Talking Difference was a multi-platform online digital media project designed to facilitate dialogue about cultural difference and promote diversity. The project was funded by the VicHealth 'Arts about Us' program which challenged race-based discrimination through the arts. The studio toured Victorian schools and communities from 2010–2016.
The program has allowed me to connect with a specific group of youth, and relate to this group of youth who feel "in the middle" as in, not 100 percent "Australian", but not 100 percent "other"- people who feel "Australian" but don't necessarily look "Australian."
The Talking Difference Portable Studio was a touring installation and online experience, that included a touch screen, HD camera, microphone and lights. The studio allowed participants to watch, create and share multimedia. The participants could watch or read questions posed by members of the community and see other people's responses to the questions as well as add their own comments as video, audio, text and drawing.
VicHealth 'Arts about Us' videos
Portable studio identity
When it wasn't on the road, the Studio had a home in the Immigration Museum's Identity: Yours, Mine, Ours exhibition. Here visitors were able to experience the Studio alongside displays of objects and interactive installations exploring who we are, who others think we are, and what it means to belong and not belong in Australia.
Portable studio touring
City of Moonee Valley
On Monday 7 March, as part of Harmony Week 2016, a very successful partnership between the City of Moonee Valley and Talking Difference began with a local workshop, attended by community members and Moonee Valley City Council (MVCC) staff. The workshop included several lively and passionate conversations that addressed identity, cultural difference and media perceptions of race. Participants also shared their personal experiences of discrimination in Australian society.
At the end of the workshop, several questions were recorded on to the Talking Difference Portable Studio, for members of the public to respond to. Over the next few weeks, in response to these questions the studio received 50 video, audio, written and drawn responses from a community with many thoughts, experiences and concerns to share.
Yarra Ranges Regional Museum
Through August – November 2015, the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum held the exhibition Oil Paint and Ochre: The incredible story of William Barak and the de Purys, a story that explored the complexity of first-generation negotiation between Aboriginal and European people in Australia. The exhibition presented museum objects and stories from the de Pury family collection, including diaries, letters and artefacts.
As part of the exhibition's complementary public programming, the Talking Difference Portable Studio was set up in residency. Exhibition researchers were looking for an engaging and interactive way to bring the story right into the present – to show and remind exhibition visitors that the exchange and negotiation across cultures is ongoing in Australia, and to allow any issues or thoughts raised by the exhibition to be voiced and explored.
North and North-East Victoria
The Talking Difference Portable Studio travelled to North and North-East Victoria in the first half of 2015 to visit three regional centres over a two month period.
The first stop was Yackandandah on 23 February, where a workshop was held with local primary and high school students. Students talked about their experiences with encountering racist jokes.
The Wodonga workshop was held on Tuesday 17 February at ‘The Cube’, a public arts space beside Wodonga Library. It was attended by locals including members of a new local multicultural council which is being set up in the Wodonga area, with the aim of promoting awareness of multiculturalism in the area. There was a great conversation covering many themes, including what it means to be an Australian and the changing nature of nationality in the modern world, and assumptions that people make about appearance and how it relates to perceived English language ability. One workshop participant mentioned how some people assumed she could not speak English very well, and how people had talked slowly to her until she mentioned that she had multiple business degrees.
After two weeks in Wodonga library, the studio was taken toWangarattaand set up at theWangaratta Performing Arts Centre. Fourteen people attended the workshop, including representatives from the North East Multicultural association, City of Wangaratta, and local TAFE and high school students. The discussion was very interesting, and covered a wide range of areas. The group talked about the need to not only oppose racism in society, but to also acknowledge the inherent advantages those who do not experience racism have. There was also discussion about life and culture in small rural areas, and of how living in these areas relates to personal identity. Finally, we talked about making fun of people, how it is accepted as something that is inherently ‘Australian’, and how it can become harmful.
Carrum Downs Library
Monday 4 May to Monday 18 May
On Monday 4 May, the Talking Difference portable studio tour to Carrum Downs and Frankston began with a community workshop at Carrum Downs Library. Local community members from many different backgrounds and varying in age from 16 to 55 attended, and had an interesting discussion, including their views on the advantages and different advantages of having many languages spoken in a community, and how accents influence judgements of people, leading to the following questions being recorded onto the studio:
Do you think it is an asset to have different languages spoken in your community? Why or why not?
Do you have an accent? If so, how do you think it affects how people see you?
Do you feel discriminated against? What happens that makes you feel this way?
Do you feel that you belong in your community? Why or why not?
How do you feel your community views you? Why?
Monday 18 May to Monday 1 June
The Frankston workshop generated questions that focused on local issues:
How culturally diverse is Frankston?
