From the CEO
Cath Scarth, AMES Australia CEO
Reflecting the refugee experience through art
Sunday marked the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees and was an opportunity to reflect on the circumstances of the nearly 80 million displaced persons around the world.
The vulnerability of these people and the dangers they face was was brought home to us by the recent tragic fire at the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece.
The global number of displaced people has never been higher and all regions of the world are seeing some level of displacement. Fresh humanitarian crises, such as the recent massive explosion in Lebanon and health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, are adding to the numbers of displaced this year.
Indeed, The COVID-19 pandemic - along with the displacement crisis and climate change - has created a perfect storm of difficulty for displaced people.
Many of these people are particularly vulnerable to the health, economic and social effects of the pandemic. Thousands of them are living in cramped refugee camps without adequate medical and public health support.
Also, in our own community we have seen how newly arrived migrants and refugees are particularly at risk from the negative effects of the pandemic.
So, in this global landscape of the mass displacement of people, terrible conflicts, polarised debate around migration and now the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important to understand the journeys refugees and migrants make and the reasons they make them.
That’s why last week we at AMES Australia were pleased to launch ‘Heartlands 2020: Stories from the inside’, an opportunity for people from new and emerging communities to tell their own authentic stories and present insights and perspectives of the world through the prism of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our amazing photographers and digital artists were invited to submit works that reflect in some way the experience of life under current COVID-19 restrictions while also referencing their own cultural values and traditions.
The result is a stunning collection of authentic images and stories that reflect the first hand experiences, challenges, achievements and aspirations of migrants and refugees.
Victoria’s Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence was kind enough to officially launch the exhibition last week.
We at AMES Australia never cease to be inspired by the resilience, determination and ingenuity many of our migrant, refugee and asylum seeker clients show. And this resilience has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic with all of the challenges it has presented.
And so the theme of this year’s Heartlands exhibition ‘Stories from inside’ is particularly appropriate in that it reflects the restrictions and difficulties we have all been living with – but also because it speaks to how people have been able to adapt to and overcome the these challenges.
We think that projects like Heartlands are a window on our common humanity; that they transcend cultural barriers and that they connect people no matter their race, religion, culture or creed.
I’d like to thank all of the five artists for contributing such a stunning and thought provoking array of work.
I think all of these works convey a deep sense of the strength of the human spirit – so thank you all.
The artwork is available for sale with the proceeds going to the artists. You can look at the exhibition here: https://heartlands.ames.net.au/
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to have a look.
1 October 2020