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The joy of art and language

Milpera state high school students in front of the art wall featuring decorated tiles created by students, staff and volunteers

What's it like to be in a classroom where you don't know the language – to receive instructions and struggle to understand what your teacher is asking?

This is an everyday occurrence for students new to Milpera State High School, a transition school where students of migrant and refugee background – representing more than 20 nations and even more cultures – come to learn English.

Milpera's staff and volunteers recently experienced learning from their students' perspective.

Tasked with making and decorating a clay tile, art teacher Liana Trujillo, delivered all instructions in Spanish. 

Ian Miller, Milpera State High School Principal, explained that the school is an Intensive English Language Centre for recently arrived students from backgrounds where a language other than English is spoken.

"The workshop allowed us to empathise with our newly arrived students who are grappling with a new country, culture and are learning English Language.

As participants, we were given an insight into the joy of learning our students experience but also the challenges that can come from not understanding the language," he said.

Creative art activities are an important part of the school's program.

"Art, music and dance give our students an opportunity to have a voice and express themselves," Ms Trujillo explained.

"This was a whole school art project. Each tile depicts a slice of the artist's personal story. For our students these represented elements of their journey from homeland to Australia.

"Displayed together with those created by our staff and volunteers, the tiles create a dynamic and moving mural," she said.

More information visit Milpera State High School.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0) ( )
Last updated
01 April 2019