those children up,

but we can't bring down what it is
that all the children need.

You know, we're trying hard

to make sure our high-achieving kids
get what THEY need.

Our children
who are working at standard

have to be taught at that level.

And our children who are
still learning or have learning gaps

have to be catered for as well.

Having this program just ensures

that the needs of our EAL students
are met specifically.

Think of a noun, a verb
and an adjective for...

Let's do one together.


Can you think of a noun -

something, a name of a person,
place, animal or thing -

that happens in summer?

Sunscreen, beautiful.

STUDENT: Sunglasses?

We have a special program
called the Reception Program,

and that Reception Program

is a first port of call.

So, we have one particular teacher

that works with those children.

Those children are assessed,
they're given a thorough assessment,

so that prior to going into,
being allocated to, a classroom,

we've been able to see

what additional intervention programs
they may require,

any counselling that they may need.

We will identify whether they need
to see a speech pathologist.

We'll identify
whether there's a hearing problem.

We also will check to see if their
eyesight is in need of any support.

A teacher that we think
would be best suited for that child.

Which children in the classroom
might they get on with well?

You know, we do try to match up

where their might be
some language similarities

so that just for basic needs
they've got a buddy.

ROSEMARY: Caroline
will assess students academically,

also make anecdotal notes

on anything to do
with their behaviour

or any other additional needs that
she thinks need to be addressed.

JENNY: So, when they arrive at the
classroom door on a Friday afternoon,

they're shown where to line up,

they have their last session
with the class,

they have a seat to sit in,
all their books are there for them,

their bags have a place.

So, by Monday morning

they're ready to start
and everything's familiar to them

so then they don't have that fear
over the weekend

of what's going to happen.

So it is a very smooth transition

and it's had a large impact
on the calmness of classrooms.

Teachers know what to expect.

They have an ILP
already organised for them.

The children know where
they've got to go and at what times,

or they're picked up
by other children

going to maybe EAL
or a particular intervention.

So, it's actually four phases.

We're saying it's three phases,

but that Reception phase
needs to be acknowledged

because it does a lot just to calm

not only the children
but the parents as well.

SONG: ♪ It's as simple as it seems

♪ The twinkle in your eyes

♪ The way that time slows down... ♪

I'm from Afghanistan

and I've been in Australia

for around two...
between two and three years.

I came from Pakistan

and I've been in Australia
for about three years.

I've been in Australia
for, I think, five years,

and I came from Afghanistan
all the way here.

I've been in Australia
for about three years.

My dad came first on a boat,

and then he made our passports,
so we came here.

I came here when I was six,

so six years I haven't seen him.

In my own country
I lived with my mum

because my dad came, like,
around four years ago.

He came here and then he helped us
to come to Australia,

and I was, like, "Yes!"

It was amazing feeling.

I didn't know how he looked.
He looked, like, different.

And it was, like, the best feeling
you can ever have...

..when you've been away from someone
so long and then you see them.

I was, like, really emotional

and then I really loved
seeing my dad

because I haven't seen him in...
for, like, a long time.

And then when I saw him
I was, like, really happy.

SONG: ♪ So before you think
to rip yourself apart

♪ Open up my heart
and you'll find love... ♪

When I came to Australia,
I didn't really know any English.

I couldn't understand anything.

When I came, I just knew
'hi' and 'bye' and nothing else.

I didn't really understand
what people were saying,

so it kind of felt
like I didn't belong, like, here.

When somebody asked me anything,
like, I was too shy to talk to them.

When I went to EAL... was pretty good.

I felt like I was belonging there.

I felt like I was learning
more English, getting better.

It has helped me a lot

with my English, reading, writing.

Now when we go to classroom,

if, like, our teacher
says something,

I kind of do understand that.

In grade four, I didn't really know
how to make sentences, like proper.

So, when I came to Transition,
it really helped me.

They helped me a lot by, like...

..each word and each word,

and then they just took me to here

now that I can talk.

