English literacy classes at library paves way for employment

Published on 22 August 2022

Library Programs Coordinator Deb Dunt with Hassanli

When Reza Hassanli migrated from Iran to Australia in 2011, he faced some difficulties settling in to his new life for the first few months.

It was challenging to find a job despite his engineering degree, understand the Australian accent and slang, and new make friends and community contacts. Now, Reza is working as a lecturer at the University of South Australia, teaching and researching structural and civil engineering. 

“When I arrived in Australia in 2011, I found myself feeling a bit depressed. I didn’t have a job or a university scholarship and struggled to connect with my community. I thought this would be a good time to improve my English and communication skills, but did not know where to start.

He soon found the free English conversation groups and classes at Tea Tree Gully Library – a suite of classes and activities, delivered by local volunteers, offering opportunities for people who speak English as a second language to meet new people, practice their English conversation skills and learn more about their community.

Reza participated in these classes for six months, before going on to complete his PhD and become a lecturer at UniSA.

“I used the English classes at the library a lot to start with. They were the first steps to finding myself here in Australia, and a part of the reason I am where I am is thanks to the communication skills and self-confidence I found in those classes.”

He credits the classes for exposing the students to – not only – Australian culture, but also the other participants’ cultures.

“The best part of my job now is communicating with great students from different countries with different cultural backgrounds. I can see some of the students don’t have great English language skills and are having similar experiences to what I had. The skills I learnt in communicating with people from different cultures helps me to relate and communicate with them more effectively – seeing them improve is the best feeling.”

Library Programs Coordinator, Deb Dunt, who facilitates our English Literacy service, said, “Our English Literacy programs are a great platform for new arrivals and those who speak English as a second language to connect with others in our local community, while at the same time improving their English language skills.

“Our classes are free of charge and facilitated by a fantastic team of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. The confidence our students gain during the classes is encouraging with many reporting going on to further study, successfully passing their citizenship test or gaining permanent employment.” (Deb is pictured above with Reza).

Reza urges anyone who is considering this service to participate. “The service is not only helpful in improving your English, but you meet new people who can become lifelong friends, learn from different cultures, and improve your self-confidence and communication skills.”

Reza commends the volunteers who helped him back in 2011 – Margy and Judy – for the effect they had on his future. 

“I don’t know if they realise how effective their teaching was and how they impacted people’s lives. I really appreciate everything they did.”

Reza wearing high-vis with colleague in university lab

Reza at work with a colleague at UniSA. 

Find out about services for learning English at Tea Tree Gully Library

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