It’s been a big week for asylum seekers in the Australian media. After Dutton’s much talked about comments earlier this week, the timing for the opening night of the I Came By Boat exhibition couldn’t be better.
On display are 13 portraits of Australians who happened to have arrived here by boat.
Each portrait is accompanied by a story; a personal journey of uncertainty, poverty, war and detention. Each story told willingly in a bid to highlight the contribution of refugees in Australia.
Photographer Lucas Allen manages to capture distinctions in ethnicities and cultural diversity in the minimalist portraits. The one consistent feature being the ‘everyday Australian’ aspect of each photograph.
The unspeakable words ‘boat people’ hardly come to mind when walking through the gallery. In fact, it looks like they might have stepped off a plane much like the other one in four migrants who now call Australia home.
John Gulzari, an Afghani Hazara, was one of the participants in the campaign.
“I think that refugee and asylum seekers have been let down, by the minister [Peter Dutton] and by politicians [in general]. They have always been demonized.” Says John.
John Fled Afghanistan as a teenager in 1999. He first traveled to Pakistan, then on to Indonesia where he boarded a boat heading for Australia.
His story is all too familiar, one which combines the best and the worst of humanity. In 2007 John became a fully-fledged Australian citizen and active participant in Victorian politics.
“[The campaign] will raise the profile of asylum seekers and refugees, especially as it becomes a hot debate in politics.”
And a hot debate it is indeed. Although the campaign serves to disprove Dutton’s statement that asylum seekers are all illiterate, it does highlight the fact that they are actually employable.
But let’s be honest, if you had choose between Dr.Munjed Al Muderis and myself to perform life-saving surgery on a loved one, you’d be pretty thankful he stole that job away from me.
So let’s not delve too deep into the statement that illiterate beings, who speak no English, are stealing our jobs, whilst simultaneously sapping your tax dollars because they’re on the dole. The memes circulating Facebook are doing a rather good job of breaking down that argument on their own.
The exhibition will be open to the public from Friday the 20th of May to Sunday the 22nd of May from 11am-5pm.
It’s a highly regarded campaign Australia wide, with talks it may venture interstate.
Eva Orner, director of recently released documentary film Chasing Asylum attended the opening. In a joint event with I Came By Boat, Orner will take part in a Q&A session following the screening of her film next Sunday the 29th of May at Cinema Nova.
Thanks to Blanka Dudas, the driving force behind the campaign, you can expect to see the posters popping up around Melbourne sometime in June, just in time for the federal election.
If you can, get down to 9 Glasshouse Road in Collingwood over the weekend, it’s a great exhibit and an accurate reflection of how we need to view refugees and asylum seekers, just like anyone else.
To donate you can visit the I Came By Boat website here. Tickets are also still available to the Q&A screening of Chasing Asylum.