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New exhibition uses virtual reality to voice Aboriginal survivor stories

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Western Australians will be transported back in time via virtual reality to gain an insight into the personal experiences of Stolen Generations survivors as part of a new exhibition held at the State Library of WA.

Limen – At the Fence’ shares the personal stories of Bibblemun-Kaneang woman Edith De Giambattista (nee Smith), Wilman-Koreng-Kaneang man Tony Hansen and Koreng-Nyungar man Tim Flowers through a virtual reality recreation of the Carrolup-Marribank mission, a QR-coded interactive portrait experience and a fence art installation.

The exhibition, which forms part of the MissionsConnect project that was named a winner at the 2021 WA Heritage Awards on Friday night, is presented by Curtin University’s School of Design and the Built Environment in partnership with Bringing Them Home WA, BHP Billiton Pty Ltd and the State Library of Western Australia.

Curator and lead researcher Professor Reena Tiwari, from Curtin University’s School of Design and the Built Environment, said the exhibition marked the first of many truth-telling public programs using multimedia to come out of the Stolen Generations Immersive Hub at Curtin University.

“Through this exhibition, we aim to make visible some of the loss of language, culture, family and belonging that are at the root of many ongoing issues facing Stolen Generations survivors and their families today,” Professor Tiwari said.

WA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation Chair Jim Morrison said: “Limen is an organic process unifying Aboriginal corporations, universities, governments and critically, Stolen Generations Survivors, with their stories of childhood resilience, in the context of the places they lived”.

Mr Hansen said: “It’s about truth. The truth is never far away from what we are sharing with you [all] today – we need truth, we want justice, without justice, we can’t heal. We want to heal not just as individuals but as a collective”.

Professor Tiwari said a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 46 per cent of Aboriginal people within WA are Stolen Generations survivors and their children, meaning some 40,000 people were affected by epigenetic and developmental trauma histories.

“That report paints a disturbing picture of mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, disability and poor economic security factors for the Stolen Generations and their intergenerationally-traumatised families,” Professor Tiwari said.

“Through ‘Limen – At the Fence’, we are seeking to encourage empathy and provide an alternative view of the Stolen Generations’ experience that has in the past been distorted, filtered and transformed through a colonial lens. The exhibition’s name – ‘At the Fence‘ – holds a hope that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Australia will hold hands and cross over the fence together.”

The exhibition has been led by the survivors and curated by Professor Tiwari, Dr Chamila Subasinghe and Emeritus Professor John Stephens, from Curtin’s School of Design and the Built Environment.

Limen – At the Fence’ is on display at the State Library of Western Australia until January 31, 2022.

MissionsConnect was named the winner of the Interpretation Project at the WA Heritage Awards held on November 19.

According to the judges, the award was presented to MissionsConnect “for documenting the State heritage-listed site of Mogumber mission and capturing the intangible heritage, the memories and lived experiences of the Stolen Generations Survivors of Mogumber. The judges noted that using this immersive technology to develop an interactive interpretation of the existing and electronically reconstructed physical fabric of Mogumber has allowed the Survivors to tell an important and difficult story in their own voices.”

The MissionsConnect project is led by Professor Tiwari, and the team includes Emeritus Professor John Stephens, Renee Parnell, Wesley Lamont and Dr Dean Chan. The project is being directed by the views of the Stolen Generations Survivors and their families, and involves close partnership with Bringing Them Home WA Director Jim Morrison.

For more information about the exhibition, visit here.

Further information about MissionsConnect can also be found here.

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