Prove your humanity

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised the artworks on display may contain images and voices of people who are deceased. Viewers are warned that there may be works and description that are culturally sensitive, and which may not be used in some public or community contexts.

A new exhibit has arrived at the John Curtin Gallery exploring the sobering realities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders homelessness in Perth.

The Birdiya Maya (Voice of the Elders) Research Project Exhibition began earlier this month and was created in collaboration with the National Drug Research Institute and The Wungening Aboriginal Corporation.

The free exhibition, funded by Lotterywest, consists of videos and photographs both by and of the participants, as well as places significant to their lives and journeys. Clusters of images and their related quotes are spread across the walls of the galleries’ vaulted lobby, like windows into the lives of the participants.

Many participants chose for their quotes to remain anonymous. Photo: Andrew Williams.

According to the 2021 ABS census, “24,930 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people were estimated to be experiencing homelessness, up 6.4% from 23,437 in 2016″. WA has the second highest rate of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness in the country, the Northern Territory being the highest.

Interactive QR codes will bring the inquisitive viewer to a Spotify playlist made up of songs, chosen by the participants, that were important to them while going through homelessness.

The 22-song playlist includes, ICEHOUSE’s Electric Blue, Adele’s Easy On Me, AC/DC’s Highway to hell and It’s a Long Way to the Top. Open to the public Monday to Friday 11am-5pm, and on Sunday 12pm-4pm, the exhibit will come to an end on 9 July 2023.

The National Drug Research Institute works to minimise the harm associated with legal and illegal drug use and is one of the largest centres of alcohol and other drug research expertise in Australia.

This poster was created to explore what the academic thinking around what ‘home’ means for Aboriginal and first nations people. Credit: Wungening.

This is not the first time the NDRI has worked with the Wungening Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation that provides free services that inform, educate, and address the harmful effects of alcohol, drugs, and other substances on individuals, families, and communities.

The research project was started in late 2021 and aims to:

  1. Identify barriers to engagement with temporary accommodation.
  2. Identify the needs of this cohort during times of additional crisis, such as a pandemic/lockdown.
  3. Develop an understanding of the lived experience of this cohort during the crisis – including changes in their health, mental health, AOD use, social support and service utilisation.
  4. Provide recommendations for future practice.

Photo: Andrew Williams.

Birdiya Maya also coincides with the Kalyagool Karni-Wangkiny (Telling Truth Always): A Decade of Carrolup exhibit. Arriving at the John Curtin Gallery back in May, Kalyagool Karni-Wangkiny shares the story and artwork of First Nations Carrolup child artists to generate understanding of the lives and experiences of the Stolen Generations.

After almost 45 years of being stored in boxes at Colgate University in New York, artwork made by the children at the Carrolup Native Settlement in WA’s Southwest makes up most of the exhibit, which will also come to an end 9 July 2023.

The findings of the research report will likely be presented at a closed report launch towards the end of the exhibits run.