As Australia continues to welcome refugees from Ukraine, education experts are calling for critical supports as new research from the University of South Australia shows that rural and regional schools can be under-resourced and be ill-prepared to support refugee children and their families.
In a review published in the International Journal of Inclusive EducationUniSA researcher Jennifer Brown found that rural schools are key sites of support for refugee students and their families, but too often operate in racialized communities that are unaware of students’ diverse needs.
She says Australia’s rural refugee settlement policy must be accompanied by thoughtful, timely and relevant access to professional learning for staff.
“In Australia and around the world, refugee resettlement policy favors a ‘scatter’ approach, where refugees are settled in rural and regional areas in order to expand populations in metropolitan centers and rejuvenate rural areas,” says Brown.
“Rural schools are at the forefront of refugee resettlement, but many schools feel poorly supported and don’t know how best to help. So, while current policies disperse refugees to rural areas, they fail to account for or demonstrate appropriate support for schools, services and communities.
“As a result, refugee children and families are not receiving appropriate help or support. Worse still, many face racialized attitudes within the community, views that are often reflected in schools.
Brown’s study is part of a larger Australian Research Council Liaison project examining how schools foster resilience in refugee students. Led by UniSA researchers, including refugee education expert Dr. Melanie Baak, the project examines school policies, structures and practices that will enable refugee students to be resilient and successful.
Dr Baak says that to create change, policymakers need to better understand the nuances of regional and rural communities and help them welcome refugees.
“Understanding the unique needs and strengths of refugee students and their families is key to enabling schools to support these new populations,” says Dr. Baak.
“Unless communities are properly educated and aware of the benefits of diversity and the plight of refugees, we will continue to provide suboptimal services.
“Appropriate resources for rural schools are a starting point, but training and opportunities for cross-cultural learning and engagement must also happen within communities if we are serious about bringing about change. »
Motivating public engagement for at-risk groups: the case of refugees
Jennifer L. Brown, Educating in the Context of “Dispersion”: Rural Schools and Refugee Students, International Journal of Inclusive Education (2022). DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2022.2041112
University of South Australia
Australian rural communities lack resources to host refugees (2022, June 17)
retrieved June 17, 2022
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