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Migrant Peace Project connecting the Manningham community

The community art project will feature artwork created in collaboration with migrant artists and is expected to be installed in Ruffey Lake Park by early 2025.

The City of Manningham is a multicultural community, with many migrants from Asian countries. 42 percent of residents speak another language rather than English at home, making Manningham home to residents born in 98 different countries, speaking 72 different languages.

In 2018, the Manningham Council pledged to join the Welcoming Australia network and is now moving towards fulfilling the Australian Standard for Welcoming Cities. This network comprises cities, shires, and towns nationwide dedicated to ensuring everyone feels valued and included by promoting access, equity, and opportunities for all residents within their jurisdiction.

Through this network, the Manningham Council has recently announced the Migrant Peace Project, after calls from multicultural community groups to create a public space that reflects on peace and the Australian migrant experience. The project is aligned with the key principles of the Manningham Public Art Policy.

Manningham Council community development worker, Nuru Johnston was one of six people from two teams who approved the expression of interest for the project, which she says has been a long time coming.

“I’m glad I was part of the team who approved the decision,” she tells upstart.

“This project has just been on paper for so long and the multicultural community within the Manningham area have been pushing for this idea for a long time now, so to finally see the project coming to life has many people happy.”

Johnston, who has been working for the Manningham Council for just over a year, moved from Tanzania in East Africa in 2021.

“Where I’m originally from, our voices were shut down, so it’s great to see people having the freedom to express their feelings in a peaceful way,” she says.

As a community development worker who has worked with multicultural communities all her life, Johnston says that there needed to be action to recognise multicultural communities within the area.

“There needed to be a little bit of a gap filled, which is why I wanted to work in Manningham and have everyone’s voices heard,” she says.

“The multiculturalism and community are why I love working in Manningham and I love to think that Manningham is a very welcoming space which is accommodating to everyone promoting peace, harmony and free for people to have a voice.”

Manningham Mayor Councillor, Carli Lange, also said it was time for the council to listen to the thoughts from multicultural communities and take action to recognise those people and their past experiences.

“The consultation with our multicultural community revealed some residents of Manningham had witnessed violence or conflict in their countries of origin,” she tells upstart.

“It highlighted the benefits of providing a place that acknowledged these events, while also encouraging reflection on the importance of peace, inclusion and mutual respect.”

Creating community art projects has emerged as a popular method for helping residents connect. Art projects ‘Sentinel’ and ‘River Peel’ which were made in 2000, are some of the earliest and more iconic works still standing in the Manningham community. These works symbolise the surrounding creeks and rivers the landscape is encompassed by.

Johnston said that collaborative art-making strengthens community bonds, and offers significant benefits for community well-being, unity, and inclusivity.

“It shows that people are in support and that we are acknowledging the people with multicultural backgrounds within our council… it’s like showing good faith to multicultural people,” she says.

Manningham is home to numerous well-maintained community reserves and parks, including Ruffey Lake Park, a favourite among locals and visitors since its opening in 1977. According to Manningham Mayor Councillor Carli Lange, Ruffey Lake was the clear choice for displaying the art project due to its ideal location and peaceful nature.

“It’s a popular spot in Manningham, where many visitors and residents often come to spend time together.”

The artwork will be placed at the north-east section of Ruffey Lake Park. Photo: by author

The project is currently in the community engagement phase, involving collaboration, research, and development. The call for expressions of interest from migrant artists ended on April 23, and many are now awaiting selection news. Artists will be chosen based on their history of creating impactful community-engaged artworks.

The selected artist will work closely with Manningham’s migrant community to incorporate their experiences into the artwork, fostering community storytelling and resilience through creative workshops and gatherings.

The artwork, designed to harmonise with the natural environment, will have a lifespan of five years. Funded by a $36,000 council commission, the project is expected to be installed by early 2025, creating a beautiful place for the Manningham community to come together in peace, reminding us that we all deserve to feel safe, included and together as one.

“When people feel like they are being heard by their local councils, it’s a positive thing,” Johnston says. “Because it creates stronger relationships with our people and it’s also creating a sense of trust once they feel heard.”


Article: Owen Watts is a third-year Bachelor of Media and Communications (Journalism) student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter @owenwatts283.

Photo: by author

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