And, like, at that time,

I always tell them, like,

"What does this word mean?
What does that word?"

And then when they said it,
like, the meanings,

and then I knew where to, like...

..where to use it in a sentence.

So, usually at home,
after taekwondo,

I go and help my mum
with her homework.

We kind of play 'teacher, teacher'
at home.

She's usually the student
and then I teach her.

And then the next day
she go to school

and, like, be proud of herself
that she knows those things.

But, sometimes,
if it doesn't work out,

the next day
we work on the same thing

so she actually gets it.

When I first came,
I was happy to be in here.

And then like...

And now it is about to end,
the school's about to end,

and I'm really sad
to leave Transition.

I just like this room
and it's just like my second family.

Uh... My favourite part
about the school

is the teacher and all the friends
and student, how they support us.

I like how they're friendly.

My friends and the teachers
and the students,

because they really care
about other people.

They make sure
that you are part of it.

Yeah, they help you a lot.

I feel it's like a family,
like my second family,

because it's just like
everyone's caring about each other.

Like, we all use the four Cs,

which is cooperation, courtesy,
common sense and care.

I think Australia is the best place
for me to live. I just love it.

SONG: ♪ Open up my heart
and you'll find love

♪ Love

♪ L-o-o-o-o-ve

♪ Love

♪ Mm-mm-mm

♪ Love

♪ L-o-o-o-o-ve

♪ Open up my heart
and you'll find love. ♪

JENNY: So, the students,

as they move through
the different parts of the program,

once they're mainstream,

we can see
that they've done the catch-up,

they've caught up to their peers

and performing very well.

And as results in things

like NAPLAN and other testing
that's done within the classroom

demonstrates that this movement
has progressed

and they're on track
with their peers.

Whether it's a formative assessment

just by us
listening in to the conversations

that students are having,

any form of summative assessment,

all of our testing that we do,

whether it's a pre-and-post writing
sample piece,

just to see what these students
can produce in a writing,

it just shows
how much they have developed

by going through the EAL Program.

We track the children

who are attending EAL and
undertaking the NAPLAN assessments

very closely.

If you look at the NAPLAN results
and you analyse them carefully,

what we find is that
it's the EAL kids

who are often doing the best

in terms
of student-learning performances.

JENNY: They've been taught
explicitly spelling.

They've been taught grammar.

They've been looking at model text.

There's a range of skills
that we can teach them

that will actually show us, yes,
they're well on the way

to understanding
what quality writing is.

As the Writing Extension teacher,

I was actually quite surprised

to see the amount of children,
or students,

that we've had come through EAL

to attend, or be eligible to attend,
Writing Extension.

A student needs to be working
above their curriculum level,

and to have EAL students,

children that have come in
from a new country

and not speak a word of English

and be in a New Arrivals Program
in Year 1

and then they come in in Year 5

and I have them
as Writing Extension,

it's just amazing.

KEVIN: One of the most exciting
developments of this program

occurred in 2018,

when we had the opportunity

to partner
with Emerson Specialist School.

We've had many
ongoing relationship endeavours

with that school over the years,

but this has been the biggest,

where for the first time
in a specialist school

John Mooney decided to try
to put together an EAL component.

And we matched that with our talk
for writing initiative.

And we worked together

because, without
the EAL-experience background,

it would've been hard for them,
it would've taken them longer.

So, we were able to work with them

and do some PD, combine PD,

and then share experiences
and get that program up and running.

So, it was a fabulous opportunity.



JENNY: What we see in our families

is that they have risked everything

to get their children
to this country

to give them the best possible
opportunities in life.

Mostly families leave because
of economic circumstances or war,

and who wouldn't want to leave if
you're dodging bombs and landmines

and your faith is under challenge
from a different belief system

and your assets have been annexed,
if you like, or taken away from you?

So, you really don't have
a lot of choice. You have to flee.

And some of the stories where people
have fled their home countries

are just tragic.

Some of our students
come from detention centres,

straight from detention centres
as well.

