The Adult Migrant English Program currently provides up to 510 hours of free English tutoring combined with Australian culture and customs lessons.
Students need to register with an adult learning provider within six months of their arrival in Australia.
From 19 April 2021, more migrants will be able to access unlimited hours of free English tuition without timeframe restrictions.
Migrants from family, skilled, and humanitarian visa streams, who do not have functional English, can access the Australian Government-funded Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP).
The Adult Migrant English Program provides free foundation English language tuition within the first five years of a visa holder’s arrival in Australia or the visa commencement.
Settlement skills are also integrated into the course, including how to access medical assistance and emergency services, government and community services, and banking, among others.
Catherine Devlin is the operations manager at Adult Learning Australia. She says prospective students need to register with an AMEP provider within six months of arriving in Australia. Children under 18 have 12 months to register.
English classes for job seekers
If you’ve been in Australia for longer than six months and already have a foundation in English but need to improve your language skills to find a job, there is the Skills for Education and Employment program (SEE).
The Skills for Education and Employment program caters for job seekers, with access to up to 650 hours of free literacy and numeracy training, in a vocationally oriented environment.
Mehako Obaidullah is a former refugee from Afghanistan. He says most migrants, refugees or asylum seekers who come to Australia have lower literacy levels, and they experience very harsh situations in the labour market.
There are almost 300 AMEP providers across Australia.
Pre-employment and social streams
The head of Adult Migrant English Program at Melbourne Polytechnic, Rochelle Beatty, says most providers have bilingual administration staff to assist people when they make their initial inquiries and ensure their prospective students understand all the relevant information.
Upon enrolment, Adult Migrant English Program clients can choose between two streams: Pre-Employment English and Social English.
The Pre-Employment English stream is for those wishing to learn functional English for work or further training, leading to sustainable employment.
The Social English stream is for migrants who lack confidence for social interaction and need help with conversational English.
Students can use their legislated 510-hour entitlement in either stream or a combination of both. They can also decide whether to study full-time or part-time, take lessons in a classroom or do distance learning.
Lindee Conway is the Head of School for Foundation and Preparatory Studies at Melbourne Polytechnic. She says that adult learning providers for migrants understand the cultural differences that can lead to a lot of confusion for new arrivals. She emphasises the important role Adult Migrant English Program plays in teaching migrants about Australian society and law.
For students with children under school age, Adult Migrant English Program service providers offer childcare services, generally located close to the classroom and organised to coincide with their timetable. Following the completion of the Adult Migrant English Program, students can ask for guidance support to set goals, make plans for further education and discuss employment opportunities.
Unlimited free English classes from April 2021
On 28 August 2020, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, announced the most significant reform to the Adult Migrant English Program in many years.
The reforms in the program include removing the 510-hours cap on English tuition. The Federal Government will also remove six months timeframe for enrolment, 12 months limit for commencing and the five-year limit for completing the Adult Migrant English Program tuition.
Hence, migrants in Australia will be able to access unlimited, free of charge English language classes at a pace that suits their lifestyle and commitments. Under the changes to be introduced by legislation, the Adult Migrant English Program will amend the eligibility levels allowing migrants to stay in the program or re-enter until they reach a higher level of language proficiency. These changes will take effect on 19th April 2021.
The future state of Adult Migrant English Program will also facilitate a more flexible approach to studying, enabling migrates to learn from home, as a replacement or supplement to classroom-based learning. To find more about the legislative changes to the Adult Migrant English Program, visit this Australian government website.
To find an adult learning provider near you, check out the Adult Learning Australia website.