WER1
Spencer
Fitzroy High School.
WeR1 project
Sayings, some people we talked to.
Photograph by Predrag Cancar

WeR1

Celebrating cultural diversity

WeR1 Project   2009 – 2012
Celebrating cultural diversity

‘So you have ethnic groups being supported as ethnic groups but little is being done to get everyone together.’
Anita Nayar, India’s Consul-General in Melbourne, The Age Saturday, December 12, 2009

Funded by VicHealth, Arts About Us WeR1 is an exciting arts project that will be delivered over three years to promote cultural diversity in Victoria and ‘to get everyone together’.

Using the gallery’s extensive collection, staff, artists and resources, the project will have a strong emphasis on reducing ethnic and race-based discrimination among young people from Indigenous, non English speaking communities and Anglo-Australians.

The first year of the project (mid 2009 – mid 2010) involved 40 participants (in total) aged 12 to 17 recruited from North Geelong Secondary College (2009) and Kurunjang Secondary College in Melton (2010)

These schools were selected because of their culturally diverse student population.

With a strong focus on Indigenous art, WeR1 was successfully delivered over twelve weeks predominately at the two schools by NGV staff, Indigenous artists and performers.

The project culminated in Whitewash a collaborative installation by NGV WeR1 Project participants and award winning Indigenous artist Bindi Cole for the NGV’s Water wall in conjunction with Reconciliation Week
 
Whitewash was made up of two components. Video projection and soundscape.

The video was a living portrait of a young Koori man wearing only a pair of shorts. He gazed at the viewer while black ooze constantly washed off him. 

The soundscape was a collection of responses given by the WeR1 project participants to the following questions:

•    What is an Aboriginal person?
•    What does an Aboriginal person look like?
•    Where does an Aboriginal person live?
•    Do you know an Aboriginal person?

Testimonies

Art teacher - Joan McMahon 
‘This project is enlightened education, involving the development of the whole student in supportive and stimulating environments.
WeR1 enabled students to develop empathy, social skills, connectedness and relationship building...’

Students

‘I had no idea that Aboriginal people had suffered so much’ 
‘I’ll never think the same about Aborigines’
‘Thank you for the opportunity to express ourselves and to meet other people’

The Human Rights Commission has stepped up efforts to stamp out racism in Australian schools after finding that seven out of ten people aged 12 to 19 had experienced it, either as a victim, a witness or as a perpetrator.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, told a conference in Melbourne that racism remained a serious problem in Australian schools, warning that racist jokes, offensive name calling and cultural stereotyping were widespread.
The Age, July 4, 2010

Using the gallery’s extensive collection, staff, artists and resources, the second year of WeR 1 will continue to promote cultural diversity in Victoria and ‘to get everyone together’.

Unlike the first year of the project, which engaged Indigenous artists and performers to develop and implement a series of workshops, the second year will engage artists and performers from predominately Muslim faith backgrounds.

Why?

There is a great deal of interest in, and misunderstanding about, Australia’s Muslim communities. Muslim Australians are not a uniform group as some media reports might lead us to believe, but make up a small, culturally diverse section of Australian society.

Over a third (36 per cent) of Muslim Australians are Australian-born, while those who have arrived here as immigrants come from all over the world.

Almost 50 per cent of Australian Muslims are aged 24 and under.
The idea of what Islam is about is often not communicated in a positive way. As a consequence many young associate Islam with radicalism.

The participants will learn about the idea of looking beyond the surface, or initially perceived. They will relate this wisdom to their daily lives and their relationships with people as members of the community and also the global village.

They will develop an appreciation of diversity, different cultural and religious perspectives.

Participants will explore the common humanity shared by members of the community as well as exploring the differences.
Overall the project will foster an understanding between participants and the wider community, building on positive attitudes and beliefs.

In 2010, (August- November) the project was delivered to Euroa Secondary College, a small regional school whose population of 350 students is predominately Anglo Australian.

In 2011, (March-June) the project was delivered to Hume Central Secondary College, Broadmeadows.

Euroa Secondary College was selected because it doesn’t have a culturally diverse student population.

Hume Central Secondary College was selected because it has a culturally diverse population.

Each of the two groups of participants will attend the program for a half day a week for 10 - 12 weeks.
some people we talked to

In 2010, the project culminated in an exhibition titled, some people we talked to of portrait photographs with accompanying audio.  some people we talked to staged in a vacant shop in the main street of Euroa.

The subjects for this exhibition were members of the local and wider community.

The subjects were photographed and interviewed by the WeR1 participants over two days at the Euroa Butter Factory. The interviews were edited into a 16 minute audio and made available, via headphones, in the exhibition space.

Visitors to the exhibition were also invited to create their very own an anti-discrimination badge. 

In July 2011, The WeR1 participants from Hume Central Secondary College collaborated with artist Clare McCracken and commuters at Broadmeadow Station to produce a series of free black and white postcards called Platform 1 – some people we talked to that reflect and represent the cultural diversity of the city of Broadmeadows.

The postcards comprised silhouette stencilled portraits of people from Broadmeadows who were interviewed and photographed by the student participants at the Broadmeadows railway station.

The postcards were distributed at the station, the school and the local shopping precinct.

Sayings-some people we talked to

For 12 weeks from early September 2011, Fitzroy High School became the fifth school to participate in the WeR1 project.

In December of 2011 with the support of the Queens Parade Traders Association, Clifton Hill,  students from the Fitzroy Secondary College presented  ‘Sayings’ – some people we talked to, an exhibition in several shop windows, of portrait photographs with sayings that explore culture diversity.

The exhibition, designed by Malcolm Thomas was up for one week.

The launch was held in a vacant shop that has recently been acquired by Birkenstock Australia in Queens Parade.

Two local cafes provided the catering and the Essential Ingredients provided the refreshments.

For 12 weeks from late February to early June 2012, Kyneton Secondary College became the sixth school to participate in the WeR1 project.

Kyneton Secondary College was selected because of its low socio-economic status and its mono-cultural community. 

In June with the support of the traders along Piper Street, Kyneton, the WeR1 participants presented their version of  ‘Sayings’ – some people we talked to, an exhibition in several shop windows, of portrait photographs with sayings that celebrated culture diversity.

The launch was staged at Stockroom.

VET students from Kyneton Secondary College provide the catering and service.

Music students provided the entertainment.
Over 60 people attended the launch.

Testimony from Maddy, one of the participants

The NGV was able to give us a unique experience, that we all can learn and benefit from. One of the main topics that we concentrated on throughout the 12 weeks was racial stereotyping and how it impacts on people.

One of the most eye opening conversations we had was with two of the artists from the ‘Crooked Rib Group’. We spoke to two highly inspiring Muslim women who shared personal experiences with dealing with racial stereotyping. Being able to discuss how society’s view affects people was really thought provoking, and an experience that we never really had within the school program.

For us, this was not only a great way to extend our knowledge about the art world, but to get out into the wider community and address relevant topics that  stimulated our social conscience.

We will really miss the weekly visits to Melbourne, but we are able to take away the valuable experience and for that we are entirely grateful to the NGV and school for providing it. It was truly an amazing opportunity. Thank you….