21 March 2023

Centre cleaner to childhood educator: Malaysian immigrant's career transformation

| Oliver Jacques
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two women

Alisha Bradshaw loves her new employee, Nurul Ain Yusof. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Griffith woman Nurul Ain Yusof has gone from vacuuming floors at the Dorothy Waide Centre for Early Learning to educating toddlers at the same location in a stunning two-year career transformation.

Her lifelong dream job finally became a reality at age 36 when she was offered a permanent position at the centre in December 2022, after studying English and early childhood education at TAFE NSW Griffith. But for a long time, it looked as though her goal would never be achieved.

“When I was five years old, everyone asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I always said a teacher. I tried to go into the industry but it’s so hard in my country, Malaysia. So I decided to go into construction instead.”

After leaving school, Ms Yusof started her own business and worked as a building technician, but hit tough times six years ago.

“In 2017, I lost my biological mum and my business started going down … so I just packed my backpack and a small bag for my make-up and came to Australia to visit my friend,” she said. ”Soon after arriving, I decided to stay. There’s so many opportunities here.”

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She obtained work picking fruit, in factories and cleaning before life posed more challenges.

“I was the victim of domestic violence. I was on the verge of going back home. But he [the alleged perpetrator] was sent back to Malaysia, so I could stay.”

Soon after, Ms Yusof found love and things started turning around for her.

“I met my [now husband] in a factory. The funny thing is, he is a Malaysian guy from the same city as me and our parents know each other.”

She enrolled in a TAFE course to study English and continued to work as a cleaner. In 2021, her company sent her to clean the Dorothy Waide Centre, a job that triggered her childhood desires.

“When I came inside here, I got the feeling ‘I want to do this, I want to teach children’.

“I had planned on going to the Snowy Mountains for another cleaning job, but my husband stopped me, he said, ‘No, you want to be a childhood educator’.”

Ms Yosuf returned to TAFE to study childhood education.

“TAFE has opened so many doors for me … my TAFE NSW teachers were so experienced and supportive, and I owe them so much.”

woman with toddler

Nurul Ain Yusof doing what she does best. Photo: Supplied.

A chance meeting with Dorothy Waide’s educational leader Alisha Bradshaw then sealed her fate.

“I was at [fabric store] Spotlight getting some things, I saw Lulu, we got chatting, she said she was doing a prac [in child care],” Ms Bradsaw said. “So I told her I was at Dorothy Waide, and she said, ‘Oh, I used to clean there’. We were looking for some casual staff so I asked her to put her CV in.”

Ms Yusof was offered a job with three different childcare centres, but Ms Bradshaw was glad to have won her over.

“Lulu had a beautiful disposition with the children, all the families love her,” she said.

The centre’s new recruit said she sometimes felt like a student as well as a teacher.

“They sent me to the toddler room, where the children don’t use many words and they don’t speak very fast, so I can improve my English from them too – I’m so happy when they help me out.

“I have a passion for working with children and I love helping them grow and learn … to see a child who yesterday couldn’t grip a pencil correctly, and now today he can, is very satisfying.”

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TAFE NSW Griffith head teacher of early childhood Bobbie Whittaker said there were several opportunities for anyone wanting to follow in Ms Yusof’s footsteps.

“There are new childcare centres popping up everywhere and they are screaming out to employ TAFE NSW graduates,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful job if you have a desire to help others and have a positive impact on a child’s life. And no two days are ever the same.”

TAFE NSW Griffith offers a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care fee-free, with free traineeships both for existing workers and new entrants.

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