Last month, I did a tour in Perth, Australia that had street art as a central focus. Among the most remarkable pieces encountered was a set of posters by Peter Drew.
One poster said “REAL AUSTRALIANS SAY WELCOME” while another featured a striking profile of a vaguely South Asian man in a turban beneath which was printed “AUSSIE.”
The guide explained that Drew had been placing thousands of these posters all across Australia in recent years.
The “Real Australians Say Welcome” posters campaign came first as a way of combating rising anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments by reminding people that Australia is a nation of immigrants and welcoming newcomers was part of its heritage and a great strength.
The “Aussie” posters have been the latest project and is designed to remind people of the myriad nationalities and ethnicities that are now part of Australia’s larger identity. The turban-wearing poster features the likeness of Monga Khan, an Indian who migrated to Australia and had to apply for an exemption to the country’s White Australia policy to become a legal citizen in the early 20th century.
I have since noticed these posters in various spots throughout my travels in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Launceston.
Drew’s newest project is is called “Real Australians Seek Welcome” and highlights issues surrounding the languages and rights of Australia’s indigenous people. He’s currently raising money for that project.
Beyond highlighting the projects and perhaps spurring thought about how this ties into our own national policy discussions back in the U.S., I’m reminded of the “Welcome to Raleigh, Y’all!” campaign being led by the group Come Out & Show Them. That project is described as “a campaign to talk about immigration, deportation, and sanctuary in Raleigh.”
Their first large street mural installation was just completed at The Pour House in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina a day ago. They’re also planning an identical campaign for Durham, NC.
The similarities in the programs is pretty cool to observe, even if the political/ social environments that make them necessary in two of the world’s greatest immigrant-based nations isn’t.