I started working on this project about the Sudanese diaspora in Australia after photographing a family for another project set in the suburbs. According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Sudanese community is currently one of the fastest growing groups in Australia. In the last few years many Sudanese migrants have moved into the area where I live and I’ve watched their integration into our (largely Anglo) community with interest.
After making my first portrait of a family who’d been in Australia for 4 years, I suddenly had many other families asking me to make portraits of them too. Throughout the process of photographing, I heard many stories as to how and why they’d arrived here. As a mother with my own family, I find it impossible not to be moved. Stories of immense courage and sacrifice but also of hope, for a brighter future in Australia.
Australia is a country that maintains a controversial record for embracing migrants; government policies are parochial at best and there remains an underlying racist tension which is deeply rooted in a traumatic and unacknowledged indigenous history. And so, I wonder how this community will settle and maintain a sense of their own identity? How will they integrate and contribute to the cultural future of Australia?
As I negotiate my engagement with the community, my aim with this project is to continue working on the series of portraits but to also evolve it into a larger body about identity, displacement and belonging as well as the process of integration and citizenship in the context of the Australian suburbs. In making this portrait of my new neighbours, I hope to find some measure of understanding that transcends culture and language and that I can share with my fellow Australians for the present and into the future.