Through Children’s Eyes

Normal, Weekender

SHARON BARNABAS writes about a unique photo exhibition at Parliament House in Canberra

AN exhibition containing striking photographs taken by 49 children aged nine to 14 years from the Central and Gulf provinces of Papua New Guinea, and rural communities in Australia, opened at Parliament House in Canberra on Oct 28.
ChildFund Australia launched the Through Children’s Eyes photographic exhibition last month, witnessed by nearly 50 dignitaries and guests from Australia and PNG.
ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said at the launch: “The motivation behind the exhibition was to give expression to children’s views and understand their perspective as a fundamental right.”
Believing in the values that come from connecting children, the project was seen as one way of getting children’s perspective on their communities.
Participating children were given a camera each and provided with basic photographic training and without direction from adults, went out to capture images from their daily lives.
The resulting images are notable for their beauty, honesty and spontaneity, representing friends, family, food, nature, school, animals and the physical environment.
The pictures show both the differences and similarities between the lives of Australian and Papua New Guinean children.
“Seeing the world through children’s eyes is crucial if we are to build an understanding of their development needs,” said Mr Spence.
“Sometimes we can make the mistake of only seeing the problems in poverty-stricken communities, yet these images contain a striking sense of positivity and strength.”
Mr Spence said ChildFund is committed to understanding children’s experiences in order to improve the effectiveness of development work with children and communities.
“We should listen, learn and understand the community as experienced by community members particularly … the children.”
Australia’s Parliamentary secretary for international development assistance, Bob McMullan, MP, said the images highlight how similar children are wherever they live around the world.
“However, they also show stark differences, for example, in the educational resources and support for children and teachers available in schools,” he added.
PNG Minister for Community Development, Dame Carol Kidu, commented on the happiness that shone through in the photographs and emphasised the importance of promoting the rights of the Melanesian child, including the right to grow up in extended families.
Veteran ABC/Australian Network journalist and former PNG Kumul, Sean Dorney, also emphasised the importance of inter-generational families in PNG culture.
“Such values must not be lost in the name of development,” he said.
“That there are things in Melanesian and Pacific culture … that many in the insularity of their often tiny nuclear families have probably lost.”
“But in our desperation to bring ‘development’ to our Pacific neighbours we don’t always understand what works and what does not,” he said.
Others present at the launch were PNG High Commissioner to Australia Charles W Lepani, Australian MPs and senators and two of the Australian children photographers.
The exhibition marks the end of the tour that was opened in Sydney in May and in Port Moresby in August last year. It ended yesterday.