Mildura South Primary School: The art of welcome

Mildura South Primary School wanted to do as much as possible to welcome new families, and as part of its Refugee Education Support Program (RESP) developed a ‘welcome’ mural in the school foyer.

It was identified that ensuring community languages were present upon entrance to the school would be a vital component in creating a welcoming atmosphere. From this idea came a plan to produce a mural that would include language in its design.

A local artist was commissioned to create the colourful world map wood-cut mural that now occupies several metres of the school’s reception bench, visible as soon as people enter the foyer. Integrated into the design is the word ‘welcome’ in numerous world languages.

Families responded positively to the mural when they recognised the word ‘welcome’ in their home languages. And the mural had another unintended but favourable outcome: apparently word-of-mouth about the mural travelled to families the school had never seen before, and people began arriving at the school just to take a look.

The school responded to the interest the mural created by appointing one of its office staff to the role of refugee liaison officer. This staff member became responsible for practical matters concerning families and attended all RESP meetings and training workshops.

The school understood that what it saw as a small gesture was having a large impact. The mural was giving people the clear message that their culture and identity were respected and welcomed. Mildura South Primary School gained confidence from its work on the mural and, among other approaches, developed a series of world flags that were displayed in the library.