A round of applause interrupted Liam Jolley’s presentation of Bega High School's message tree at the Refugee Rally on Friday.
"While we were making this tree, there was concern that it was too political for a government school to take a stance on refugee issues,” Liam told the crowd.
"But this isn't a political issue, it's a humanitarian issue."
The tree's branches were painted gold, and it's trunk wrapped in colourful wool.
Paper leaves with messages for or about refugees hung from every limb.
The Year 11 Bega High student explained the tree was created to show refugees they are welcome in Australia.
He also expressed concern at the political division surrounding refugees in Australia.
"There is a lot of people from the left side of politics here today, and that is great that you have come out to support the rally,” he said.
"But if we're going to make progress on this issue, we need to reach out to the other side and discuss the mutual benefits of improving refugee policy."
Several students worked together to decorate the tree under the guidance of Bega High's art teacher, Breony Delforce.
The paper leaves were provided to all year groups during their social and humanities classes to pen a message to refugees in Australia.
But, this step of the process brought up some difficulties.
Some of the messages left on the leaves expressed closed minded or negative views toward people seeking refuge.
Instead of being dismayed, Ms Delforce said this helped teachers to identify the harmful perceptions of refugees, and use these points to open up a productive dialogue around the topic in their classrooms.
"That way, as teachers, we're not standing there lecturing our students about what to think about refugees," she said.
"We're letting students who haven't had much exposure to other cultures learn from their peers experiences, which is often more influential than what we tell them anyway."
Liam estimated there were about a hundred leaves on the tree so far.
A box with blank leaves was left for others at the rally to make their own contributions.