Nonexistent — a sculpture in protest against asylum seeker treatment

When all other channels for change had been exhausted, I turned to art to try to make a difference.

Like many Australians, I’ve been in constant shock, grief and angry bewilderment at the Australian government’s appalling treatment of asylum seekers, imprisoning them in off-shore death camps — specifically Nauru and Manus Island — at a cost of $1.2 billion a year to the taxpayer, basically leaving them to rot at the hands of belligerent subcontractors and violent locals in failed states.

The atrocities and suicides have been mounting, the whole issue got ignored at the recent election, and now The Guardian has published a cache of documents — the Nauru files — that catalog an horrific string of assaults, sexual assaults and self-harm. Immigration minister Peter Dutton has basically blamed the asylum seekers for this.

There have been two reports by the AHRC, the second one prompting the government tolaunch a vicious hate campaign against its leader Gillian Triggs. There have been countless petitions, prayer vigils, letters, protest marches… everything a civil obedient society can do to try to stop this horror. But nothing has made any difference.

So I did what any self-respecting creative person would do (prompted by a friend of mine). I funnelled that pain into a sculpture to share with you, dear reader, and the world out there. Just to try to deal.


You see, Dutton’s detention centres have rendered these poor souls with no voice. They have no nation, no names, no rights, no future, and no hope. Dutton and whoever else agrees with him just want them to disappear. To die. To nonexist. Charity workers, medical staff, and others who have witnessed what the inmates are going through face charges if they tell. They have no voice. And we, the ones who cherish freedom, we who believe that everyone has the right to dignity, due process, and a fair go, we don’t have a voice either.

Nonexistent — black plastic sculpture

I chose to do this with my Lix 3D pen, since the blotchy black plastic filament has the feel and tone I was after. Two hands reach out, imploring desperately, giving us just a glimpse of the faceless victim, just enough to imagine the pain on the other side of that fence.

I also chose the 3D pen because we live in an age of unprecedented technology and progress, and tech like this is already bringing new bursts of creativity, and disrupting traditional manufacturing business models. And yet we are still so backward and so poor when it comes to looking after other people.

I don’t want to be nonexistent to the politicians in Canberra. I don’t want Reza Barati to be nonexistent. I don’t want Omid Masoumali to be nonexistent. I don’t want our nation’s values of equality and charity to be nonexistent.

And I don’t think you do either.

How you can help

(I originally put this on my own site:

Design strategist, educator, sketchnoter, facilitator, explainer, author of Presto Sketching. I like bringing out creativity in others.

Design strategist, educator, sketchnoter, facilitator, explainer, author of Presto Sketching. I like bringing out creativity in others.