You know,
whether on Christmas Island

or whether it may have been
in another country

where they were probably
treated quite harshly.

I have noticed... I found that

it is harder to teach children

who've been through a detention
centre or who have been traumatised.

We have had parents
who have kept themselves together

just to get their children here,

and, once they're in school
and settled, they have breakdowns.

If there is something on their mind

and they're always going back

to something that might have
happened in their home country,

whether it was an attack
of some sort,

they're not going to feel
comfortable enough

to learn about
what they're supposed to be doing.

They're going to be distracted.

KEVIN: In some cases,
I'm sure that children

are reluctant to talk about the
experiences they've been through.

What we can do is provide
a new pathway now for them

and new experiences
that are positive and rewarding

and restore their faith
in human nature.

SONG: ♪ Hold on, hold on, on

♪ Hold on, hold on, on

♪ Hold on, hold on... ♪

When we were back in Afghanistan,

as you know it's a warzone country,

and, um... the area that we were,

it was surrounded with Taliban
and everything,

so I got family members killed
in front of my eyes

and they were going
to take my dad away,

so we had to escape,
we had to escape.

And... my parents
got contacted with smugglers

and they brought us this way
towards Australia.

We had to escape. Otherwise
we wouldn't be alive today.

SONG: ♪ Hold on, hold on, on

♪ Hold on, hold on, on

♪ Hold on, hold on... ♪

AHDIA: I think
what shaped who I am today the most

would be my primary school,
the ESL classes that I attended.

Because when we moved
from Afghanistan to Australia,

not only myself,
but my mum and my siblings,

we couldn't read or write
the alphabet,

so we had to start everything
from scratch.

We had no friends or family
over here.

And when my mum moved to Australia
for a better life,

like everybody else who does,

but mainly it was for our education,

because in Iran

we were not allowed to attend
a normal government school,

and so Mum was like,
"We need to find a better place."

And Australia was the one for us.

So, we moved here.

Um... I was very nervous.

Coming to Dandenong North
Primary School with no English

and not understanding
the culture at all,

it wasn't just those two
being the factor -

I also didn't go to school
before that at all in Afghanistan,

so it was all new to me.

Not understanding English at all.

I don't know how to react.

I don't know what to say.

I remember the first few weeks
I was very nervous.

I wasn't talking to anyone.

I had a short mushroom haircut,
sitting in the back of the class.

And my peers were very nice,
they were trying to include me,

but I... really couldn't

because I couldn't understand
what they were saying.

You feel like you're deaf
because you can't communicate,

you can't understand
what they're saying.

The only thing I could read

was their facial expressions
and their emotions.

And then I was like,
"OK, they're smiling,

"so that means they're nice to me."

And that was the only thing
I could relate.

But then how much can you smile
throughout the day?

Yeah, it was pretty hard,
but we got help.

We had supporting teachers.

They were really nice, gentle,

just trying to, like, make me relax
and settled in.

I loved how I could take content
from school and apply it at home.

They wanted to teach us our kitchen,

like, "What's a pot called? What's
a spoon called? This is a stove."

And our teacher, our ESL teacher,

she got us to do a research first
and then cook it.

And she did the cooking,
we just had to watch,

and she would explain it to us -

"This is spoon. This is knife.
This is flour. We'll mix water."

And I remember going home

and I used to force my siblings
on the floor

and I used to cook and I'd be like,

"This is spoon. This is pot.
This is spaghetti."

And my brother is like,
"I don't like spaghetti."

And I used to tell him, "Too bad.

"You're going to watch me cook
because it's cooking time."

So, when I learned
a few words or sentences,

I was more confident
to speak up in the classroom,

in the main classroom,

and do my homework

without getting a lot of help
from the teachers all the time.

But at the start it was difficult,

I had to go to the teachers every
second, with the homework especially,

or writing, like, essays or anything
like that, paragraphs or stories,

I had to go to them.

But then when I learned
a few or basic sentences,

I could write what I was thinking,

express my words much more easier.

