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‘Diversity Dialogues’ exhibition opens tonight


17 October 2007
Peace, harmony and understanding – which move us beyond the mere tolerance of each other’s differences – are the themes which underpin the new Diversity Dialogues exhibition opening tonight at the Alleyway Gallery, 89 Magellan Street, Lismore.

The exhibition is part of a year-long program of events at Southern Cross University titled Thinking Diversity – Beyond Tolerance. The title was inspired not by academic discourse, but by members of the local multicultural group, the International Rainbow Club who, in their organisation’s brochure, write: ‘We aspire for peace, harmony and understanding, which are beyond tolerance, in the society in which we live’.

Dr Rob Garbutt, a lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, who has an essay featured in the exhibition, said of the Rainbow Club’s words: “Here is an aspiration that speaks of two alternate ways of understanding our diverse social world. In one, we can think about diversity in terms of tolerance; and in the other, peace, harmony and understanding replace tolerance as the main feature.”

Other exhibiting artists whose work forms part of the exhibition are James Edwards, Susanne Fraser, Martin Heuston, Magnus Kennedy, Michael Moynihan, Zoe Satherley, Carl Smith, Kylie Stoddart, Vanessa Wallace, Kirk Watts and Lisa Wise.

Dr Shelagh Morgan, visual arts lecturer and exhibition coordinator, said of the exhibition: “The work that has emerged out of this project provides an insight into a rich community of people who bring many gifts and ways of thinking about how we engage in ‘thinking diversity’ in our community.

“As I was laying out the exhibition catalogue and typing in each individual’s text, I had a growing sense of being privileged to be a part of this diverse and essentially optimistic community of people.

“I suppose I became more intimately aware of each person as a unique and valuable part of our community.

“Much of the time it seems as if there is not enough space in the day to stop and reflect; I hope that this exhibition and catalogue will give others the chance to reflect and take away a sense of belonging and contributing to a unique community.”

Zoe Satherley’s exhibition installation features photographic portraits of 100 Southern Cross University staff, students and community visitors, taken at the Lismore campus.

“I hope that the faces reflect and represent both the uniqueness and commonality amongst us and truly celebrate our diversity as a University community,” she said.

Justice Michael Kirby, whose portrait features in the exhibition, said in his Occasional Address to graduates last month that one of the good things we traditionally boast of when defining the essence of Australian society is our shared commitment to ‘a fair go for all’.

To be a tolerant, inclusive, moderate society in which virtually everyone can find their place was a noble ideal, he stressed. He was happy to participate in the project as it built on such ideals.

Diversity Dialogues will be opened at 6.30pm tonight by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Clark, and run from October 17 – 27 at the Alleyway Gallery, 89 Magellan Street, Lismore, adjacent to the Commonwealth Bank.

Photo: Celebrating the gifts diversity brings – one of Zoe Satherley’s images.