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Councillor Nicole Johnston cuts the ribbon to open the "Our World" exhibition. Photo: Holly Jewell

Graceville and Milpera share art from the heart

An art exhibition hosted by Graceville Uniting Church and Milpera State High School was a successful showcase for both the church’s commitment to the community and the school’s support for developing their students’ cultural and linguistic skills. Journey reports.

Located just a short walk away from Graceville Uniting Church in Brisbane’s south west, Milpera State High School is the only school in Queensland dedicated to newly arrived students of migrant and refugee backgrounds from non-English speaking countries. 

The relationship between the church and school goes back over the years with donations from the church Op Shop distributed to Milpera but this year the two came together in late August to host the “Our World” art exhibition.

With over 150 artworks on paper and over 400 sculptures, tiles and textile hangings on display during the two-day event, 250 visitors were treated to a dazzling array of colour, form and ideas as they wandered through Graceville’s church. And with a gold coin donation as entry fee, over $700 was raised for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre which helps refugees with food and goods, legal assistance, employment training and health services.

Graceville Uniting Church minister Rev Aaron Moad says the decision to partner for “Our World” was a perfect way for the church to realise its ongoing mission to engage with the community and make good use of its building outside of worship time.

“We opened a conversation to see how we could best help Milpera become ‘of’ our community and create a broader event. The art program is so powerful, it fell into place naturally, as our church is such a beautiful gallery to showcase cultural activities.

“The paintings and drawings were so vibrant and brought such life to the space, during a time where the building is usually empty.”

Art is a critical part of the school’s curriculum and Julie Peel—Milpera’s principal—sees the benefits extend well beyond simply honing a student’s creative abilities.

“Art provides relaxation for our students,” says Julie. “Learning in a second, third or fourth language (many of our students have three or four languages) is exhausting. Art provides time out from this and the creative expression provides an opportunity for the students to express their identities, culture and emotions in a positive way.”

While plans are underway to develop the art exhibition as an ongoing annual event, Julie is keen to stress there are other ways Uniting Church members can get involved with the school.

“There are opportunities for many to volunteer in some of our wonderful programs. We have specialised programs in reading, writing and general classroom support and have a hardworking volunteer community who we would love to add to.”

For more information about Milpera State High School visit milperashs.eq.edu.au

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