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Artistic freedom

  • 24 June 2006

In the heat of the arguments that have continued since episodes such as the Tampa crisis of 2001, terms like ‘queue jumpers’ have been used so often we are in danger of thinking the labels are true.

In Victoria, Port Philip Council recently hosted a series of art installations, ‘Six weeks of asylum, Six weeks of compassion’, as a means of highlighting the situation of refugees, promoting community awareness, and conveying a message of support to those in detention centres around Australia.

Artists Bronwyn Weingott, Jessica Salehian and Tamsin Salehian have created a series of installations around Port Philip Bay. Extending along the Elwood foreshore, a line of figures stand among the shrubs leading up from the water. These are the ‘queue jumpers’—figures clad in woollen jumpers, nameless and faceless, some alone, some coming ashore as family. The abstract, and at times disturbing work reflects Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and the much-needed values of compassion and understanding. Such works speak of our moral obligation to assist refugees, reminding us that asylum seekers are people, not a label. 

Sarah Dickson-Hoyle is a Year 10 student at MLC who compiled this text and photo-essay while on work experience with Eureka Street.