A refugee language program student sits at a desk during class.

Refugee Language Program

Giving refugees and asylum seekers the language skills they need to make Australia home
Refugees often arrive with nothing – no friends, family or the language skills they need to find work and accommodation.

Many of our students come from violent, war-torn countries where they accumulate physical, emotional and psychological scars they continue to carry as they start their new lives in Australia.

Our program provides opportunities that aren’t available to them anywhere else. As well as free English language classes, we aim to break down social barriers for refugees by introducing them to Australian ideas and customs, and providing reading materials, social activities and volunteer mentors. Wherever possible, we guide these students in finding work.

After working with just two students, I can see how indispensable a resource the Program is for them. They get language, social, cultural and emotional support that might otherwise be inaccessible
RLP tutor – March 2022

About the program

At its outset, and up until March 2020, the Refugee Language Program offered four classes each week at the University of Sydney's Camperdown campus, including individual tutoring sessions on Monday and Wednesday, and several classes on Saturdays. These classes included intermediate and advanced communication skills; conversation; technology and writing CVs.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the program's face-to-face activities were suspended in favour of weekly one-to-one tutoring with volunteers.

My student and I have been continuing our twice weekly evening zoom tutoring sessions which I really enjoy. She is so committed, eager and hardworking! We use most of the materials that you send, with a particular focus on the pronunciation, listening and writing skills that assist her at work.
RLP tutor – April 2022

Our program links each student with a tutor who uses whatever technology is available to the student to learn. That could be via email, telephone or Zoom. Quite a few of our students don’t have a computer or access to one, so we are always grateful to accept secondhand or refurbished laptops. If you have one to donate, please email the program coordinator, Lesley Carnus, and she will arrange to collect it from you.

Our students have come from more than 60 different countries including Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, China, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Our tutors and mentors are university staff, students, alumni and local community members and like our students, they are a joy to work with.

Additional information

We are proud to annouce our Distance Learning Program, which will replace traditional face-to-face classes.

The program links each student with a tutor who uses whatever technology is available to the student to learn. That could be via email or phone, or Zoom and for students without computers, they will have learning material posted to them.

If you have any questions please email Program Coordinator, Lesley Carnus lesley.carnus@sydney.edu.au.

If you’d like to enrol, please complete this form (pdf, 150kB) and return via email to our program coordinator.

To refer a client, please complete the student application form (pdf, 150kB) with them and email our program coordinator. We will contact your client so we can assess their language skills and place them in a class or on our waiting list.

Support us

We depend entirely on private donations to fund our work.

By supporting the Refugee Language Program, you will be offering refugees access to important opportunities, and giving asylum seekers and refugees the chance to make a home in Australia.


Lesley Carnus

Coordinator, Refugee Language Program


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