Urban Campfires exhibition showcasing new art at NJC

The City of Yarra is home to a multitude of emerging and established artists, continually producing powerful and engaging bodies of work. And with the launch of the 2017 Urban Campfires exhibition at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood, many of these artists get the chance to tell their stories alongside each other.

Changing up every six months, the Urban Campfires exhibition calls for artworks produced by artists in Yarra to reflect the exciting diversity of the area, while simultaneously providing a great location for amateur and professional artists to showcase their work.

Community Engagement & Communications Coordinator at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC), Ann Strunks, says that many of the benefits of the exhibition are quite subtle.

“Urban Campfires may seem a crazy way to give people a say in justice,” she said, “but art is a very powerful form of communication, and it’s another way we listen to the heartbeat of Yarra.”

The NJC is a holistic justice centre, according to Strunks, where you will find a multi-jurisdictional court, treatment agencies, community-based crime prevention teams, defence and police prosecution teams.

“Our court goes a step further than the average Magistrates’ Court as we give people on the downward spiral of offending the treatment services and support they need to turn their lives around,” said Strunks.

In addition to the NJC’s commitment to solving the problems associated with criminal behaviour, the NJC openly supports everyone in the community. Urban Campfires is just one other way they are making Yarra a more welcoming and safe space.

“Over the years, newly arrived asylum seekers have shown incredibly moving work [for the Urban Campfires exhibition], exploring the search for home and peace, and people living under the shadow of Alzheimer’s have crafted work that’s explored how the mind works when thoughts are as ephemeral as butterflies,” Strunks said.

“And of course, a lot of artists create art that’s simply exuberant, particularly the children from local schools and playgroups. The NJC is probably the only court to display art made entirely of cotton buds, sparkles, and ice-cream sticks!” she said.

The 2017 exhibition launching in April is produced by BANH Inc., a community support service for the most disadvantaged in the City of Yarra.

Leading the exhibition is Curator Laila Costa, who is aiming to show artwork that really explores social justice issues.

“I am always on the lookout for edgy, kooky and envelope-pushing art,” she said.

Although the exhibition is going strong, with more than a couple of extraordinary past exhibitions, Costa would like to widen the scope to include more community engagement and experimental projects.

“There are so many possibilities to reach out and collaborate to make creative works that inspire, educate and increase well-being,” she said.

The NJC is Australia’s only community justice centre and is showing that this innovative way of tying community interests closely to a justice system is helping community members in a big way.

“I would like there to be many more Neighbourhood Justice Centres rolled out across the country as it deals with justice in a progressive and innovative manner. The data and statistics prove it works better than the traditional justice system and all sectors of community benefit,” Costa said.

To find out more about the Community Justice Model, head here. The NJC provides a ‘Reflections on Practice’ piece, which, the website says, will “explore the flexibility and transferability of community justice.”

To check out the Urban Campfires exhibition, head to the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood. The current exhibition will run for a further 6 months.

Written by Roxanne Fitzgerald.

Political debates, portraits and hot topics. Refugees are in the Spotlight this weekend.

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.

Blanka Dudas & photographer, Lucas Allen

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.

Left to Right: John Gulzari and Dr Munjed Al Muderis
Left to Right: John Gulzari and Dr Munjed Al Muderis

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.”

Opening Night of the I Came By Boat Exhibition

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.

Good Food and Wine Show on this weekend

3 dishes of food

If you love tasty food and wine, then you’re in for a treat this weekend. The Good Food and Wine Show started today and is finishing on Sunday June 1st at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Learn how to cook from some of Australia’s most talented chefs, such as Matt Moran and Adam D’Sylva, by watching them cook a three-course meal live on stage. You may be inspired to cook yourself and participate in the many masterclasses on offer, ranging from preparing an Italian breakfast with 2011’s MKR winners Sammy and Bella to learning how to make the famous Zumbarons with Adrian Zumbo. For those more content to eat their way through the exhibition, you will be able to sample some of Australia’s finest wines and cheeses, graze on tucker from Melbourne’s most popular food trucks, or pick up some fresh produce at the Farmers ‘Market Lane.

Sure to be an enjoyable day and you’ll go home very full too.

– yarraReporter team