On Tuesday 28th February 2006, 15 students from Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre (IEC) visited Menai High School in the first of many cultural exchanges involving the two schools.
The exchange began as a response to the unrest experienced in Cronulla during December 2005. Students from both schools felt they were being misrepresented in the media and wanted to change perceptions and break down the stereotypes. As a result of this program, the very negative events at Cronulla have led to a number of very positive outcomes for students.
Relationships between students at Menai High and Beverly Hills IEC have been strengthened by their understanding of cultural diversity and their realisation that Australians from diverse backgrounds have more in common than we think.
In March 2006, students from Menai High visited Beverly Hills IEC and took part in a program called Cooling Conflicts. The Premier, Mr Morris Iemma and the Minister for Education, Ms Carmel Tebbutt also attended to observe the exchange. The Cooling Conflicts program aims to provide students with strategies to identify causes of conflict and think of ways to de-escalate that conflict.
The Premier congratulated both schools on their ongoing efforts in breaking down the barriers and improving cultural relations. While visiting Beverly Hills IEC he said:
These students are learning from each other and taking responsibility for ensuring social harmony in their community. They are also learning how to have respect for each other’s social, religious and cultural heritage.
Beverly Hills IEC students are all newly arrived migrant and refugee students. They typically attend the IEC for up to four school terms learning English across the curriculum. After this time, they transfer to mainstream high schools at an age appropriate level. Beverly Hills IEC is located in the southwest region of Sydney.
Menai High School is a large, modern, comprehensive high school serving the Menai, Alfords Point and Illawong areas in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire.