Monday, April 30, 2007

Migrants and Refugees accessing Technology

Computers are commonplace in the business, social and work life of most Australians. For migrants and refugees however technology might be something new. Michelle O'Connor explores some of the issues faced by people in migrant and refugee communities as they experience the digital age and computers for the first time.

My interest in this story was sparked from media reports earlier this year that the Tamworth regional council had turned down an offer to have several Sudanese rufugee families resettle in the town. The decision was eventually reversed and the refugee families welcomed into Tamworth but the coverage made me think about how little many Australians understand of the experience of refugees (myself included).

In many cases refugees who arrive in Australia are survivors of civil war. There is a long list of things that are 'new' for refugees when they resettle in Australia, things which most Australians would consider as commonplace. Annette Sharma is the Migrant Coordinator at the Canberra Institute of Technology and she says in Insight that her students from Sudanese refugee communities view technology as the key to their new future and a universal link to the modern world. In most cases they consider learning about technology as important as learning to speak and understand English.

Philip Ross is the Cultural Arts Officer for the Blacktown Migrant Resource Centre and he talks about how limited access to computers for migrants and refugees might limit their learning opportunities for this new technology.

Both Philip Ross and Annette Sharma are interviewed by Michelle O'Connor in this week's Insight on homepage.