Welcome Walls is a grassroots initiative that brings together public artists and refugee communities to co-create messages of ‘welcome’ through striking mural designs.

This project is fuelled by the transformative power of public art. Art enables us to share our stories, express our identities, and empower one another while creating a harmonious and compassionate community. Welcome Walls partnered with Parramatta Council for the official Australia Day 2017 celebrations, at which we delivered live, participatory mural painting as a highlight of the program. This event marked the launch of a month long celebration of diversity through large scale public art works, exhibitions, workshops and talks.

The concepts for each artwork arise out of a series of 'co-design' workshops to which the wider community is invited to collaborate with local artists to shape the messages, concepts, and images behind the public art works. These workshops provide a platform for established and emerging artists from Indigenous and multi-cultural backgrounds to connect with the community and young people's voices.

A number of sites, including two temporary walls in Parramatta Park, help to raise Indigenous cultural awareness whilst celebrating our multi-cultural landscape. Through our co-design process and the engaging medium of participatory public art, we hope to educate and engage the community, especially young people.

Our pilot event in 2017 was extremely successful and provided invaluable insight. We were able to tap into the target market of young people ranging from 0 - 18 years at the Australia Day event in Parramatta, which hosted 60,000 people. Throughout the day, hundreds of young people from all different backgrounds were instantly engaged and curious about the Welcome Walls initiative. There is a disarming quality about participatory art that allows for genuine connections, ones that surpass perceived social and cultural barriers.

Young people were able to express themselves creatively in collaboration with professional artists and peers in an inclusive environment, feel an integral part of the creative process, and positively contribute to a public artwork. This very tangible and physical reward is rooted in the positive effects of community and participation.

This project provides a new and unique platform for engagement by providing a place in which community members can come together to creatively celebrate culture, stories, and experiences, while tangibly shaping their shared public space. This is particularly beneficial for young people. This project provides young people with a creative way to engage with the issues of racism, discrimination, exclusion, and marginalisation. Welcome Walls provides a platform through which to collectively reimagine a society built upon the values of inclusion, humanity, and peace. Welcome Walls is committed to celebrating our social and cultural diversity through co- designed public art whilst building a new generation of artist voices.