Peacemakers track change through creativity

Creative: Bashar Hanna, Shahala Khamis, and Yousif Yousif from the Peacemakers Ensemble. Picture: Simon Bennett
Creative: Bashar Hanna, Shahala Khamis, and Yousif Yousif from the Peacemakers Ensemble. Picture: Simon Bennett

Music is many thing to many people. For Bashar Hanna, music is healing.

The facilitating artist of the Fairfield-based The Peacemakers Ensemble has seen first-hand how music has helped refugees.

Exhibit A is himself. 

“I believe in the power of music, the  power of singing and the power of creative in healing. I tried it on myself and now I promote it to help others,” he said.

“I arrived in Australia from Iraq in 1998 and in the past 20 years I couldn’t have dreamed of what I have achieved. Things I could never do in my homeland.

“I tell the refugees I work with to take my eyes and see the beauty of this wonderful Australia. It has opened doors and given me a safe pace and an opportunity but I had to do something to get the benefit of the opportunity and adapt to a new way of living to get the most out of it.”

The Peacemakers Ensemble were one of eight local community groups to receive $5000 to assist them in running artistic programs that promote community participation and social inclusion yesterday.

Fairfield Council’s Social Change Through Creativity program promotes the inclusion of community members that would not otherwise have an opportunity to take part in such projects.

Mr Hanna said the money will be used for a program titled TRACK – Trauma Recovery and Creative Knowledge.

Newly-arrived young and senior-aged Mesopotamian and Syrian refugees  will produce a musical composition and explore trauma and healing through 12-week mentoring workshops in partnership with STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation for Torture and Trauma Survivors) at Carramar.

In the process they will break down language barriers and promote social inclusion.

“When you get refugees doing something creative they feel like they are participating in something in society and increases their sense of belonging and social inclusion,” Mr Hanna said.

“We want to include their own story and voices in the production and embed traditional instruments.” 

Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone presented the cheques to recipients at a ceremony at Fairfield Council on Thursday. He said he looks forward to seeing these projects in action and making a “real difference” in the community and the lives of residents who normally wouldn’t be able to participate.

“These grants provide an opportunity for groups to help the community come together in unique and creative ways – through music, art, storytelling and festivals. Grant winners will help domestic violence victims, newly-arrived refugees, young adults with disabilities, and children who are deaf – in a unique, engaging and interactive way,” he said.

Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone with Social Change Through Creativity grant recipients.

Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone with Social Change Through Creativity grant recipients.

The other successful projects were:

  • Women in Action: “Awakening Our Goddesses” will work with women survivors of domestic violence to facilitate healing and explore emotions through a series of arts-based workshops guided by professionals. Project participants will exhibit final artworks.
  • Al-Muntada (Iraqi Australian University Graduates Forum): The “2018 Iraqi Australian Youth Festival of Ideas and Culture” will be held in December. The project focuses on intergenerational and cultural understanding while developing the cultural production capacity of youth previously mentored through the Iraqi Artist mentorship program.
  • The Parks Community Network: “Fighting to Save Fairfield (A Health Initiative)” seeks to raise awareness about the high rates of male and youth suicide in Fairfield through film and social media. The project looks at how Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities view the stigma around mental health. Young people will foster community conversations about mental health.
  • Fairfield Old Timers History Group: “The Fairfield West History Project” will engage the community to compile a brief history of Fairfield West from its time as a small farming area. This will be presented at Whitlam Library through a storytelling event.
  • Fairfield Youth Outreach: “It’s OK To Be Different” is a collaborative song-writing project for young adults living with disabilities in Fairfield. This collaborative project consists of 12 workshops where participants can break the cycle of isolation.
  • Community Outreach Services (CASA): “The Emotionary Project” is an art-therapy initiative working with parents and their children to explore their emotions through an “altered-book” project. These intergenerational workshops will work on developing emotional intelligence and competency.
  • The Shepherd Centre: "Audible Art - A specialist playgroup for children in Fairfield who are deaf" is a series of art and music workshops to engage hearing impaired children in experiential learning culminating in an exhibition. The program reduces social isolation providing a safe network for both parents and children.