This semester Student Enrichment coordinated the national ‘Arts for Refugees’ project in response to the current refugee crisis. Its aim was to reach out to the wider community from our ACU campuses with a united message of hope and compassion.
The Arts for Refugees project was launched on each campus with a number of key students and staff coming together to design their campus project. These workshops were designed to engage students in the ‘making’ process for 5-10 minutes at a time and to open conversations with them about the refugee crisis.
Wherever possible, we invited external refugee support groups to contribute to our project which gave our students opportunity to hear the people’s stories and gain more understanding and perspective of the issues and experiences that refugee and asylum seekers are facing. Each campus chose to create an artistically inspired message of hope, and the process of making these proved to be as important as the final product.
The workshops held on Melbourne campus saw students write messages of hope on paper chains which were to signify the interconnectedness of all people. Over the three week period, over 200 students engaged in the creation of paper chains, which were joined and presented as the final art installation. A total of $163.15 for the ‘Welcome Group’ was also raised at the final launch.
In Brisbane, staff and students created an art installation of paper planes and boats and named it “Plane Action. Plane Speaking”. This was created by over 50 students and staff during three weeks of ‘pop up’ paper folding workshops on the Community Court. The simplicity of the project allowed many students and staff to get involved and the paper planes and paper boats were chosen as these are the images often seen in the media.
At Strathfield, Student Enrichment created 60 bamboo frames and held six lantern-making workshops over a two week period, engaging 90 students and 30 staff in the process. Through making connections with ‘The House of Welcome’, several refugees attended the lantern–making workshops and also prepared some of the catering for the launch and liturgy day on campus.
The Strathfield ‘Arts for Refugees’ liturgy and launch was held on Wednesday 21 October. Imam Afroz Ali, Managing Director of ‘Seekers Hub Global’ attended and gave the address on “Finding the God of Mercy”, followed by Paul Bottrill who shared with all about the ‘House of Welcome’. AVC Marea Nicholson gave the final thanksgiving message for 2015 to close. Over 80 students and staff attended the final Liturgy and launch of the project. The sale of the rice paper lanterns raised $220.00 which has been donated to the ‘House of Welcome’.
North Sydney students crafted doves with messages of hope as their project for ACU’s ‘Arts for Refugees’. A small group of students also designed and constructed a small boat to contribute to the final display. Student Enrichment enjoyed having as many as 45 students engage with them in the process, and as many again who stopped to engage in conversation about refugees or to listen to students talk about the project.
On October 14 North Sydney launched their project with a group of 25 people attending to hear the life story from a refugee. This young man’s story was heart-felt and students and staff were impelled to ask questions afterwards and thank him for sharing. The program ended with a performance by two students from the North Sydney Creative and Performing Arts Society, light refreshments and a liturgy hosted by Campus Ministry.
The Canberra ‘Arts for Refugees’ project culminated in a special liturgy in the final week of semester, which was followed by a bake sale led by the local ‘Refugee Action Committee’. Over $370 was raised through the bake sale, with all proceeds being donated to ‘Companion House’, a Canberra-based organisation that gives direct support to people from a refugee background and asylum seekers living in the ACT. The Arts for Refugees project was successful in encouraging positive conversations among students and staff about how we can assist in welcoming refugees to Australia.