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Empowering Refugees through Digital Literacy

General description of the good practice:

The Migrant Resource Centre of Tasmania (MRC Tas) with the support of TasTAFE and Glenorchy Library Services have been providing digital literacy skills to refugee and migrants since 2016.

Digital literacy skills are often assumed to spontaneously catch up as English language skills are developed. MRC Tas discovered that people preparing to be interpreters often needed support for the online application due to low digital literacy skills, despite excellent English language skills.

MRC Tas began by launching the Karen Digital Literacy group in partnership with TasTAFE. All participants were very new to computers, no one had used computers before arriving in Australia nor did participants have access to a home computer. The group participated in a range of online activities focused on the needs of every-day life, led by MRC Tas staff, volunteers, students on placement and TasTAFE workers.

Main activities of the good practice: 

The digital literacy groups have run consistently for each school term. They have been configured in a variety of models to respond to different needs. For example:

  • Community specific groups supported by an interpreter (e.g. professional or volunteer)
  • Time-specific groups to address certain life skills at certain times (e.g. tax time)
  • Drop-In groups to so people can seek skills and support as needed (e.g. housing search)

The Digital Literacy Group was featured on the ABC radio which invited rural Tasmanians to also participate in the group. This created dynamic opportunities for real online exchanges, opportunities to learn how to email, use Google Maps, attach files, and exchange photographs.

The need for the program continues to grow over the years as more services move online. Centrelink is now also a partner, so presently Digi Drop-In runs twice a week.

Results of the good practice:

Digital literacy unlocks settlement skills needed to manage life situations. For example:

  • Community mobility – finding how to plan trips to new places
  • Comparative shopping – comparing prices online
  • Accessing health records – to ensure children can access child care
  • Job search – knowing how to use job search sites

Digital literacy strengthens viable education and work pathways because:

  • Access career pathway planning information online
  • Ability to engage with employers and job application processes by email
  • Confidence to navigate online orientation modules in a new role
  • Ability to report income to Centrelink online

A digital inclusion survey is used with participants that is modelled from the domains in the Australian Digital Inclusion Index; attitudes about being online, access to devices and internet, and the skills and digital activities for managing daily life. The survey gathers information about baseline for participants on arrival to Australia, what they’ve gained ability to do, and what they wish to learn next.

Challenges in implementing the good practice and how they are being addressed:  

Implementation challenges include:

  • How to promote the group when people don’t know what is possible to learn
  • Access to the right space and infrastructure
  • Technology options that meet learner needs
  • Ratio of learners to volunteer supports
  • Scheduling for group considering location, English classes and parenting
  • Facilitation skills for varied learning needs in the one group
  • Facilitation skills for varied English language skills in the one group
  • Inconsistent access to financial and human resource for interpreter support

Strategies that support implementation include:

  • Promote digital literacy group each time lack of digital literacy relates to case work
  • TasTAFE and Glenorchy Library have a computer lab and offered bookings for free
  • Accessibility walking distance from English class and major bus stop
  • Donated tablets assisted people with no mouse or keyboard skills
  • Library wifi supports people to learn on their own devices
  • High ratio of volunteers including students on placement is necessary
  • Schedule outside of school hours in child safe environment
  • Support volunteers with digital skills to develop facilitation and intercultural skills
  • Manage expectations and understand pathways to more advanced training
  • Cultivate a diverse volunteer program so bilingual volunteers can assist
  • Alternate language specific and open English groups each term