The ESL program
shaped who I am today,

I feel it prepared me better,

because I had a such a wonderful
time in my primary school years.

I always wanted to be a teacher.

I applied everything that we did
at school at home with my siblings,

my brother and my sister.

And I used to always have
this little made-up board at home

and write on it.

When I graduated high school,

I always knew
that I wanted to be a teacher,

but I finished
a Bachelor of Biomedical Science,

and I wasn't happy.

So, I applied
for my Masters in Teaching at ACU,

and currently I'm studying.

I was in EAL for three years,

and I was in Grade 6 then.

And then when I went to high school,
I didn't need EAL anymore.

I was straight
into mainstream English.

I knew the language by then...

..I knew how to express myself,

how to study more efficiently.

Once I graduated from Year 12,

I went to University of La Trobe.

I studied double degree

of Bachelor of Health Science
and Masters of Orthoptics,

which is what I'm doing right now -


We were one of the first asylum
seekers on the boat to come in 2000.

I was seven, eight,
and the boat driver lost his way,

we ran out of petrol,
we ran out food,

ran out of the last, last stocks
we had.

We were going in circles.

He had a getaway boat
attached to the actual boat,

so, whenever they lose their way,

they just jump on THEIR boat
and they go

and then just leave you there.

That didn't happen because...

It happened before and people sort
of knew that that's what they do,

and none of us let that happen,

otherwise we would've been
stuck there, you know?

God knows what would've happened.

SOBIA: In our country, in Pakistan,
when we were there,

we were basically
just trapped in this one area

that's just full of our people.

We cannot go outside that area

otherwise you'll get killed.

So, that's how it was.

And my dad, thinking about that -
he was jobless,

he didn't have anything to provide
for us, food, anything like that -

so he decided
that he wanted to come to Australia.

And we would always, like,
"Oh, what?

"There's another country
that exists?" You know? (CHUCKLES)

And that's when, you know,
things started to change for us.

So, my dad came here in 2000

and we lived without him
for five years.

We didn't know where he was,

even if he was alive,

I don't even know, like, you know...

And then we came here, saw my dad,
we reunited.

Majority of people in Afghanistan,

they don't live long enough,
you know, to see the world.

You know,
they don't have a very long life

because of the really bad situation.

Being safe,

being able to sleep in peace
at night,

you know, not sleeping in your bed

thinking, oh, any minute

something's going to land
on your house, you know?

That compared to here,
when I sleep at home here,

everything's so peaceful and quiet

and it's just amazing.

It was very hard for us
to adjust at the start, definitely,

until I started Dandenong North.

And that's when I started seeing
that things can change.

I felt that there was a connection

and then I opened up
and then they opened up.

And then, yeah,
we just became like a family.

I enrolled to the school in Grade 4,

and I literally had no English
whatsoever. (CHUCKLES)

It was a completely different place
for me,

different people,
different language.

I was just lost in my own world.

First few days, I hated it

because I couldn't speak the
language and I couldn't learn.

I just had to be there and learn
from visuals -

body language,
looking at things, colours.

When I first arrived,
I had a broken tooth,

and, like, my first two teeth
were, like, broken,

and Miss McLaughlin, she saw that

and she thought, "Oh, the only
reason she's probably not talking

"is because she's probably shy
of her teeth and stuff."

And then, she got that fixed for me
from the dental.

So it was basically... they were,
like, caring for me and all that.

And then she was always trying
to develop that confidence in me.

I just started feeling comfortable
with them, you know just talking.

And back then
I was really, really shy.

So I just started
really getting comfortable.

I would ask questions
if I didn't know something.

Normally I didn't ask,
didn't talk, did nothing.

I was just the quiet one,
never talking, just shy.

All the teachers were doing beyond

what they were expected
to do as a teacher, you know?

IT was, like, a safe place for me,
coming to school.

All of the skills that I've gained
from Dandenong North

just really, really helped me

through my secondary college
and uni.

