An RMIT University project is giving asylum seekers a chance to transform their lives

As Australia welcomes back international students, a Victorian university is helping refugee students achieve their education dreams by offering a unique scholarship.

Farzaneh Dehghani has just graduated as a civil engineer from Victoria's RMIT University.

Farzaneh Dehghani has just graduated as a civil engineer from Victoria's RMIT University. Source: Supplied/RMIT

Farzaneh Dehghani has just achieved her dream to graduate as a civil engineer.

Ms Dehghani, who came to Australia from Iran in 2013 and spent two years in a detention centre, said the opportunity had finally given her some stability in life.

“I can’t describe my feeling [in] words,” Ms Dehghani told SBS News on Wednesday at her graduation ceremony in Melbourne. 

Ms Dehghani benefited from a scholarship program at RMIT University that gives asylum seekers and refugee students a chance to transform their lives through education.

"Imagine if I didn't have this scholarship I couldn't study, I couldn't study at all,” Ms Dehghani said.

f Source: Supplied

The 29-year-old said the opportunity to study has been the biggest step she has taken in Australia.

She has been offered a job in her field and told SBS News she "cannot believe her success".

RMIT University’s Enabling Educational Opportunities for People Seeking Asylum program covers study costs and fortnightly support payments for students, many of whom would not be able to access education due to high international-student fees.

“This program is specifically for people whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined by the government,” Lara Rafferty, the program’s manager, told SBS News.

“So they are on those protection visas and, as a consequence of having that type of visa, they are required to pay international student fees for most higher-education programs and some vocational educational programs and that is just a huge and usually insurmountable barrier for them,” Ms Rafferty said.

The program is run in partnership with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

The centre’s innovation hub director Abiola Ajetomobi told SBS News her organisation helps students select courses that align with their goals.

“We also provide reference letters affirming their asylum-seeker status and supporting their application process,” Ms Ajetomobi said.

The program can also play a role in breaking down barriers within the university sector, with students expressing immense gratitude for the opportunity.

“It changes how they feel about themselves, their sense of welcome to Australia and to the Australian community and the Melbourne community … it changes their idea of what their future can actually be,” Ms Rafferty said.

The funding for the program has been extended for a further three years with applications currently open for the next round of students.

3 min read
Published 15 December 2021 at 9:35pm
By Stephanie Corsetti
Source: SBS News