St Joseph the Worker is continuing to set the bar for multiculturalism with the school this year boasting students from 32 nationalities, 99 of which speak a language other than English in their homes.
It’s a level of cultural diversity that would be impressive in any organisation, let alone in a primary school with just over 100 students in Auburn South, in Sydney’s west.
WE ARE ONE BUT WE ARE MANY
According to St Joseph the Worker Catholic Primary School Principal, Gai Melville, multiculturalism is something that has always been part of the fabric of the school.
“I think one of the things we like to do is just acknowledge that our families have travelled from distant lands to live in this country as one community,” Mrs Melville said.
“We all belong and we all bring different gifts and different abilities to the community, and together it makes us richer and stronger” – Gai Melville
“What people often say is you can feel the warmth in the welcome here; that it feels like a family,” Mrs Melville said.
One of the most important events in St Joseph the Worker’s school calendar is its annual Multicultural Day.
Traditionally held on a single day, this year’s weeklong celebration was held in the first week back after COVID lockdown.
It began with a multicultural prayer service. Students then took part in a range of activities, including sampling Ukrainian dancing, Italian music, French art and Ghanian crafts, among other things.
St Joseph the Worker Auburn South dressed in traditional clothes.
“It was a great chance for the school’s diversity to really come alive,” said teacher and head of the 2021 Multicultural Day Committee, Markian Stefanychyn.
“You see the colours and the different cultural dresses; all the kids are so proud and they really embrace their cultural backgrounds” – Markian Stefanychyn
Mr Stefanychyn said students yet to return to face to face learning were sent home resource packs containing activities they could do in their homes.
Students were also encouraged to upload photos to an online notice board tool, called a Padlet, which everyone could access.
EMBRACING NEW THINGS
Mrs Melville said events such like these play a major part in the feeling of togetherness at St Joseph the Worker.
“When we have our annual Multicultural Day, we see the children often asking to join in and be part of cultural activities that aren’t of their own background – it helps them develop that respect for other people and to see others as valuable contributors to our culture and society,” she said.
“I think it becomes part of their worldview and a part of their view of what it is to be an Australian, especially in Sydney today.”
THE WAY FORWARD
After what was a challenging year for everyone, Mrs Melville said the school is excited to be back in the classroom, once again engaging face to face with its students and the wider Auburn South community.
“I hope we continue to embrace and celebrate the diversity in this community because I think it really is reflective of what modern Sydney is going to be,” she said.
“The world these children will go out into and contribute to will hopefully be a better place because of their experience here” – Gai Melville
“I know it’s made me a much better teacher and principal working in this rich community,” Mrs Melville said.
“I know that both that appreciation of difference, and also of what makes us the same, is something that the school will carry into the future.”
By: DOMENIC TRIMBOLI
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