‘She just started talking to me and we became really close’: Building educational success by establishing social networks

Andrew Langat, Jane Wilkinson, Ninetta Santoro, Jeanette Major

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This study-in-progress underscores the importance of space, place and networks in relation to out-of-school practices that Australian students of African refugee backgrounds draw on to enhance their educational success in regional Australia. In this paper, we report on case studies of three Sudanese-Australian students of refugee background, in Wiradjuri, a regional town in NSW. We explore the significance to these students’ out-of-school resources and capitals in their own perspectives, their guardians and through the perspectives of local support agency and community representatives nominated by these students. In the past 4 years, Wiradjuri has received 195 African refugees for settlement as part of the Federal Government’s Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (DIAC, 2010). During this period, a number of studies have pointed to the challenges and the difficulties of settling in rural and regional centres, particularly amongst African refugees (CRC 2006 & McDonald, Gifford, Webster, Wiseman & Casey, 2007). Rather than perpetuate a deficit model perspective, this paper, reports (through a preliminary analysis of the interview and observation data) on the resilience of the three Sudanese-Australian students and their network connections (ethnic communities, youth groups, church and sporting groups). Following the Australian Survey Research report (April 2011) for DIAC, we argue refugees in regional centres like Wiradjuri have adopted, positive and successful settlement strategies especially with regard to students’ own social and personal well-being. The participants indicated they came directly to Wiradjuri because it is easier to develop social networks in the community and that it is “a small city with everything” making it conducive to raise a family. The young people reported that living in Wiradjuri has allowed them to access a variety of opportunities from different community support networks which in turn have boosted their self-esteem and confidence to make life choices and engage with young Australians in the community. This paper, therefore, contributes to a rare body of literature that uses young people’s voices to understand how, and through which networks and avenues, they build positive educational success.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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