Established migrant groups in Australia often complain that their stories are overlooked as they become assimilated into mainstream society, and fresh waves arrive. There is a real fear that their tales may be lost.
The Immigration Museum, the custodian of our collective memories, hopes to quell the myth that it is ignoring the needs of post-war migrants, or any other group for that matter, by giving all communities the chance to tell their stories in a new exhibition that is set to open its doors to the public in April 2020. There is currently a call out for submissions, and the only migrant groups to be overlooked in the new display will be the ones that fail to engage.
The coming-of-age themed new display envisages to be a mosaic of common experiences presented by different communities, who are urged to share their growing pains and stories of entry into adulthood filtered through their own cultural perspectives via photographs, diary entries, home videos, objects or other miscellaneous items.
Rohini Kappadath, General Manager of the Immigration Museum, says the latest initiative was a spin-off following the success of last summer’s LOVE exhibition. The focus this time is on the transition into adulthood.
“All humans undergo this process, and we wanted to offer this broad topic so that people can share their personal stories, memories, and anecdotes,” Ms Kappadath told Neos Kosmos.
“Navigating the journey to adulthood is messy, emotional, hilarious, and different for everyone.
“Coming of age comes can happen at any time or many times throughout the course of our lives, and the poignancy of the topic resonates with me.”
It’s an apt theme for a museum that itself is challenged to incorporate the stories of so many diverse migrant groups and loose definitions of what it means to be a migrant. It experienced its own growing pains a few months ago when it debated on whether to change its name from the Immigration Museum to the Museum of Shared Humanity. Neos Kosmos lead the charge against this, in an effort to ensure that the migrant plight would not be forgotten, whitewashed and ‘suffocated’ under a blanket of ‘shared humanity’ when migration is also one of turbulence, trauma and isolation.
For Ms Kappadath, however, trauma need not necessarily be divisive – it can be unifying.
Whether Greek, Indian, or Vietnamese, our coming of age stories evoke universal feelings, regardless of the cultural prism through which they are filtered.
No sooner was the call for stories sent out, that the museum received at least 35 submissions, and more are expected. “We’ll use all of them,” she says, even those that don’t overtly appear to be immigrant coming of age stories. “Whilst we are anchored in the story of migration, we also feel that almost everyone, even indigenous people, have a migration story to tell. We are all migrants experiencing migration through various lenses.”
The latest exhibition is yet another example of the museum’s own vision.
“This exhibition reflects the Immigration Museum’s commitment to community engagement and giving space to people to contribute their own stories, in their own voices. We can’t wait to hear about the multitude of experiences held within people’s coming-of-age journeys,” Ms Kappadath says adding the museum’s interest in reflecting “authentic voices”.
“We have been on this journey of revitalisation for quite some time,” she says. “We recognise that as society changes it is important to evolve and are looking at ways to strengthen our voice.”
People from all walks of life are invited to share their memories in this exploration of the diverse experience of becoming an adult. The Greek community is filled with such tales of strict parents, repression and even cross-cultural experiences that make cultural milestones all that more interesting. They are urged to share these moments, to recount the good, the bad, the embarrassing, the triumphant, the monumental and the mundane from the coming-of-age stories of promised brides 50 years ago to young girls who still sneak out of home today.
Greeks who feel it is important to have the Greek voice documented should submit their own stories.
Members of the public are invited to submit their story by Friday 20 December via the Immigration Museum website (https://museumsvictoria.com.au/immigrationmuseum/about-us/get-involved/what-is-your-coming-of-age-story/)
THE LAST COMMUNITY FORUM
Forums have been held by the Immigration Museum over the last few weeks.
At these meetings, migrant communities were given the chance to share their views regarding the museum.
“As we enter our third decade, we are looking at ways to grow our impact and strengthen connections with current and future visitors, and we’d love to hear your thoughts,” states the museum’s website.
The final community forum takes place at Geelong Library Heritage Centre from 5.30-6.30pm on Monday, 9 December.
Members of the community are urged to attend by registering their participation.