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Connecting to culture


Key messages of respect, relationships, connection, belonging, faith and friendships have been encapsulated in a new mural that highlights the diversity of cultures at St Paul’s College.

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With more than 40 different cultural backgrounds and religions represented at the Gilles Plains school, the mural also serves to celebrate the culture of First Nations people and their connection to the wider community.

Artist in residence, Scott Rathman, who is an Arrernte descendant, designed the mural after conducting a series of workshops with students last term. They were asked to describe what connected and gave them a sense of belonging to their school community. The brainstorming sessions resulted in a variety of symbols representing values being generated, some of which were incorporated into the final design.

“I work with what the students come up with, pull all those sketches out and create a shortlist…I then work my way through those until I’ve got a design,” Mr Rathman explained.

“The absolute key message here is that the most important thing to students at this school is their connection to others – whether that’s their friendships, or connections to teachers, or connections to each other.

“The colours I choose are just a ‘vibe’ on the day. We work with bright and bold so you can’t help but see it!”

Mr Rathman has worked extensively in schools, painting more than 600 murals around Australia.

At St Paul’s, he conducted workshops for the college’s 19 Indigenous students, as well as Year 6 classes and arts students in Years 9 and 11.

Head of Learning Diversity, Alexandra Harrison, said during the workshops with Mr Rathman the students spoke about their “connection, belonging, sense of self at the college and how they connected with the school through relationships”.

“This year our theme is ‘Empowering Voices’ and that was a big part of the conversations… particularly for First Nations students and how they connected with empowering their voice and identity here at the college. The mural is a good way for them to feel celebrated and their culture to be celebrated.”

The complete mural.

The mural was painted by Mr Rathman, who was assisted by Ashalea Perry, in just one day during school hours at the beginning of August.

Leader of Learning the Arts, Sarah Fedele, said the process had created much interest around the school yard.

“We had a lot of students walk past while Scott was working on the mural and ask him questions,” she said.

“Art being so subjective, a student who came up with one of the symbols used in the design would know what it represents, but another student might see something else in it.

“The students have been so inspired by Scott and his work.

“It’s a beautiful piece of artwork and has certainly raised cultural awareness.”

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