Do you consider Frankston a 'typical' Australian suburb? Why or why not?
What could be done to make Frankston more supportive of different cultures?
The conversation then switched to a more general theme of how welcoming Australia is in general:
Do you think Australia is a welcoming place for new Australians to settle? Why or why not?
Phoenix Youth Centre
On Friday 30 October, the Talking Difference Portable Studio travelled to the Phoenix Youth Centre in Footscray, to undertake a Talking Difference workshop with young members of the local community. The cultural backgrounds of the workshop participants reflected the diversity of the area, with family backgrounds from many countries, including Somalia, Kenya, Serbia, Italy and Sudan.
The workshop that followed covered a lot of topics and generated some interesting conversations. We talked initially talked about stereotyping. A woman with a Serbian family background spoke of her reluctance to tell people of her heritage in case they thought of her as having a problem with Croatian people. A Muslim man talked about the divide between his life experiences (values of respect and acceptance) and the portrayal of Muslim people in the mainstream Australian media.
I think Talking Difference is starting to spark a positive dialogue and debate about your race, culture and identity.
The studio was set up at Braybrook Library and Community Hub from 23 November until 17 December 2015, and member of the public were able to respond to the questions generated in the workshop. Below are the questions, and links to some of the many responses that were received:
When you ask someone where they are from, what are you hoping to learn about them?
Is it ok to tell a joke about someone’s skin colour or race? Who gets to decide if that joke is racist?
What is racism?
Have you ever stereotyped another culture? Has anyone ever stereotyped your culture?
Has the media ever effected your perception of another culture?
Have you ever witnessed racism in society? What happened, and how did it make you feel?
What does an Australian person look like?
In 2014, the Talking Difference Portable Studio has visited libraries and community centres in Swan Hill (Swan Hill Public Library), Geelong (Corio Library and Belmont Library), and Hobsons Bay (Altona North Community, Laverton Hub, Williamstown Library and Altona Meadows Library and Learning Centre), creating opportunities for a broad range of people to have their say. Community workshops, open to the public, were held in all of these venues. During these workshops, participants were able to discuss how race based discrimination has affected their lives, their sense of identity, and the communities they live in.
The Studio toured Brimbank Libraries in 2011 creating opportunities for a broad range of people to have their say. In 2012 the Portable Studio toured regional Victoria including Shepparton, Mildura, Horsham, and East Gippsland.
The first year of the project focused on working with young people from CALD backgrounds living in West Footscray, Hoppers Crossing, Reservoir, West Heidelberg, Southbank, Burwood, Northcote, Glen Waverly, North Sunshine, Pascoe Vale and Geelong.
In July 2010 a Talking Difference pilot team made up of a diverse range of young people from all over greater Melbourne and surrounds was established. Over the course of five months the pilot team met to participate in group discussions around the project themes and to learn skills to create digital content to share their thoughts. You can view content produced by the Pilot Team in the Gallery.
Portable studio online
Here are a selection of the questions and responses collected from the Talking Difference Portable Studio tours throughout Victoria.
The Talking Difference project provided an annual $8000 fellowship from 2010–2014 to support and emerging artist in creating new media works around the themes of difference, commonality, and diversity in Australia.
Meet the fellows
2014 - L-FRESH The LION
L-FRESH The LION is a bright light in Australia’s music scene. Fellow artists and those in the music industry admire his impressive list of achievements. As the Talking Difference Follow L-FRESH The LION worked with Sirius College, Casey Grammar and Overnewton Senior School. He spoke to the students about his experience growing up as an Australian of Sikh heritage in Liverpool, South West Sydney.
Christie is a Melbourne based new media artist and animator, who explores themes of nature, cultural identity and family. During her time as the Talking Difference follow, Christie ran workshops in a number of Victorian Schools. Part of Christie's outcome was a public display of her work with students at Federation Square on the big screen. This was followed by a conversation at the "Testing Ground" where young people were asked about Identity, multiculturalism and racism. L-Fresh The Lion, Abe Nouk and Sarah Firth all joined the conversation.
Sarah is well known for her quirky, witty and playful style that infuses all her creations ranging from painting to alternative comic art, animation, and kinetic sculpture. During her time as the Talking Difference follow Sarah conducted cartoon workshops with school children.
At the age of seventeen, Ana moved to Melbourne, Australia where she completed her secondary studies as well as a Bachelor degree in Media & Communication.
Ana worked on a series of short social-documentary films with migrant families in and around Melbourne as part of her Talking Difference Fellowship. Ana set up her camera at a Ramadan Festival in Broadmeadows to shot a series of family portraits. Over the weekend she took around 40 video portraits of various groups.