This work, Biloela Girls and it's partner work Dutton's Chest of Inequities were created as part of a 2021 exhibition celebrating Amnesty International's 60th Birthday.
Biloela Girls tells the story of the Sri Lankan Muruguppan family and their drawn out quest to be granted asylum in Australia. The family was happily settled in the Queensland town of Biloela where daughters Kopika and Tharunikaa were born. They were seized by the Australian Border Force in 2018 and placed in detention. Since then the community of Biloela (along with numerous other advocacy groups) hasn't stopped fighting to secure their freedom from detention.
Each of the drawers tells a story. The top drawer, the stories of the parents, Nades and his wife Priya. The boats referencing how they both arrived in Australia.
The next drawer down contains Birthday cards and candles. A card for every Birthday each little girl has been unable to celebrate with her friends and family in freedom.
The next drawer down is Kopika's. In it are treasures she has found, drawings, a pretend cat and dog, a party dress she hasn't been able to wear, a friendship bracelet she may have exchanged with her sister. Her imaginary pocket friends are also there, something for her to hold on to.
The bottom drawer is Tharunikaa's and like Kopika's, is filled with items little girls like to play with.
She has miniature dolls, saucepans and crockery, a princess sticker and her very own poket friens and also a party dress.
One of the reasons I felt compelled to create this work was the very obvious impact detention is having on the young girls. Seeing the changes that have been wrought by time spent in detention on their young faces is heart wrenching.