Artwork celebrates 70 years of support for migrants and refugees

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By Laurie Nowell

A new permanent artwork display that celebrates 70 years of AMES Australia’s work supporting migrants and refugees to settle in Australia has been unveiled at the organisation’s head office in Little Collins St.

The work, titled Prepare to Weather, by Brisbane-based artist Pamela See, uses the motifs of migratory herons, clouds and images of waves of migrants to chart Australia’s immigration story and AMES Australia’s history of delivering nation-building migration programs.

Ms See’s other works, mostly paper cut collages, have been exhibited at The National Gallery of Australia, The National Portrait Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of South Australia, The Parliament House Collection and The Australian War Memorial.

The artwork marks 70 years of AMES Australia’s work supporting migrants and refugees settle successfully in Australia.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the artwork was a fitting representation of AMES’ work building social cohesion and multiculturalism in Australia.

“The work embodies the spirit of AMES’ work nurturing emerging communities and it tells the journey of post-war migration to Australia in a compelling and deeply human way,” she said.

From humble beginnings teaching English to new arrivals in makeshift Nissen huts at Bonegilla, AMES Australia has grown into one of Australia’s leading settlement agencies, delivering services to more than 30,000 clients and touching the lives of more than 250,000 people from multicultural communities each year.

Formally established in 1951, the organisation’s original mission of teaching English to new migrants has grown to include humanitarian settlement, employment services and community development programs. The first AMES services were delivered this week in 1952

AMES Australia was an integral part of the birth of multiculturalism, a term that was new in the 1970s, but which now is accepted as an accurate description of the cultural and ethnic diversity of contemporary Australia.

The organisation’s programs are aimed at fostering a sense of belonging among its clients as it recognises that social and economic participation are key ingredients in maintaining social cohesion.

AMES Australia’s network of more than 600 staff and 500 volunteers – 43 per cent of whom were born overseas and collectively speak more than 90 languages – work to create community links between our clients and the broader society.

In supporting nearly four million people new to these shores on their settlement journeys Ms Scarth said AMES was proud to have contributed to the transformation of Australia’s economic, cultural and social life. •

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