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Refugee students create a brighter future

The simplest creative classroom activities such as singing, drawing and story-telling have been found to benefit refugee school children in multiple ways.

In a study released today Victoria University researchers working with six Melbourne schools found that arts-based programs fostered well-being, created a sense of belonging and assisted students in their studies.

The New Moves study was conducted by Professor Michele Grossman and Associate Professor Christopher Sonn for The Song Room, an educational organisation that provides music and arts-based programs for children in disadvantaged communities.

The research confirms earlier studies pointing to positive outcomes for disadvantaged children who participate in arts and music activities. This is the first time that the impact of these programs has been assessed specifically on refugee school children.

"We found that newly arrived refugee young people respond particularly well to these kinds of activities for a variety of reasons," Professor Grossman said.

"Language is one factor – this program does not require high level English-language skills. But it's more than that. Singing, dancing and story-telling are universal art forms which allow young refugee people from diverse backgrounds to express themselves more freely than they can through conventional studies.  

"In the classroom setting these activities provide a ready means for young refugees to have fun, and to form strong relationships with their peers and with their teachers, which in turn help them settle in at school and in the community." 

The report calls for The Song Room program to be embedded in the curriculum so it can be offered to schools more widely across the nation.

"The positive benefits of this program cannot be underestimated," Associate Professor Sonn said. "Refugee background kids found new ways of sharing their own cultures through the arts while simultaneously broadening their educational and creative horizons through learning about other cultures.

"Some of the strongest impacts were in their learning overall, including in subjects such as English and maths – there were flow-on benefits for their schooling and their confidence from doing The Song Room classes."

CEO of The Song Room Caroline Aebersold said the research provided undeniable evidence of the benefits of art-based learning, but there was more work to do: "The study also highlights the inequity in educational outcomes for too many young Australians, particularly those from socially disadvantaged areas."

The New Moves report was launched today as part of Refugee Week activities at BMW Edge in Melbourne's Federation Square with support from the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy.

For interview: Michele Grossman, 0434 075 386 and Caroline Aebersold, 0408 388 156

Media inquiries: Jim Buckell, External Communications Manager,

Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University, Ph: (03) 9919 4243; mobile: 0400 465 459; email: jim.buckell@vu.edu.au

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