Multi-Platform Creative Development

2016 – 2019

Beyond Refuge has been a three year creative development program for artists who share an asylum seeker and refugee experience. Recently arrived and first gen artists collaborated together to give voice and vision to new stories of our times, from the kernel of an idea through to the creation of unique film and photo-media projects. A team of experienced Australian artists and community workers supported steps along the way, focussing on process and dialogue. 

Listening carefully to each other, we exchanged skills, courage, friendship, cultures and networks. We made time to listen, tune in and laugh – building strong creative networks to support long term creative confidence.


beyond refuge: dialogues is a set of five commissions for artists who share an asylum seeker and refugee experience. Each artist was commissioned to develop, on their own terms, a cinema poem to express a fundamental story that resonates with their lives. Each work aims to create a poetic dialogue with the audience.

Ali Azeez – Calendar
Elham BehinAein – New Home, New Hopes 
Samia Halabi with Mahdi Mohammedi and Barbara Shefer – Trinity 
Daisy Montalvo – El Baile 
Ali Mousawi – My Name of Mohammed and Raghad and We Don’t Exist Here Anymore

This video series will be seen in May 2019 at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. The works reflect back Australian landscapes and home-scapes with the new narratives of our time. Created from ‘the epic films we have inside us’ and based on ordinary lives set against extraordinary circumstances, beyond refuge: dialogues is a gentle manifesto for freedom and friendship as well as an evocation of the consequences of forced migration. 

These video works are informed by CuriousWorks’ extensive community arts and engagement work, working with artists who seek to change the asylum seeker narrative by defining on their own terms what they would like to say and how they would like to say it. Each artist has reached into their networks, their families and into the wider Australian community to broker spaces and build teams that support these beautiful stories.


a short film about carelessness and a life of spent colour. 

directed by Ali Al Azeez

Sally and Abraham are a young couple, full of hope. Sally has come from her home country to live in suburban Sydney with Abraham. Taking a huge leap of faith, with the promise of love, they begin their life together.

As times presses on, with work, old habits and obligations, the couple begin to sleep walk through their lives. One day Sally awakes, startled, and discovers that all the colour has drained from their home.  They have become old. In a waking, melancholy dream, the couple stumble and try to repair the wreckage of carelessness.

This romantic film hits a nerve with many of us; recognising the easy slide into half-light when we take the promise of love for granted.

new home, new hopes

a video portraiture project of two women and their experience of making a new home in Australia

created by Elham BehinAein

“Fear of the future or feeling without safety makes you fragile I think… makes you break… When I arrived here, we feel the new feeling. It’s very, very important.” – Iman

Photographer Elham BehinAein, arrived in Australia two years ago, herself a refugee from Iran. With the support of CORE Community Services and networks in Fairfield, Elham began a process of reaching out to women, open to share their stories of migration and take part in portraiture sittings, in their homes and out in the streets. Many women were interested but only two were confident to create images for the public. Neli and Iman shared their very different experiences of home-making and belonging.

My name is Mohamed and Raghad. We don’t exist here anymore

a one shot, twelve minute film about a day in the life of an Ahwazi asylum seeker family, surviving in Australia.

directed by Ali Mousawi

Mohamed is ten years old. Raghad, his sister, is eleven. They are Ahwazi asylum seekers, living with their father in Liverpool, Sydney. These children have grown up without their mother, brother or extended family who are all back in Iran. Since arriving by boat with their father seven years ago, they struggled to make a home however they can while fighting to unite their family.

We meet these young people on their way home from school. They are racing back to check on their father, who is gravely unwell. As the action unfolds, it is clear these children carry enormous responsibilities for their age, as interpreters and advocates for their family in a hostile, bureaucratic environment.

In a world where over 65 million displaced people are seeking a new life, free from war and persecution, these two pragmatic children are left in a small apartment, face-to-face with their fate.

El Baile

directed by Daisy Montalvo

Josselyn moved to Australia from El Salvador in 2015 when she was 14 years old. In the chaos of huge, cultural change she loses the one thing that made her feel herself the most – dancing.

Set on the suburban streets of Mt Druitt, western Sydney, El Baile is a dance, cinematic poem about nostalgia and isolation. Josselyn once felt like a star in her home country and now, she feels stuck in her new reality. In the process of migration, she lost her passion and in turn, lost her happiness. With the help of someone she meets, she is able to return to her passion because they allowed her the space to be herself, without protest. El Baile highlights the importance of holding onto your cultural roots and passion, and society embracing acceptance for all people.


a short film about three friends.

directed by Samia Halabi

Three young people hold their friendship to their heart and share a strong bond. They don’t let anything, or anyone get in their way. They spend most of their time together and they tell each other everything. Here we meet them at Bents Basin, an ancient waterhole in Western Sydney, sitting by the river watching the sunset. They head back to the camp site and sit around the fireplace, telling each other stories of the past and remembering the first day they met.

Right here, right now, nothing else matters.

Mahdi has his arms around the two girls, as they laugh. The friends sit by the fire place talking about their home countries, the issues and what they miss, and why they had to flee, either with or without their family. Their friendship brings together their history of seeking asylum and migration from Afghanistan, Argentina and Lebanon.

This film is about the next generation of Australians, sharing friendship and solidarity.


beyond refuge: citizens is an exhibition that asserts the beautiful and fundamental rights of every human being to freedom and peace. It is also a cry to those who have lost their freedom, through the structures and exertions of power.

The exhibition was shown at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in 2016, alongside the landmark Refugees exhibition. In 2017, beyond refuge: citizens toured to Lane Cove Gallery as part of the Translating Displacement exhibition program.


Opening Night

At Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, July 2016


beyond refuge: flashbacks is a short film by Curious Creator Sean Ly, documenting his parents’ journey as asylum seekers from Cambodia in the 1980s.  Sean Ly goes on a journey of personal discovery to learn and record the previously unshared story of his parents – refugees from Cambodia who settled in Western Sydney in the 1980s. Through interviews as a mother and father speaking to their son, they recall past experiences and share flashbacks of displacement and resettlement.

The 25-minute film includes a soundtrack with original music contributed by Channthy Kak, lead singer from the international music sensation ‘The Cambodian Space Project’. This film went on to be shown at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and the 2016 Kampot Readers and Writers Festival in Cambodia.


Artists in development
Ali Al Azeez, Hayder Al Bdairi, Elham BehinAein, Soheil Ettehadolhagh, Samia Halabi, Sean Ly, Khaled Mariam Adam McPhilbin, Mahdi Mohammedi, Daisy Montalvo, Ali Mousawi, Barbara Schefer, Dani Sitto,

Miranda Aguilar, Shawn Spina, Carolina Triana, Rowena Assaad, Toni Clark, Harsh Yalam, Payam Gouya, Mahnaz Giahparvar, Dee Dogan, Faisal Ayani, Mohammed Alanezi, Damon AMB, Natalia Figueroa, Jesica Montalvo, Jessica Phoebe Knox, Michael Moebus, Marwa Almunajed, Muhamed Kamel, Vincent Tay

Valerie Berry, Claudia Chidiac, Sarah Emery, Guido Gonzalez, Mireille Juchau, Amber Mosdell, Olivia Roussett, Vanna Seang

Program Producer Caitlin Newton-Broad

This Project is supported by Australia Council for the Arts, Fairfield City Council, Liverpool City Council and Create NSW. Project partners include Settlement Services International, the peak NSW body for refugee settlement and migrant resources centres, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Learning Ground Mt Druitt and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.