Work & Training’s Maryam Azizi honoured as Tasmania’s top dental trainee

Seven years ago Maryam Azizi arrived in Hobart knowing only one word of English. Now she has been recognised as one of Tasmania’s best dental trainees.

Maryam’s path to being a successful, award winning Dental Trainee has been a challenging one to say the least. After fleeing Afghanistan, Maryam and her family lived for years in an Iranian refugee camp. Further tragedy struck when her father died when Maryam was just 12, meaning she had to provide financially for her mum and siblings. At age 13 Maryam was banned from education, “As a family without a father we were very vulnerable. I didn’t have the right to work so I had to work illegally. I had only studied until Grade 8 because as a refugee I had no rights to education. It wasn’t easy for refugees to go to school,” Maryam said.

After many years enduring the harsh conditions in the camp, Maryam along with her family arrived in Hobart in 2016 to start a new life. Maryam said the integration into their new home was a process, “I didn’t know any English except ‘hello’. I faced more barriers – language, school system, making friends, feeling safe, belonging. The other difficulty was being responsible. I had to help my mum and siblings with health, Centrelink, and school appointments. This made education hard for me to access,” she said.

Determined to get an education and find a job she loved, Maryam enrolled in a Cert III in English. From there, she learnt all about VET pathways and found out about the opportunities for a traineeship in Dental, “I wanted to do a Cert III in Dental Health so I could earn money, help my family and gain a qualification. The first time I applied I was unsuccessful. This just made me more determined. I wanted to prove that I could do it,” she said.

With help from Work & Training (part of the IntoWork Group) and TasTAFE, Maryam completed her first aid certificate, worked on her English, researched and improved her knowledge of the dental industry. The next time she applied she was accepted and got a full-time job through Work & Training’s host employer Oral Health Services, “Doing the traineeship was not always easy. As a Muslim woman in hijab, I was visibly different. I experienced racism and discrimination. I had to deal with other’s expectations but when I graduated and got full time work, I proved that education was for me,” she said.

Work & Training supported Maryam throughout her traineeship and worked closely with Oral Health and TasTAFE to help her with professional and personal development. This collaboration fostered a supportive, engaging environment for Maryam to learn all facets of dental assisting whilst she completed her units, “Being a trainee at Work & Training was important for me. I could ask them about anything and it was good to have support from outside the workplace. They gave me all the possible opportunities to learn and get through the traineeship,” Maryam said

This year, Maryam’s hard work paid off. She won Tasmanian Training Award’s Equity Trainee of the Year after being recognised for her commitment to her Certificate III in Dental Assisting with Oral Health Services.

Work & Training CEO Leanne Wallace said Maryam’s achievement was a true testament to resilience, “On behalf of all at Work & Training, we are so proud of Maryam on an outstanding and well deserved achievement. This is a prestigious award and we are immensely proud of her hard work and perseverance. She is truly an inspiration,” she said.

While Maryam has faced multiple challenges, she said the support she received from her family, Work & Training and TasTAFE kept her motivated, “Being a refugee or facing instability or not finishing school doesn’t mean you can’t get a qualification and find a good job. For a long time I thought education was not for me, I didn’t finish high school and I didn’t think I could gain a qualification or a job where I could do important work and care for others. The VET system helped me gain the skills, learn a new language and complete my education and finally get a job I needed to build a life in Australia,” she said.

“Everyone faces barriers in their life and if we can remember how that felt and help someone else get through the challenges, then we are giving back and making sure that everyone has equal access to education in Australia. For now, I will continue working in the dental industry ensuring that all people are treated with respect and understanding. Human Rights, Justice and ensuring that all people are cared for and respected is what is important to me.”

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