I finished my Bachelor Of Arts
in Digital Media at Swinburne,

which is in Hawthorn.

And then for
another year and a half

I went to JMC Academy.

I did a 3D class over there,
3D programming.

I am here because of EAL.

Like, I learned all my basics
from there.

I've learned my language from there.

I went to high school,
but, you know,

it wasn't the same support
as I had in primary school.

And I took that from primary school

and did my further studies
in Psychology.

And then now I work
at Dandenong North Student Agency.

Recently we have a child
that enrolled from Pakistan,

and literally I look at her
and it just reminds me of how I was,

you know?

I've been through that and I know
what it feels like for them.

So, yeah, being
as a welfare coordinator, I could...

..just like Dandenong North Primary
School teachers changed my life,

I'm there to change others'.


ALL: Hi!

ALL: Hello!



What makes me appreciate the most -

I mean, I've always appreciated what
we achieved from our ESL program -

is going through my placements

and seeing kids
that are in different schools

and they need
that extra support and help,

but, unfortunately,
some of those schools

can't afford or are not aware -
I'm not sure what's the reason -

the kids are not getting
and they're missing out.

I understand that teachers
need to cater for everyone's need,

but how can you cater for a child
who cannot speak and read alphabet?

That's very difficult for a teacher.

Now that I'm learning to become
a teacher, I think I would struggle.

That child needs a
one-on-one, sometimes, conversation,

just to sit and have a normal chat.

Doesn't have to be about content,
doesn't have to be about knowledge.

Just say, "How, are you?
How are you feeling?"

It's very important
because I feel like

that helped me to go through
the tough time that my family went.

Just Miss Jenny sitting down
and, you know, talking to us,

telling us, "How are you feeling?

"Have you visited your mum?


The EAL teachers, they got to know
my family and myself more.

And they knew where I came from
and what hardship I've been through.

And they were more gentle.

And not that other teachers
were gentle and nice,

but they're all perfect.

It's just that
they had more connection

and I felt more relaxed
in that classroom.

I could speak out more easily,

and whatever we learn in EAL

we could put it in practice
when we went out

into the playground,
into the classroom.

Just having a normal conversation
of, "How are you feeling today?

"Are things better? What can I do?"

It makes a huge difference
to that child's life.

To be able not to participate in
some of your activities on that day

just because
something is holding you back.

Emotionally, physically,
you're not there.

And your teacher understands that

and appreciates your minimum effort
that you put in.

It's important for a teacher.

I think as a teacher you need
to teach the child... everything.

So you are the second mum
or the second dad at school.

You're teaching them how to behave,

what's the right thing to do,
what's the wrong thing to do.

Building a relationship with a child
is very important as a teacher,

and once all of those stuff are met,

then you can easily teach the child
the content.

If those basic needs are not met,

it'll be very difficult
for the child to achieve their best.

Feeling very proud.

At times, when I do have time,

I come and visit the school,
I thank the teachers -

Mr Mackay, Mrs Mackay,
all the ESL teachers.

I'll never forget that, you know?

I'm always thankful
because if it wasn't for them, if...

I'm just thinking

if I was to be put in another school
with no ESL programs,

I don't know how things
would be for me right now.

I'll be sure struggling a lot.

MA'SUMA: I feel like Australia
has given me so much,

the country, its people,

so I need to give back as well.

I'm not here just to take,

I need to give back since
I'm an Australian right now as well.

Not just the Australian people, those
that come here, just like myself,

we're all Australian... (CHUCKLES)

..we need to see each other as one.

I do have students that tell me,

"Oh, Miss Sobia, I want
to be like you when I grow up.

"I want to be able to do all this
stuff that you are doing right now."

And it's just
the most beautiful thing

that, you know,
you could get from your students.

My mum, she has always been
one of those people

that would support you
with your education -

"Go get the education, you need it,"
you know?

"Without education,
you guys can't go anywhere,

"and you have to learn the language,

"you have to be able to study
and stand up for yourself

"and do everything that..."
you know, "that you can."

