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How Kim supports Vietnamese migrants on their citizenship journey

Supporting others in their settlement journey brings Kim joy.

A decade ago, Kim — who works in our Settlement program — noticed a gap in the support available to Vietnamese people seeking Australian citizenship. While they could find help filling out their forms, no one was supporting them to study for the citizenship test itself.

Kim brought the idea to her manager and the Bilingual Vietnamese Australian Citizenship Test Preparation Course was born. The course runs in Sunshine once a week over six sessions during the school term. Participants learn about the application process, settlement support services, and citizenship test content.

“The demand in the community is very high,” Kim says. She’s proud of her success rate: “Most of our students pass the exam”.

Kim is very active in the Sunshine refugee community. In 1981, she fled Vietnam by boat, arriving in Australia via a refugee camp in Indonesia. She began working in factories and restaurants and later did an English language course. Kim then studied social sciences at university. She’s been with Jesuit Social Services since 1995.

Kim teaches the course content in Vietnamese, accompanied by Kimberley Malone, Jesuit Social Services’ Settlement Coordinator, who teaches in English. Kimberley says the class is bilingual to increase students’ English language proficiency and break down social isolation. “Teaching in both languages supports the participants to get in touch with new people and increase their community connectedness.”

Kim also agrees that the course is about connection. “At the end of the course we have a social gathering, and I organise a Christmas party for everyone from the different classes to be together. They are very happy.”

Outside of the citizenship test course, Kim runs a range of programs including a volunteer training course, parenting classes, women’s group and elderly group sessions. She says some of the participants who attend the citizenship course also participate in these other Jesuit Social Services’ settlement programs. The relationships she builds in the citizenship course allow her to link more people with the support they need. “If someone in the community is experiencing hardship, my students introduce them to me, and that’s how I connect people with Jesuit Social Services programs.”

After 27 years at Jesuit Social Services, Kim’s work is still close to her heart: “I cannot stop working. It’s my joy, my commitment. I’m really lucky.”