When Louisa arrives for her EAL class at Prace she has travelled over 20 kilometres by a
combination of buses and trains to get to the Merrilands campus. However her challenging
journey has been more than just the kilometres covered.
Louisa was born and raised in Papua New Guinea. She was surrounded by a large loving
family and she was always busy, although she didn’t attend school. Louisa met her future
husband and they welcomed their first child and her life became even busier.
Louisa’s husband was a journalist with the ABC and soon he was posted to Australia. This
was a big upheaval for the little family and Louisa was very homesick and felt isolated when
she first moved to Australia. Soon they had three more children.
Although life was very busy as Louisa focused on caring for her family, she was lonely in
Melbourne and missed her extended family back in PNG. However the years flew by and
then her children were grown up. Sadly, Louisa’s husband died. She took him back to PNG to
be buried with his family, but after being in her homeland with her extended family, Louisa
didn’t want to leave.
“It was very hard. I didn’t want to leave my friends and family in Papua New Guinea, but my
children’s lives were very much tied to Australia,” she said.
“When I got back, my loneliness deepened. My daughter Rachael told me I must do
something for myself, learn more things and mix with other people. She said I should go to
school! I wasn’t sure about that, but my son Chris drove the car and Rachael came with me
to Prace to enrol.
“I was very nervous. I met Rohan, the literacy teacher, and he said he would give me a test
to see where I was at. I said ‘wait, I can’t do it just now.’ I had to go to the bathroom and
have a drink of water and stop being so nervous. Rohan asked me to write my name and
Rachael said ‘Don’t worry, Mommy, you can do it’. And I wasn’t sure what would happen,
but then Rohan said ‘right, you can start on Monday’. So I came to Prace!
“There were so many different people in the class. I had never mixed with other people.
So many nationalities! For me, it had been husband working, wife looking after the house,
looking after the kids, taking them to school and picking them up – I was so busy. And then,
at Prace, I was there mixing with all these other people. I was so happy. The office ladies
made me feel so welcome. In class I was mixing with Africans, Indians, Greeks, Italians and
ladies from Cambodia, Vietnam and Afghanistan. So many different places! And I became
best buddies with the ladies. My Muslim friends would pray inside; I would pray outside; it
“In the student kitchen we get together during the breaks and we talk. If they don’t speak
much English, I talk with them and make them stronger,” she said.
Despite the many happy experiences, Louisa has also had sadness while she has been at
Prace. Her daughter Rachael, who Louisa describes as not only her daughter, but also her
sister and her best friend, passed away.
“She is in God’s hands now, and so I go to class because I still have three beautiful sons who
make me stronger,” said Louisa.
She made it a secret goal to read a book by herself and surprise everyone. Louisa’s teacher,
Christina Kingston, gave her one of the PageTurners series. The book was called Can You
Read This and was written by Chris Malakar. It was about a woman called Lana who couldn’t
read. Although Lana was very competent with other skills, she felt bad that she couldn’t
read to her daughter.
“Reading that book made me cry, it was like I was reading my own life story,” said Louisa.
One day Louisa surprised everyone by reading the book from start to finish. Christina
Kingston suggested that she could record Louisa reading it on Skype so that her sons could
share her amazing accomplishment.
“I love reading and I wish Rachael could have seen me read that book. But now my sons help
me with my reading if I can’t find a word. I am very grateful to them for their support and to
Rachael for taking me to Prace,” she said.
Find our more about our English as an Additional language courses and AMEP funding.