And back in our country
we couldn't do that.

We didn't have any education.
We didn't have schools for girls.

We did have for guys,
but for girls we didn't.

And, you know, coming here

and seeing that girls can study
and girls can do all this stuff,

so we took that opportunity.

SONG: ♪ One last ticket
before it's gone... ♪

♪ Happy birthday to you... ♪

♪ One last summer
before it's fall... ♪

We had a good life in Pakistan.

So... But because of the terrorism,

we just decided... my husband decided
to come to Australia.

So, he came in 2011

by boat,

and then in 2013

my kids and I decided...
we came in Australia.

I moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan

and spent a long time there.

And then my husband

came to Australia by boat,

and then he tried to organise
for the whole family to come here.

And we were lucky.

We got the chance to come to
a new country and have a safe life.

SONG: ♪ To breathe... ♪

We have a mothers' group in DNPS.

When I enrolled my boys
in the school,

I start coming to Mothers' Group

and I was a very regular member
of Mothers' Group.

And I'm a good example
of Mothers' Group

because I got job
in Dandenong North Primary School

just because of Mothers' Group.

As a parent,
when I came to Australia, I was lost

and I was really worried about
helping my children as a mother.

So, the mothers come in the program

and we show them, especially the
mothers that are new in Australia.

So, we help them to understand
the education system

or maybe the school environment,
the learning and everything.

And sometimes they come
with so many questions,

like they are...

..they don't know, like,
where to go for help

if they need to talk
to the teachers,

if sometimes they need help
with filling in the forms.

There are many things
they don't feel comfortable to do.

And so they come here
and we help them.

Some mothers, they started
with little English or...

..but now they are working
in Australian workplace.

And it is a good opportunity.

And to come to learn things,

to observe things,

to get the ideas of others,

it's very good, especially
for the new mums in a new country.

When I enrolled my kids in school,

so one day I received a call that,
"We have a mother group as well,

"so we invite all the new mothers

"if they wants to come
and join the mother group."

So, first, when I come,

so it was really good.

And from now it's nearly five years,
I'm continuously...

I never fade off of the group
because it's so very beneficial.

Our own culture, it is totally
different from the English culture,

so it gives us some tips and some
ideas how to raise our kids,

how to... you know, with our own
values, we can raise our kids,

but to help them adjust
in a new country, but in a good way.

What's so wonderful is that

they feel that they're connected
with the community, you know,

instead of being at home

because "I can't go and mix
and join any other clubs.

"I don't understand the language."

They come, we have interpreters
for them if they require that,

but they learn
that they're not the only ones

feeling, you know,
lost in this new world,

they're not the only ones that don't
understand tenancy agreements,

they're not the only ones
that don't understand

what this note coming home
is saying to them.

You know, and they've left
their family overseas.

They're here by themselves.

It just alleviates
a little bit of stress at home.

It's better for the children too.

When I came in Australia, I have
no family here, only my sister.

So, now I have a lot of friends,

and this is just because
of Mothers' Group.

We came here,
we sit together, we CHATTER,

and now I have a lot of friends.

So it helped me to meet other
people, to meet other mothers,

and to know their way,
you know, their ideas...

..sometime we share our ideas
how to deal with our kids,

when the kids have a bad time.

And not only the mother group,

also like a bridge, connection,

it connects us with the school.

The parents often invite us
into their homes,

all of us in the EAL Program

and many of the teachers here too.

The families are so grateful
for what we do,

they'll bring us food,

they'll invite us around
to their place to share their meals,

they'll invite us to their parties.

And it's a lovely relationship
that we have.

And it's great to be able
to experience their culture,

to sit on the floor
and things that we don't usually do.

Having Alia and Fatima here is great

because they have a connection
to someone who understands them.

And I think if we...
Yeah, the school supports that.

And it's so important because they've
always been isolated from education

in terms of being part
of what their children do at school.

