Celebrating 10 years with the ‘Faces of Young Australia’ photo project

Faces of Young Australia project Faces of Young Australia project. Photographer: James Bryans

The year in which EYIN decided to undertake the Faces of Young Australian project, 1996, was a year in which the value of multiculturalism was being challenged by voices within both politics and broader public debate. In September, the newly elected One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson made the unfounded assertion that Australians wanted the immigration policies reviewed and multiculturalism abolished. People migrating from Asian countries were specifically targeted by Hanson in her anti-immigration statements. Hanson’s public statements and policy positions were seen to give license to racist rhetoric in public forums, and the Ethnic Youth Issues Network found themselves needing to challenge misinformation and hostility about multiculturalism in the public realm.

Prime Minister John Howard’s refusal to condemn Pauline Hanson’s comments sparked alarm amongst community members and organisations about his level of support for multiculturalism. Howard’s newly elected Liberal/National Coalition Federal Government had also announced sweeping changes to the ways in which multicultural affairs were managed within Government, withdrawn funding for programs and drastically reduced the intake of immigrants under the family reunion category.

This was an era when community voices asserting the strengths and benefits of multiculturalism were critically important. Over 40,000 people attended the ‘Take a Stand Against Racism’ rally in the Victorian Treasury Gardens in December 1996. Support for multiculturalism was also asserted by the Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, who condemned Pauline Hanson’s comments, publicly voiced his opposition to cuts to the family reunion immigration program and expressed his strong commitment to multiculturalism and the culturally diverse community in Victoria.1 It was in this context that EYIN commissioned a final year photography student to capture the diversity of young people in Victoria, which were then featured as a visual display, education tool and on a poster asserting the strength of multiculturalism. Their display at the immigration museum to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of EYIN in 1999 marked ‘a celebration of the achievements of ethnic young people and their ability to push for their rights as citizens in Australia.’2

Faces of Young Australia Exhibition, Booklet Cover EYIN (1999) Faces of Young Australia Exhibition, Booklet Cover
Carmel Guerra and James Bryans, 1997 Carmel Guerra, EYIN Coordinator and James Bryans, Photographer, at completion of the Faces of Young Australia Project, 1997

1 Heinz, B. (2009) Many Hopes, One Dream: The story of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria. p. 115.

2 Immigration Museum and the Ethnic Youth Issues Network (1999) Faces of Young Australia: Ethnic Youth Issues Network celebrates 10 years of service: 17th May 1999 – 11th July 1999, exhibition brochure.

Images credit: Faces of Young Australia photograph series, photographer James Bryans.