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Photo exhibition highlights the rich lives of refugee communities

12 June 20150 comments

Heartlands_catalogueThis week marked the opening of a stunning photographic exhibition that offers a window into the stories and lives of refugee communities across Australia.

The 2015 AMES Heartlands Photographic Exhibition, titled “Seeking Safety” showcases the works of four photographers who have given an insight into the lives of refugee communities in Australia.

The show was launched on Thursday night at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, and is showing in five different locations across Melbourne until the end of September.

The exhibition was launched by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs the Hon. Robin Scott who said the photographs were highly representative of our common humanity.

“The photographs are a strong representation of the one thing we all have in common; the fact we are all human and we all have hopes and dreams and families we cherish.”

He said the government and people of Victoria highly valued diversity and multiculturalism.

“We don’t just tolerate diversity; we celebrate it and we nurture it. It is who we are,” Minister Scott said.

Award winning photographer and Hazara refugee Barat Ali Batoor documented the lives of the Burmese Karen community in Werribee and the western Victorian town of Nhill.

Batoor took up photography as a means of telling the stories of his people, and last year he won Photo of the Year at the Nikon-Walkley Awards.

Amateur photographer Abdul Ibrahim chose to document his own Somali refugee community living in and around Carlton’s public housing precinct.

Ibrahim, himself a refugee, through his photography aims to highlight the issues that affect refugee communities as well as fostering understanding and acceptance from the wider community.

Sydney-based photographer Conor Ashleigh captured the essence of the burgeoning South Sudanese community in NSW, in what is one of several exhibitions of his work.

Ashleigh has taken photographs for many respected publications across the world, and developed a passion for social justice after volunteering overseas as a 16 year old.

And respected Australian photojournalist Andy Drewitt documented the lives of older refugees who came to Australia from war-torn Europe following the Second World War.

“I wanted to focus on the demographic of people who came to Australia and have been here a long time,” Mr Drewitt said.

“There is a lot of talk at the moment about asylum seekers, and a lot of it is negative.

“I wanted to show that these people are an established part of Australia and our community. The exhibition is a demonstration of them being a community.

“My favourite part of my experience was hearing people’s stories, and being able to connect with them on an emotional level,” he said.

Mr Drewitt said some of the interviews brought his subjects to tears when discussing their homeland and what forced them to leave in the first place.

“It also helped me as a person. It really puts things in perspective.”

Mr Drewitt is a two-time Walkley Award winner and has covered a plethora of social issues across the world including mental health, homelessness, disability and disease.

The striking collection of photographs offers an insight into the personal lives, cultures and customs of Australia’s diverse refugee community, at a time when the refugee crisis across the world is the worst that it has been since the end of World War II.

Currently it is estimated that there are 51 million refugees displaced over the globe, so there has never been a more pertinent time to raise refugee awareness.

The exhibition is being held at the Footscray Community Arts Centre until the 28th June before being showcased at other venues across Melbourne.

Full details of the locations and dates can be found below.

Venue: Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland St Footscray
Dates: Thursday 4 June – Sunday 28 June

Venue: The Atrium, Federation Square, Melbourne
Dates: Monday 29 June – Sunday 5 July

Venue: Werribee Plaza Library, Hearths Rd & Derrimut Rd, Werribee
Dates: Monday 6 July – Friday 31 July

Venue: Point Cook Community Centre, 1-21 Cheltenham St, Point Cook
Dates: Monday 6 July – Friday 31 July

Venue: Walker St Gallery, Cnr Walker & Robinsons St, Dandenong
Dates:  Friday 7 August –  Monday 31 August

Laurie Nowell
AMES Senior Journalist