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Under One Sky story collaboration builds understanding across cultures

14 Nov 2017

When you bring together 60 students from 15 countries who are either storytellers, or have a story to tell, you can produce some pretty special work. 

At least, that’s what happened with the ‘Under One Sky’ book collaboration when Melbourne Polytechnic students from the English as an Additional Language (EAL) courses were invited to share their stories with students from the Diploma of Photography and Photo Editing and Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing.

Program Director Joel Rainford says the project is about giving students from multiple disciplines the opportunity to work together in a practical creative work scenario. 

“It's something that gives students real life experience in terms of writing students working on a real story, photographers working on a real photo rather than just models or make believe stuff. So, it was real industry experience for them.”

For the EAL students in the Adult Migrant English Program, the collaboration is a fantastic way for them to practice their English speaking and storytelling skills in a real-life situation, says Joel. 

The project divided the students into groups of four or five, usually with two EAL students, one photographer and one writer, a collaboration across disciplines most students had never encountered. 

“What the photography students got out of it was to work alongside a writer and subject, which they hadn’t done before,” says Joel. 

The photographers were able to work alongside a writer and subject to tell a story and the experience was replicated for the writing and EAL students, says Joel. 

The project was structured over four sessions at Melbourne Polytechnic’s Prahran Campus, forming part of the students' assessment for their respective courses. 

At first, everyone was a bit nervous. The photography and writing students were anxious about speaking to real subjects for the first time, while the EAL students felt the same about speaking English with strangers. 

“The experience was initially quite daunting, because there were a lot of unknowns… But, we found after the very first session, [the students] really enjoyed the experience of the collaborative project in small groups.”

“We noticed in the last session, they’d made friends and people were hugging goodbye.”

The culmination of the project is a 70 page book telling the stories of 30 migrant and refugees to Australia, Under One Sky. The book is filled with photos from the photography students and words from the writing and editing students.

The cover illustration was done by one of Melbourne Polytechnic's Advanced Diploma of Creative Product Development students, and the graphic design and layout was done by an Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design student.

View the video of the 'Under One Sky' book launch here.


Media enquiries should be directed to Melbourne Polytechnic Media Officer, Anita Coia, on 03 9269 1251, mobile 0466 453 467, or

Melbourne Polytechnic operates across seven campuses and five specialist training centres throughout Melbourne. The institute delivers high quality vocational and higher education in industry-standard facilities.