Refugee Language Program

The Refugee Language Program (RLP) is a project under the auspices of the School of Education and Social Work, having been initiated by the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies. Download more information about the RLP.


RLP staff, December 2015

RLP staff, December 2014

The Federal Government's Policy of releasing families into community detention has seen an increase in enrolments particularly from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Most of these students have been interred on Christmas islands and other detention centres before their release into the community.

As well as our on-campus classes on Wednesday and Saturdays, the RLP is setting up a Mentoring Program for students who cannot come to class, aimed in the first instance at professionals. Trial for this scheme started last year during the summer break and we hope to expand this in 2015.

In 2013, the then Dean of Arts, Duncan Ivison, sought further funding for the RLP and was successful in obtaining a three-year grant from the Pratt Foundation.

Further reading on this donation:

Media articles on funding for Refugee Language Program

RLP staff, December 2014

Publication of student and teacher writings - Some Saturdays

In December 2008 the Refugee Language Program published an anthology of student and teacher writings. We were able to do this thanks to a grant from the James N Kirby Foundation.

The book is available to purchase from Lesley Carnus or the DPACS office. Price: $20.00

Services offered by the program

The Refugee Language Program at Sydney University provides a diverse range of services to refugees and asylum seekers. These include on-campus classes, home tutoring and a referral service. We currently run four classes:

  • an Advanced Communication Skills on Saturdays
  • an Intermediate class, also on Saturdays
  • and a Conversation and Technology class, also on Saturdays
  • Monday and Wednesday evenings we offer one-to-one tutoring groups

All classes are free to refugees and asylum seekers

You can download an enrolment form here (pdf, 190kB).

Timetable for classes Term 3, 2018

Refugee Language Program, Courses for Term 3 , 2018





Intermediate Communication

Elizabeth, Kirsty, Matt & Chris




9:30am - 12:30pm

Starts July 7th



Education Building

Manning Road

Room 434


Advanced Communication

IELTS focus

Allison, Lance, Karen, Killara and Roxy




9.30am - 12:30pm

Starts July 7th


Education Building 

Manning Road

Room 435


Conversation, Technology and CVs

Volunteer team of tutors

(Individual study)



1:30 - 3:00pm

Starts July 7th


Education Building

Manning Road

Mac Lab 224


Individual Tutoring

On University Campus


Monday or Wednesday

5:00 - 7:00 pm

(You must speak to Lesley to enrol in this class or send in an enrolment form)




to find out more information

A note on eligibility
Refugees holding Temporary Protection Visas, those on Bridging E Visas as well as Habeas Corpus asylum seekers are eligible to enrol. In some cases we also accept refugees who have permanent resident status.

Term 3 classes start on Saturday, July 7; and Wednesday classes start on August 1. Please if you would like to enrol in a class, or ask your caseworker to complete an enrolment form which you can download by clicking on (pdf, 190kB).

All classes are held in:
Education Building A35
University of Sydney, NSW 2006.
The Education Building is located on Manning Road in the main campus of the University of Sydney.
Download travel directions to Education Building (pdf, 183kB)

About the program

The class teachers are volunteers and include University staff, students, alumni and local community members. There are also a number of volunteers who work as conversation partners after classes or as individual tutors. If you are interested in becoming involved please download the volunteer form and send to the coordinator, Lesley.

Students in the Refugee Language Program come from many countries including the Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Columbia, Peru, Burma, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sri Lanka, China, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Indonesia. Many of the students hold Bridging E Visas, the toughest and most excluding visa that the Government offers. This visa does not allow a person access to Medicare, Centrelink allowances or adult-education classes.


The RLP was funded annually by the Senate through the Vice-Chancellor's office from 2003 to 2013. The program will now depend on private donations and grants to fund our work with refugees and asylum seekers.

Gifts (pdf, 87kB)
The RLP also uses these funds to cover additional running costs; light lunches for the volunteers and students, fares, excursions, resources and materials and sundry expenses.

In 2015 we would also like to raise enough money to publish another small anthology of students' creative writing.

Donations may be made by cheque or credit card. If you are interested in supporting this program, please download the gift form (pdf, 87kB), and return it to:

Advancement Services, Building G02
The University of Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia

Official receipts are given for all donations received.


The volunteers who work with the refugees and asylum seekers in our program are very valuable to the Refugee Language Program: we would have no Refugee Language Program without them! They are a group of very busy people who can still find the time and energy to give so much to our students.

Volunteer application form (pdf, 35kB)

RLP volunteers Carmen, Beulah and Karen

RLP volunteers Carmen, Beulah and Karen

Are you referring a client to the RLP?

To refer a client please download the form from our website, complete it with, or for your client and email it to the coordinator. She will contact the client to assess their language skills and place them in a class or place them on a waiting list.

Can you please ensure that all contact details including address, mobile number and email addresses are clear and accurate.

Before referring a client, can you also ensure that the days and times that classes are offered are suitable for them. Many students are not free on Saturdays.

Can you also explain how to get to classes using the directions that are posted on our web-page. The university is the size a suburb and students quite often get lost.


Lesley Carnus, Lesley Carnus, has over 25-years' experience teaching adult migrants and refugees and has coordinated the Refugee Language Program for more than 11 years.

Lesley is usually available for enquiries in her office in the Education Building on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays but is best reached by email:

T: (02) 9351 6796, or in person
Room 546, Education Building A35, University of Sydney.