Alkira College: Welcome lunch

Students of refugee backgrounds have experienced changes that most mainstream students will never encounter. It is vital that students feel welcome and included in their new school environments.

Alkira College, a large secondary school in Melbourne’s outer south-east, recognised the importance of welcome and developed a special lunch for students of refugee backgrounds and other EAL students.

The school has more than 1,100 students, 38 per cent of whom have a language background other than English. The school had a small number of students of refugee backgrounds when it joined the 2017 Refugee Education Support Program (RESP). However, during RESP that number increased by more than 100 per cent, and supporting students of refugee backgrounds became a priority.

The first student lunch was held in Term 4, 2017, and the event is planned to happen each semester. RESP team members attended the informal gathering, which aimed to ensure students felt welcome and connected to the school. Another objective was for students to become aware of the important role the wellbeing staff could play in their school experience.

During the lunch, students were given a piece of paper on which they could write their name and something for which they felt they needed extra support. Students came up with a range of items, including help with driving and music lessons, school uniform provision and how to study Armenian for VCE. The wellbeing coordinator or the EAL teacher then followed up each student’s request and provided links to appropriate support services.

Towards the end of the RESP period, students were consulted about the need to establish a multi-faith prayer space. Student voice was pivotal in the process, with a working group providing feedback to staff on the feasibility of different rooms.