Ruth Crow Corner

This year's Arts House’s Refuge project - the fourth on a five-year initiative - will respond to displacement. By giving alternative perspectives, ideas and processes, Refuge creates a platform for artists to motivate and influence future planning for emergency situations and climate crisis. Over the past four years, Refuge has inspired experts from Emergency Management Victoria, Australian Red Cross, SES and other emergency service providers to consider the different approaches that arts practice can contribute when preparing for disaster responses and recovery. As the climate crisis worsens, the impacts associated with displacement become more complex – it’s an ongoing urgent economic, social and existential threat to countries and people throughout the world.  Everyone in Australia is impacted by displacement – it’s a form of social disruption caused by a number of factors that may include gentrification or people in exile, migration or political situations. Arts House Artistic Director, Emily Sexton says displacement is a genuine humanitarian issue – it affects people. “Displacement can shift our self awareness, social networks or cultural traditions, which could alter our health and wellbeing.” “Refuge will bring our local community together. We will facilitate avenues where we can learn from each other to be prepared and collectively become more resilient,” said Sexton.

Last year, the World Bank forecast that over 140 million people in three regions (Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America) could be displaced due to the climate crisis by 2050 – it will be people forced to move due to growing problems like water scarcity, crop failure, sea-level rise and storm surges.

Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees highlighted that weather-related hazards worldwide (including storms, cyclones, floods, droughts, wildfires and landslides) displaced 16.1 million people last year. This month in Australia, ABC News reported that former Australian Defence Force chief, Admiral Chris Barrie, said Australia would be seen as the “land of opportunity” for many people affected by climate emergencies – “I once suggested to government we might be talking 100 million people.”

At their recent meeting on 16 July 2019, the City of Melbourne – Future Melbourne Committee declared that climate change and mass species extinction pose serious risks to the people of Melbourne and Australia, and should be treated as an emergency.

North Melbourne School of Displacement by Keg de Souza and Claire Coleman - We Built This City (2016)

While displacement is embedded in so many periods of Australian history, Refuge identifies and acknowledges that displaced circumstances can positively shape and influence future progress and possibilities. Sexton highlights that the impacts of the climate crisis can be immediate or take many years to fully reveal themselves, “Our most precious resource is each other and our nearest communities. Refuge is all about community preparedness and doing it together.” Discussions and conversations will play a large component of the Refuge 2019 program, with events such as:

  • The North Melbourne School of Displacement and Ruth Crow Corner being a focal point that will bring diverse communities, emergency services, experts and First Nations voices together.

  • The North Melbourne School of Displacement is a communal retreat and massive installation of salvaged tents that will take over the main hall inside the North Melbourne Town Hall. Jen Rae’s Portage is a series of workshops, a walk and an installation in collaboration with architectural designers Mittul Vahanvati and Munir Vahanvati (Giant Grass) and intercultural master weavers: Vicki Kinai, Bronwyn Razem, Dr Vicki Couzens, Kirsten Lyttle, Abshiro Hussein and Muhubo Sulieman.

  • Words Nourish Neighbours is a feast of words and food that introduces new ways to meet neighbours and prepare for climate crisis. Hosted by Seini Taumoepeau,this event is a community gathering over a meal to prepare and bond over a meal.

See the full list of event at Arts House and leave with a plan to catch Refuge!


Dates: 24 August – 7 September 2019 Location: Arts House – North Melbourne Town Hall - 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne Times: various times Arthouse Website