The big picture: Sydney murals unite newly arrived Australians

Giant artworks created by a group of young migrants in Australia have gone on public display as part of the Harmony Art Collective.

A unique art project designed to unite young migrants in Australia has returned for its second year.

The Harmony Art Collective features work from more than 300 newly arrived Australians aged 15-24, many from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Together the group created 16 murals under the guidance of four of Australia's top street artists which went on public display at Sydney’s Darling Quarter on Monday, ahead of Harmony Day on 21 March.  

Harmony Art Collective
Some of the murals on display in Sydney.
SBS News

The project is run in collaboration with SBS’s outreach program SBS Learn, as well as the Australian Government and aMBUSH Gallery.

Each mural tells its own story, exploring identity and cultural heritage.


Bella Ndayikeze, one of this year's participants, was raised in a refugee camp in Tanzania where she feared for her life.

"Living in the refugee camp is not safe," Ndayikeze, 21, told SBS News. "We looked at going somewhere else and Australia opened its arms and took us in."

Bella Ndayikeze
Harmony Art Collective participant Bella Ndayikeze.
SBS News

She has drawn on her experiences during the project.

"It was a space to express ourselves … our deepest qualities in an art form."

"You can discover some of the parts of yourself that might've been neglected … connecting back home … back to your culture, and painting that out." 

Giving back

Award-winning Australian street artist Luke Cornish (known as ELK) is one the four renowned artists involved in the project. He told SBS News it was a fantastic opportunity for young people.

"It gives them a sense of confidence," Cornish said.

"It's nice when these projects come up and you can give a little bit back.

Harmony Art Collective
The artwork is on display until 27 April.
SBS News

Over the past five months, the artists have worked with local community centres in Darwin (NT), Westmead-Girraween (NSW), Wyndham (VIC), Mirrabooka (WA), Ipswich (QLD), and Salisbury (SA).

The project involved a series of workshops exploring individuality and belonging through the creation of collaborative artworks.

Cohesive community

Director of Corporate Affairs at SBS Clare O’Neil, said: "Its core purpose is to inspire all Australians to explore, appreciate and celebrate our diverse world, and by doing so contribute to a more cohesive society."

Harmony Art Collective
Young people aged 15-24 were invited to take part in the project.
SBS News

Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge said such projects also have benefits for the wider community.

"They're great ways for people to be engaged.

"Our success as a multicultural nation is based on integration and that means all of us connecting, talking to one another, and sharing our stories."

Director of aMBUSH Gallery Bill Dimas agreed. 

"It enables all participants regardless of where they have come from, what hardships they have suffered or what language they speak - to express their own story."

"We have seen first-hand how it helps Australians understand the experiences of the young migrants who come to our country and opens a door to empathy," he said. 

The Harmony Art Collective 2018 exhibition runs from 12 March – 27 April 2018 at Sydney’s Darling Quarter outdoor exhibition space OPEN. Admission is free. 

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