Do you remember the fears and joys of learning to ride a bike or swim for the first time? Imagine doing it as an adult who has had to leave all that they know for a new life in a strange country. This is part of the experience explored in a new exhibition at Coffs Harbour Regional Museum – ‘Stories to Freedom’ – opening on May 17.
‘Stories to Freedom’ gives insight into the past, present and future lives of refugee and migrant women living and working in our community. In particular, it highlights the joys and trepidations of learning new skills and sharing new experiences.
“Coffs Harbour has been a welcoming home to people of all backgrounds and nationalities for many years now. Most are united by the fact that they are refugees or migrants from their homeland, but each person’s experience is very different,” said Jo Besley, Museum Curator.
“For me, the exhibition highlights the importance of friendship and support as women from across the world help each other to navigate these experiences.
“That’s why this exhibition is so fascinating. It expands its theme by concentrating on the work of Anglicare’s 3Es Program through photography and film, as well as by featuring handmade textile artworks created by the women who take part in the program.”
Made during workshops led by local artist Frances Larder – whose highly successful textile exhibition ‘Landscape of the Soul’ was held at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery in 2018 – these textile artworks also showcase some of the extraordinary traditional skills and handcrafts these newest residents have brought with them to Australia.
The exhibition is presented by Anglicare North Coast, the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services, Southern Cross University and Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.
It opens on May 17 and runs until June 29. Coffs Harbour Regional Museum is located at 215 Harbour Drive and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Entry is free.
The 3Es Program aims to help migrant women learn new skills – such as basic IT and job-seeking tools, English language education, support to attain vocational qualifications, as well as social and parenting knowledge – with the ultimate goal of getting into work.