Just a few days ago, it was a plain brick wall.
Now the entrance to Newcastle Senior School at Waratah holds a colourful mural proclaiming the special relationship between its staff and students and those on board HMAS Newcastle.
The mural was unveiled on Monday by the commanding officer of the Newcastle, Commander Anita Sellick, herself a Novocastrian.
"I had no idea what the mural was going to look like until it was unveiled, and it looks amazing," said Commander Sellick. "I love the way it has a really happy feel about it."
The mural was planned and designed over nine months via emails and phone calls from ship to shore and back again, between Lieutenant Commander Gavin Newhill, on the Newcastle, and Hunter Valley artists Peter Sesselmann and Stevi Cannon.
The work features the ship sailing into the port past Newcastle landmarks, with depictions of students and crew members. The mural was unveiled before the school community, former Lady Mayoress Margaret McNaughton, the artists, and 22 personnel from the ship.
The Newcastle is visiting its namesake city for the final time before the Royal Australian Navy warship is decommissioned on June 30.
How the mural has helped transform the school wall is symbolic of the difference the Newcastle has made to the lives of the 60 students with disabilities, and to the staff, according to principal Janelle Newman.
"Every time we walk out of the school, we'll see this amazing mural," Mrs Newman said.
"It's a symbol of the dedication and generosity of spirit of HMAS Newcastle.
For about 27 years, even before the ship was in service, the Newcastle has supported and raised funds for the school.
As well as the mural, the Newcastle's company gave to the school a cheque for $27,500, which Mrs Newman said would help buy exercise equipment.
The principal said through the years, the ship had donated more than $100,000 to the school, and its crew members had also given their time, visiting whenever they were in port, and taking the students on tours of the Newcastle. The mural was a lasting reminder of that contribution.
"It brightens our lives, and we'll revisit that relationship every time we see it," she said.
Janelle Newman told the gathering with the Newcastle's decommissioning, "we are very saddened that partnership will come to an end".
But it was revealed at the mural unveiling another relationship with an RAN ship would begin. HMAS Choules would adopt the school as its charity partner. The surprise announcement by Command Warrant Officer Brad Lahey, from the Choules, prompted gasps and applause from the audience.
"We had a few tears earlier, now we've got lots," Mrs Newman said.
HMAS Newcastle departs its namesake city for the final time on Tuesday at 10am. It will be farewelled with a seven-gun salute from Fort Scratchley.
So the Newcastle will be gone, but its image, and those of some of its crew, will remain on the school's wall.
"That relationship is immortalised," said Commander Anita Sellick, as she looked at the mural, "and that's what we wanted."
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