And we welcome them in
with open arms,

and they're very, very grateful,

and that's just such a bonus,

and the mothers just enjoy it
so much.

And it connects THEM
with each other,

and so they feel
like a part of a school community.

I feel myself very lucky and blessed

to be in a country
where I feel safe,

where I feel
I can say my point of view to others

and I can put my voice up to...
for my rights.

And I feel so independent.

When I compare myself
to previous Alia,

when she was living
in her own country,

and this Alia,

this is such...
this is a different person.

Proud of myself
to help those people

that experienced the same
difficulties and same situations

as I did.

And when I'm helping them,

I put myself in their shoes,
in their place,

to help them in the same way

as I was expected help from others,

from my teachers,
from people around me.

So, I try to help them
in the same way

to make life easier for them
in a new country.

SONG: ♪ And you're beating

♪ Beating on my drum

♪ And you're beating

♪ Beating on my door

♪ Running faster

♪ Faster than my... ♪

If you can't communicate effectively

within the language structures
of the country that you live in,

you are powerless, you have no say,

you can't push your needs forward,

you can't fully participate
within the community,

you're always relying on others
to do that for you.

Communication is the key,

and EAL definitely is the door
to, you know... learn the language.

AHDIA: Just reflecting back,

I'm really proud that I could learn

to read and write,

to speak as much as I can,

to be able to finish high school

and actually get into a uni

and get an education that
I can help back to the community.

I think that's something
I'm very proud of.

A lot of people can't go to school,

and I have the opportunity
to complete my Masters.

I'm thankful for all these teachers

and the principal,
the whole school in general,

just for being there
when I came here.

And thank God I came to this school
and not any other school, you know?

All the support that we had,
not just myself, my family,

it felt more like home.

They settled in much more easier.

And, if it wasn't for them,

I don't know what we would have done
when we came, yeah.

ROSEMARY: The way that Kevin
and Jenny Mackay lead the school

and the expectations they have

of their teachers
and of the students...

And I remember distinctly
Kevin saying,

"Treat the children as your own."

And I think that's a wonderful

philosophy to have
and to work through

because that's what it is all about,
isn't it, these children

and making sure that they have
the best possible advantage

in their future learning.

Everything that we do for them here

lays the foundation
for their future learning.

And, as an EAL teacher,

we give them that gift,
we give them that opportunity,

that chance to be able
to be part of society and community.

I find that the leadership team
at DNPS are visionaries.

They have opened their hearts
to all cultures,

and they value the differences,
the linguistic differences,

they value
those cultural differences,

and they are very committed

to providing and giving
a good education

to the community
where it is most needed,

which would make the most amount
of difference to Australian society.

JENNY: We have around
60 different cultures at this school

and even more languages, I think,
because of the dialects.

What I see Dandenong North is... a small representative
of the United Nations,

yet, we don't have fights
in the playground.

And I think that bringing together

different cultures,
different religions,

different perspectives on
how we live our lives,

and actually working with that
background core understanding

within each individual

just is so important.

If we're going to have
a safe and harmonious world,

it's got to start with the children.

And, unless
we can bring them together...

And this is why I value
the work that we do at this school,

and in all public schools -

we really bring together so many
different cultural backgrounds

to form into one.

So, I think that we start to develop

a greater understanding
amongst mankind

by having kids saying,

"Oh, no, my friend,
he comes from here and they do this."

Just by that...
opening up that communication

is just a fantastic opportunity.

ROSEMARY: It's about
facilitating their learning

and it's about being a nurturer.

So, not only
are you teaching children,

you are also being their friend

because you guide them as a friend.

You're also being a mentor to them

because they can come to you
and ask for support and help.

You're a coach as well

because you coach them

on how to behave in society

and how to participate in games
and with friends

and how to build relationships.

So, for me,
a teacher wears many hats.

And I think, finally, being
a teacher is being a role model.

That's a very important aspect
of teaching.

I can't imagine
not coming here every day

and doing what you can
for these amazing families.

