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Iconic doors thrown open for Navitas Skilled Futures students

By Penny Burfitt | July 4, 2024

Navitas Skilled Futures students from Cabramatta were treated to a free tour of the Sydney Opera House thanks to a determined teacher.

Navitas Skilled Futures (NSF) Cabramatta student Nazik has always recognised the white sails of the Sydney Opera House; one of the iconic symbols of modern Australia. A refugee from Iraq, Nazik arrived in Australia in 2019 and had always wanted to visit the iconic building but was never able to go inside. So, it was a full circle moment when she and her fellow NSF Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) students were invited inside for a free, private tour of the iconic venue thanks to the dogged determination of their teacher Vlasta Gunning.

The AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs and supports the settlement English language needs of migrants and refugees. It has been offered by NSF for more than 25 years; currently in the ACT and Sydney South West.

Vlasta teaches Nazik and other students at the NSF Cabramatta college.  When she handed around a survey about what excursions her students would like to do at the beginning of this term, they overwhelmingly requested an inside look at the Sydney Opera House. She knew it would be expensive but was determined to make it happen.

“I emailed  the Opera House asking if they could give us a discount and I got a wonderful email from the marketing team saying we would love to offer you a complimentary tour for 45 people because we think your organisation does wonderful things,” she said.

“When I realised, I was so happy that I was jumping around the room. We had two classes that went, and I don’t think it would have happened otherwise; our students wouldn’t have been able to pay the usual tour price.”

In preparation, students learned in class about the Sydney Opera House and its history, even making their own models of the famous building. On the morning of Wednesday 26 June, 44 students and teachers from NSF Cabramatta packed up and headed to Circular Quay.

Vlasta and Nazik sitting together at Circular Quay

NSF teacher Vlasta (Back center) went above and beyond to organise
the tour for Nazik (bottom, center) and her classmates.

During the tour they went inside the building, were given a look at sound and light checks and the main theatres and learned about the Indigenous history of the land at Bennelong Point.

Nazik said it was a milestone moment in her new life in Australia.

“I was so happy to see the inside of the Opera House, we looked at the theatres, and the view was incredible. It was an amazing building. I am also a lover of music; I love piano, and my daughter is learning to play at the moment, which made the tour even more special.”

Nazik, Adult Migrant English Program

Vlasta said the tour wasn’t only about a day out for her students but is intrinsically linked into their settlement journey in Australia; the AMEP also aims to provide a community to those arriving on Australian shores.

She said her students felt special because the tour was generously offered free of charge and privately to the NSF group by the Sydney Opera House.

“I think it made them feel part of the community, and proud. It’s that feeling of being included, feeling like an Aussie. Even if they might not be yet, it just gives them that sense of belonging to the place.”

Vlasta Gunning, Navitas Skilled Futures Trainer

She said the excursion also gave the students a chance to use their language skills in a new setting and learn more about culture.

 “When you’re learning a language you’re learning the culture, it is not a self-standing thing,” she said.

“Language is a representation of the community and the life in a new place. I think it’s important, especially for people from very different backgrounds like our NSF students, to get a sense of the culture behind the language. Everybody learned something they didn’t know, including me.”

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