Helping newly-arrived students make the right CHOICE with new western Sydney program

A/Youth Health Programs and Partnerships Manager, Fay Jelley, and Multicultural Health Youth Program Officer, Daniel Apat

Embarking on a new life journey in a different country can be both exciting and challenging. Multiply that ten-fold if you’re in your teens or early 20s and have to learn a new language to adapt.

Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Youth Health team has successfully launched a program aimed at helping newly-arrived students enjoy a smooth entry into their Australian lives.

The pilot six-week program called CHOICE (Choosing Healthy Options Involves Creative Experiences) was delivered to a group of 10 young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds at Evans Intensive English Centre in Blacktown.

Course organiser Daniel Apat said the program was an important response to the mental and physical health issues often faced by people who have come to call Australia home.

“Our goal was to help newly-arrived students gain confidence in their daily communications, and introduce them to the Australian healthcare system,” the WSLHD multicultural health youth program officer said.

“The modules dedicated to mental health were aimed at developing participants’ deeper understanding of themselves, their sense of belonging, and the influence of culture on one’s identity.”

In one of the sessions, participants were asked to talk about what they loved about their own cultures.

“This was to make students from different backgrounds relate to each other and learn to respect the differences. These are crucial skills for living in Australia, and western Sydney in particular,” Daniel said.

Sessions dedicated to physical health covered the introduction to different hospitals and even a cooking masterclass.

“We wanted our participants to be able to identify health issues, know what health services they could access and how.

“The cooking class was a true highlight of the program. We talked about the importance of a balanced diet and healthy eating habits.”

Course co-facilitators and Evans Intensive English Centre management said the successful course helped students engage more with their peers and significantly increased school attendance.

“It was such a great feeling seeing the participants return each week with increased confidence,” Daniel said.  

“We believe they have learned valuable lessons of maintaining healthy diets as well as healthy relationships, and they’re able to seek healthcare services shall the need arise.”

WSLHD thanks Evans Intensive English Centre Deputy Principal, Mee Lin Liau and the Head Teacher Mary Kavanagh for the opportunity to launch the program.

For more information about the CHOICE program, or if you have any questions about working with young people from CALD backgrounds within western Sydney, please reach out to Daniel Apat by emailing