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New project shines light on deaths in custody around the world

Media release

The global stories of Indigenous and refugee deaths in custody will be told using visual media as part of an innovative international research project being launched this month.

Installation 'Call Them Home' by Marziya Mohammedali commemorates the known and unknown casualties of Australia’s border protection policies. Credit: Michelle Bui

The Deathscapes project documents custodial deaths in Australia, the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe through visual art, personal testimonies and critical analysis.

Project chief investigator John Curtin Distinguished Professor Suvendrini Perera, from Curtin’s School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, said the Deathscapes project analysed and raised awareness of deaths in custody.

“With the ultimate aim of ending deaths in custody, the Deathscapes project maps custodial deaths across Australia, the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe,” Professor Perera said.

“Shared via the website, the project aims to better understand the complexities of these deaths by seeking new ways of documenting them and gaining an insight into how people all over the world respond to contemporary racialized violence.

“It avoids the dehumanising language of official inquiries, instead drawing on visual, poetic and narrative media to ensure the humanity of their personal story is captured and recorded.”

The project will be launched at the Deathscapes Symposium, held in Sydney on February 16.

Speakers at the event include prominent Indigenous academics and commentators, Curtin Senior Indigenous Research Fellow Hannah McGlade and Professor of Indigenous Studies Bronwyn Carlson, from Macquarie University.

They will be joined by Walkley Award-winning artist Safdar Ahmed, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award winner and human rights advocate Behrouz Boochani and Victorian Premier’s Literary Award-nominated poet Alison Whittaker.

Award-winning film-maker Saba Vasefi’s latest short film will premiere at the event, while artist Ryan Presley will be the keynote speaker.

The Deathscapes project is funded by the Australian Research Council. In addition to Professor Perera, its chief investigator is Professor Joseph Pugliese from Macquarie University, with partner investigators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Goldsmiths College, London.

The Deathscapes Symposium will be held at The Settlement, 17 Edward Street, Darlington, from 9.30am to 2pm on February 16, 2019. More information is here.