In the Outskirts of the Australian Dream

Jagath Dheerasekara

'In the Outskirts of the Australian Dream' is an exploration of notions of shelter in relation to vulnerability, as well as resilience. Jagath Dheerasekara lives not far from Airds Bradbury social housing estate. He is on a journey to photograph the physical and social dimensions of this housing estate, which is bound to metamorphose sooner than later.

The notion of shelter differs from one socio-economic setting to the other. The free market socio-political-economic forces that believe government- funded social security is not a viable process, contributes significantly in altering the perception and notion of shelter, across the globe today. As a country founded on private property rights - more or less similar to those in the United States - private house ownership carries a high social value in the 'Australian Dream.'

It would not be wrong to say the opposite is true for public or social housing. The Airds Bradbury social housing estate, one of the largest of its kind in Australia, was established in mid 1970s. Today it is going through a passage of structural transformation. There are 1470 homes with a population of around 3000 people.

In 10~15 years this estate is expected have over 2000 homes, 70 per cent of which would be sold to private owners while the rest would remain as social housing.

Jagath photographs members of the community both in their public and private spaces, as well as in temporarily set up studio settings while recording their personal stories. As they unfold, some of these argue strongly for a robust social safety net, making it clear that availability of social housing continues to shield these members of community from extremely vulnerable situations.

Together, the varied stories which invariably ramify into several layers of stories invoke empathy in the listener. They bring to the fore unexpected and often neglected facets of life within a community which challenge the conventional social value systems.

Dates of Exhibition: 
18 May - 22 Jun