Milpera State High School: Preparing Children From Over 41 Different Countries for Life in Australia

Milpera State High School
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Google Maps

Imagine a school where students come from over 41 different countries, many of them refugees from war-torn regions or children of migrants, all of them speaking languages other than English. These children are the reasons why Milpera State High School in Chelmer came into being.

Named after the Aboriginal word meaning “a meeting place of brothers and sisters,” Milpera State School brings hope and opportunity to children and youth who have moved to Australia from all over the world under challenging, mostly disadvantaged, circumstances.

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“Milpera is an intensive English-language school, and our kids come from more than 41 different countries to learn English to prepare them to go on to high schools, or…to TAFE.”

Julie Peel, Principal of Milpera State High School

With a commitment to maximising the full potential of every student within a socially just and culturally inclusive environment, Milpera State High School is a rarity among schools in the country as they aim to address the needs of young people who need to assimilate into a new country and learn a new language whilst getting a good education.

Established in 1979, this special-purpose state high school has been providing intensive English language education and settlement services to empower its diverse student population to flourish in their new lives in Australia.

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Milpera was originally based on the grounds of Corinda State High School, close to the migrant hostel in Wacol, which shut down in 1987. Around that same period, the facility outgrew its site and relocated to its present address along Parker St in Chelmer.

Its name was changed from Corinda Special School to Milpera State High School to reflect its vision and mission for being. The school also took in students from Darra, aside from Corinda, Wacol and Chelmer. 

Adapting and Adjusting to Fill a Need

Photo Credit: Monument Australia

Before the 1970s, the need for a school like Milpera was minimal. Back then, Australia’s policy favoured migration from specific European countries, resulting in fewer challenges for non-English speaking students.

However, as times changed, the school encountered various waves of migrant groups, influenced by geopolitical conflicts and changing migration policies of the government. 

As a result, Milpera acted as a proactive barometer that adapted to the circumstances that required constant flexibility. The school adjusted its multilingual, multinational teacher aides to align with the changing language requirements of its students.

Because of the rich cultural diversity and linguistic backgrounds of its students, Milpera has comprehensive educational and settlement services that are tailored to meet the specific needs of each learner and their family, ensuring the best outcomes.

Highly-Skilled Teachers

At Milpera, the teaching team and staff understand the challenges faced by their students, who often hail from low socioeconomic backgrounds and experience upheaval.

The school’s support system is robust, providing essential guidance to help students navigate these obstacles.

English is taught through language, literacy, and literature, as well as humanities topics, mathematics, science, and health and physical education. Additionally, students enjoy the therapeutic benefits of art and develop valuable coding skills.

The school also has a program called “Milpera Live” to deliver lessons online, a robust tool that enables educators to reach students in unconventional ways.

The principal, Julie Peel, talks about Milpera Live.

The educators at the school possess formal qualifications in teaching English as an Additional Language and employ innovative approaches to impart the right skills across various subjects.

“…we have a new student in one of our classrooms who’s using an iPad to communicate with us… they use (the technology) as a tool to learn. So it absolutely does speed up and enhance their experience of being a bit more joy in the classroom.”

Abdul Le Ibrahimi, Teacher Aide

A Sense of Belonging

Today, the school welcomes both permanent residents and those with temporary or bridging visas, with all students approved by the Minister for Education to attend school in Australia.

Beyond academics, Milpera fosters good settlement and a strong sense of belonging through carefully curated learning experiences and an extensive extra-curricular program.

At the school, conflicts and divisions from students’ home countries are left behind, allowing Muslim and Christian students, as well as individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds, to coexist peacefully.

Students from the same regions often find more common ground than divisions, sharing similar interests in food, art, music, and sports. 

Central to the school’s mission is equipping students with the skills and knowledge to thrive in an Australian classroom and beyond. The student-centered curriculum is designed to offer highly contextualised language learning experiences, ensuring that students develop the English language proficiency necessary for their future academic and career pathways.

“It’s an extremely rewarding school to work in because we do get ot observe that great distance travelled.”

Julie Peel, Principal of Milpera State High School

Despite the many challenges faced by its students, Milpera State High School has achieved exceptional outcomes. The school’s holistic approach to education, which encompasses not only language acquisition but also settlement skills and values such as gender equality, contributes to the students’ overall success.

Published 5-July-2023