City News

A Photographic Eye to World of Refugees

One of the photographs from the 'Coming to Australia' collection held at the Australian Maritime Museum.   SYR04_2012_10_Aleppo_MASeif_020-panels

Refugees, fleeing the ravages of World War 2, wave aboard the ships which carried them to safety. A young Syrian girl sits in a classroom of empty desks, dreaming of a better future.
These are just two photos from two separate photographic exhibitions featuring refugees around the world which will be opening in Sydney in commemoration of Refugee Week 2014, on June 15 to June 21.
Wayside Chapel and the Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (JRS) will begin the commemorations with a photo exhibition called ‘‘Sanctuary and Sustenance’’. It chronicles the stories of Syrian and Congolese refugees as they flee from persecution and danger.
The photo exhibition was first held in Rome last year to acclaim and makes its debut in Australia.
Service policy and advocacy head Oliver White said the photo exhibition demonstrates how hospitality and the bridging of religious and ethnic divides can help refugees become active members of the community.
“The images are clustered around three titles. In the face of adversity, hospitality opens doors. In the face of adversity, food nourishes and shelter protects. In the face of adversity, education builds futures.
“They are the kind of key areas of work that JRS does around the world.”
Government and advocacy manager Marcus Ross said it was an honour for the exhibition to feature at Wayside Chapel.
“We think it’s very important that we partner with people in our local area and when you see the exhibition, there’s a strong idea about people making the journey and how important at the end of that journey that there is a community.
“It fits Wayside’s values perfectly.”
Mr Ross said photography provides a powerful voice for marginalised people to communicate a message of empathy in the political context.
Meanwhile, the Australian Maritime Museum will display a selection of 150 photographs which depict the work of the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) and the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) in the 1940s and 1950s.
The exhibition “Coming to Australia- photographs from the IRO and ICEM” was made possible by the work of the late Keith Woodward, an Australian journalist who worked with the committee from 1957 to 1961.
Collection curator Kim Tao said the display of photographs also ties in to the 70th anniversary of post World War 2 migration and refugee programmes next year.
“We’ve got photographs that cover the actual interviews [with immigration staff], the vaccinations that everyone had to get, of boarding the ships, on the ships and arriving in Australia,’’ Ms Tao said.
“I think it’s a really great insight into the intergovernmental cooperation that was required to resettle people after the war.
‘’They are really powerful portraits that capture the universal emotions of many migrants and refugees and aspects of hope, fear and anticipation, as well as adventure that characterise migration.’’
This is the first time the collection of photographs has been shown to the public. Ms Tao hopes they may prompt some people to come forward to identify themselves and flesh out the historical narrative behind the photos.
Mr Woodward’s daughter, Barbara Alysen, gave the photographs of her father’s work to the museum in the early 1990s. She said she is happy they are being put to good use.
“I understood that it had historical relevance and I hoped a national collection would be able to make use of it.”
‘’Coming to Australia’’ opens in the Australian Maritime Museum on June 11 and ends on September 14, while ‘’Sanctuary and Sustenance’’ opens on June 15 and ends on June 21.

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