AMAN: Coming as a migrant,

we feel the need to give back to the
community and establish roots here,

giving them a good education
and literacy skills

so that they are productive citizens
of Australian society.

And this is my way of giving back
to the Australian society.

If I can give them something

that has them
always believing in themselves,

I think that's my biggest gift
to them, if I can give them that.

AHDIA: Every student
that comes from a migrated family,

they're struggling.

Their kids, you might feel like,
"Oh, they're not thinking as deep,"

but they do.

I did.

You think very deep,
you think about everything -

"How are my parents going to cope?
How am I going to cope?

"Should I give up my studies
and help them?"

But to come to a school
that they support you

and you don't have to worry
about that stuff,

it's nice.

You don't have to
worry about anything but yourself,

to be a child, um... be able to learn
and not worry about anything else,

it's nice.

ROSEMARY: I feel that each and every
one of the children

that passes through our program
and passes through Transition

is MY child.

I don't call them my students,
I actually call them my children.

And I say to them all the time,

"I'm your school mum,
you can come to me with anything."

When they come back to me,

it's like a little piece of me
is coming back home,

if that makes sense.

I don't know how to explain it.
I just love them.

I... I love them.
That's the only thing I can say.

It is so rewarding working in EAL.

I couldn't think of doing
anything else.

I wouldn't want to do anything else.

And it's the best job in the world.

What we want is to make sure that

we can fulfil the family wishes

and ensure the future
of those children

by making sure that they are,
by the time they leave us,

ready for high school,

that they are on par
with their peers

across the country
or within Victoria, at least,

if not above.

And they've given up everything,
the parents,

to try to set up a new life
for these students.

And, luckily, this school is able to
meet that need in a wonderful way.

We have EAL students
coming back telling us,

"I'm a medical researcher,"

you know, "I'm a doctor,"

"I've just started Law,"
"I'm teaching."

We have ex-students teaching
at this school, which is fantastic.

Some of those children
started in the EAL Program.

So, for them to be able
to be teaching here and empathizing

and understanding the importance
of a really quality education

is just hugely important
for our children.

The ultimate purpose
for our EAL Program

is to make sure that all our children
that go through that program

become strong and effective

to the Australian society.

♪ Too many days in the darkness

♪ Without a glimpse of the light

♪ Runnin' tired
and broken and scared

♪ But I swear
I'll never give up the fight... ♪

One of my favourite parts
of Dandenong North Primary School

is the fact
that I used to be a student here,

and many of the teachers
that I had as a student

are still here teaching today.

And that just shows
what a great place it is,

that we all stick around

and, you know,
keep doing the job for the kids.

Everyone at DNPS is so caring,
they're, like, lovely,

they always are nice to each other.

And I think the teachers
work so hard

to help us have a successful life.

I like this school because
everyone's nice and like a family

and they take care of you.

We're friendly
and we have guidelines

which make us, like,
do the right thing.

And our teachers are 100%.

When I grow up I want to be a doctor
because I like to help people.

Robotic engineer
or a medical engineer.

Engineer that, like, designs robots.

I want to be a dentist.

Soccer player.

A doctor.

I want to be a racer.

A doctor.

A police officer.

A teacher.

A cricket player when I grow up.

A doctor
because I went to help people.

I really want to be a doctor.

A teacher.

An engineer.

A type of scientist when I grow up.

I really want to be a voice actor.

A teacher.

A soccer player.

An artist.

I want to go to space
and go to the moon.

A nurse.

A doctor
because I don't want anyone to die.

I want to help the homeless people.

And after that
my career is going to be a teacher.

I really want to be
a successful lawyer so...

..because I love freedom,
I love justice.

I want people to be free
and enjoy life.

I want to save the world.

A teacher like my teacher.

I want to be a teacher
like the teachers at this school.

Dandenong North Primary School -
the greatest school in the world.

SONG: ♪ With every start

♪ We are born again

♪ Open your heart

♪ And spend less time
in your head... ♪