Virtual EAL New Arrivals Program / by Glenn Dixon

In April we travelled to four schools in regional Victoria to document the stories of three students who receive specialist English language support as part of the Virtual English As An Additional Language (EAL) New Arrivals Program. 

I was commissioned by the EAL and Multicultural Unit of the Department of Education and Training to create films promoting the program. Our objective is to raise awareness of the program within regional school networks and encourage more families to take up this valuable offering.  

I invited my father to join my on the road to share the driving and support the production. In the first week we visited Albert, a Nepali student attending Mitta Mitta Primary School. Next we drove to Murrayville to film Micaela, a South African student attending the Community College. The following week we were in Apollo Bay to capture the story of Art, a year 9 student recently arrived from Thailand. Once back in Melbourne we filmed at the Victorian School of Languages where the program is hosted and interviewed the teaching staff.

Students dial in to receive their weekly lessons via a video conferencing unit. When we arrived back to Melbourne, it was a surreal experience seeing the students again on screen during the lessons. Only days before I had been standing in those now incredibly distant rooms filming. For the teachers at the VSL, this webcam perspective is the view they typically see of their students - they don’t usually meet in person. I felt privileged in being granted a unique perspective, I know what lies slightly beyond view of the webcams frame. I have a modest insight into the contexts of the communities in which these students have recently settled. I know how the main street glows under light from the setting sun, I know the smell of the dust and the taste of the food at the only restaurant in town. It was a privilege to be invited briefly into these regional communities, to hear their concerns, empathise with their circumstances and celebrate their victories.