Woven together

Weaving classes and English lessons: an Ellenbrook woman’s project to help one of Perth’s fastest growing migrant populations. Video: Cason Ho.

“My child passed away in 2009… I didn’t go back to English lessons after.”

Faridah Amer moved to Australia and began taking English classes at TAFE in 2002, but had to stop after falling pregnant. Photo: Cason Ho.

A final ‘Sculptural Weaving’ workshop was held today in Ellenbrook, ahead of an art exhibition that will feature works by culturally diverse and migrant women.

The host of the class was Fiona Gavino, an intercultural artist with Filipino, Maori and Australian heritage.

She says weaving is a universal art form.

“It’s important to bring different cultures together… and weaving occurs across many different cultures.”

Attending the workshop was a group of women from Sister Project, a local initiative aimed at providing English lessons and other services to women from diverse backgrounds.

Ellenbrook resident Tracey Cave started the initiative when she noticed the needs of her growing community weren’t being met.

Recent census and population data shows the number of people living in Ellenbrook ballooned from around 22,000 in 2016 to more than 40,000 in 2018, and nearly 40 per cent of its community is made up of migrants.

Ellenbrook has proportionally high Indian and South African populations. Data: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“As far as I know we are the only ones who support migrant and refugee women in this area,” Ms Cave says.

The WA Labor Government announced a $60,000 funding commitment to Sister Project before the state election, but Ms Cave says the group still requires support to fund more activities and opportunities.

“We have to seek funding for each individual activity, first aid certificate training, family days out to Perth Zoo. We’ve got swimming lessons coming up,” she says.

Ms Cave’s experience living overseas sparked her commitment to helping migrant and refugee women, and prompted her to quit her full-time job to run Sister Project.

Sister Project founder Tracey Cave spent time caring for baby Ayak while her mother was in the workshop. Photo: Cason Ho.

“I’m living off savings at the moment, but it will run out eventually.”

Ms Cave says it’s important for services to exist that encourage migrant assimilation into Australian communities.

“It can take a generation for them to learn how to do things, even after 10 or 11 years they could still be learning how to get past interviews and how to finish their training,” she says.

“By that time their children have grown up, and you’re limiting the next generation on choices they can make for their education, their jobs and their careers.”

One woman going through this process is Alek Akuoch, who migrated to Sydney in 2016, but had to move again to Western Australia after facing personal issues.

“My baby turned 8 months old today,” Ms Akuoch says.

“I moved to WA to live with my cousins.”

Sister Project’s art exhibition will launch on April 30 with paintings, pottery and woven pieces, African drama and dance acts, as well as music performances.

Ms Akuoch attends Sister Project’s English lessons and other workshops with her baby Ayak. Photo: Cason Ho.

Categories: Community, General

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