Australian artists take action for asylum seekers

By Maggie Watson in conversation with Lucy Feagins | 24 Jul 15
Annette O'Brien

100,000 hot lunches for asylum seekers.

Six months of groceries for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) Foodbank, providing food for 200 families per week.

Over 3000 medical appointments through the ASRC Health Program, supporting asylum seekers without income or access to Medicare.

Funding for the ASRC Legal Coordinator to provide advice and legal representation to over 550 asylum seekers.

This is what The Design Files’ Editor and Founder, Lucy Feagins, hopes could be provided by the anticipated $40,000-$50,000 raised for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in her upcoming fundraiser exhibition opening this Saturday 25th July in Collingwood.

Feagins has been a vocal advocate for the work done by the ASRC and has also publically criticised Australia’s current asylum seeker policies. Earlier in the year her spontaneous Instagram post in support of Adelaide-based street artist Peter Drew’s Real Australians Say Welcome campaign (covered previously by Right Now here) led to an outpouring of compassionate creativity by hundreds of Australian designers and artists. Back in 2014, The Design Files also raised over $10,000 for the ASRC in just one weekend through a simple gold coin donation scheme at their annual Open House event.

Hosting an annual charitable fundraiser has always been something that Feagins wanted to see incorporated into The Design Files’ calendar of events. After securing a permanent exhibition space in Collingwood earlier in the year, and following on the success of their Open House fundraiser, Feagins approached the ASRC with the concept of a larger project. The result is the inaugural fundraising exhibition opening this Saturday. Featuring 32 artworks donated by 28 Australian emerging and established artists, the sale proceeds of all the exhibited works will go directly towards the ASRC.

Laura Jones, Scarlet Banksia, 2015, oil on linen, 41 x 41 cm

Laura Jones, ‘Scarlet Banksia’

Belynda Henry, 'My Heart Skipped a Beat'

Belynda Henry, ‘My Heart Skipped a Beat’

Started as a hobby by Feagins in 2008, within a year The Design Files was labelled by The Times (UK) as one of the world’s Top 50 design blogs and has gone on to become Australia’s most successful design blog. The most popular content is the weekly segment on Australian homes and Feagins was conscious of the connection between this aspect of her blog and asylum seekers: vulnerable people fleeing the dangers of their home and struggling to make another in a foreign land.

Asked about whether she was worried about any negative reactions to affiliating The Design Files with support for asylum seekers, Feagins calmly responds, “It’s a good question, but actually no I wasn’t. I’m a very independent person and I like to know that when I feel very passionately about an issue, as I do in this case, that it’s my choice to make a stand and potentially deal with a small amount of fallout, if that happens, for something that I see is contributing to an important social cause.”

But while Feagins does admit that she was prepared for a small amount of negativity she’s found that the response has been overwhelmingly positive with no negative feedback at all. She credits the lack of animosity partially to the fact that the fundraiser is linked with a creative project, “It’s a beautiful event that showcases Australian talent while raising awareness.”

By hosting the fundraiser within the positive experience of an art exhibition, Feagins hopes it provides an opportunity to talk about asylum seekers outside of a political setting, like a rally or protest, and thereby extend the conversation beyond the standard audience.

It’s an attempt by Feagins to encourage us all to contribute to this cause in whichever small way we can.

“I feel like a tiny voice in a massive ocean with much more influential media involved, but I guess this exhibition is about normalising the way we speak about asylum seekers and removing all the buzz words and rhetoric we hear from certain media outlets and politicians. I feel that we can’t leave this issue alone,” she says.

“We’re only a little voice, and this event is a tiny drop in the ocean, but nevertheless every person and small company and fundraiser that draws attention to this issue does contribute to a wider conversation and we can’t feel like we’re too small to do anything.”

This is a sentiment echoed by the CEO of the ASRC, Kon Karapanagiotidis who has stated, “It is a beautiful expression of hope to have so many talented artists donate their amazing works to raise funds for the work of the ASRC. It shows that everyone can make a difference with the tools they have and that our community is full of generous and compassionate people. We are very proud to be working with the incredible team at The Design Files who have done such a great job bringing everyone together for this exhibition.”

The Design Files’ fundraising exhibition goes beyond art for art’s sake, and demonstrates how, by working collectively and creatively, we can help change the negative discourse about asylum seekers. The funds raised will not only enable the ASRC to provide its much-needed support of food, medicine and legal assistance, but through the exhibition’s spirit of inclusivity and generosity, it will help those who have come to our shores in search of refuge to find community, friendship and ultimately a new place to call home.

RACHEL CASTLE_Little Garden 3

Rachel Castle, ‘Little Garden 3’

Emily Ferretti, 'Gesture 18 (through)'

Emily Ferretti, ‘Gesture 18 (through)’


The Design Files Inaugural Annual Fundraiser

Open from 25 to 31 July 2015

TDF Collect 
14 Little Oxford St 
Collingwood, VIC

Opening 25 July 2015, 4.00pm – 6.00pm

For more information about The Design Files and their fundraising exhibition, including exhibiting artists and artworks, please visit TDF Collect.
For more information on the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre please visit their website.