With restricted access for journalists and camera equipment, there is limited evidence of daily life in Australia’s inhumane offshore detention centres. To change that social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn, in partnership with Howatson+Company has released EXHIBIT A-i: The Refugee Account.
More than 300 hours of interviews were conducted with survivors of offshore detention in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, documenting the atrocities they faced.
Together with AI technicians, the survivors then generated the first ever visual evidence of their experiences. From the colour of the tents to the subjects’ expressions, every detail was made as accurate as possible.
The evidence, comprising of 32 statements and over 130 images, has been released to the public via the website www.exhibitai.com.au
The images and statements have also been compiled into a book, and displayed at a powerful exhibition held in the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, created by installation artist James Dive (Scoundrel).
The evidence has been further shared with the public through OOH and social, while the images have been uploaded to editorial site Shutterstock to sit alongside photojournalism.
Says Jennifer Kanis, Maurice Blackburn principal lawyer, who heads the firm’s social justice practice: “These witness statements and images shine a light on a dark chapter of Australian history. They bear witness to the unimaginable inhumanity experienced by the women, men and children incarcerated over many years.
“Along with our clients, it’s our hope that this collection of witness statements and the associated AI images serve as a permanent record and an urgent case for change to Australians and our government.
Says Mridula Amin, three-time Walkley photojournalism award winner, who was consulted throughout the project: “For a journalist wanting to report on Nauru it’s so challenging – you are effectively barred from going there. I see this project as being supplementary to journalism, and it has opened an exciting door into new ways of visual storytelling, especially when real photography isn’t possible.
“When watching the images being created, it was incredible to see the level of detail and care taken, and the multiple prompts required to produce an as accurate depiction of the witness statements as possible, including working with the witnesses themselves.
“This project is one of the first applications of AI I have seen with an ethical purpose at its heart, which to me is really exciting.“
Saman (not his real name) was in immigration detention for more than four years – including nine months offshore on Manus Island. His witness statement testifies to the appalling living conditions on Manus, such as squalid toilet and shower facilities, as well as multiple incidents of physical and verbal abuse.
“By taking part in this project, I am hoping that I can shed some light on the lives of myself and so many other men, women and children inside those detention centres.
“I hope our stories will open people’s eyes to the painful legacy of offshore detention, and I urge the government to show greater humanity when dealing with people seeking asylum.”
Says Gavin Chimes, executive creative director at Howatson+Company: “It was a humbling and harrowing experience to work one-on-one with survivors of offshore detention. Nearly a year in the making, we took the utmost care to ensure their experiences were accurately depicted, with some images taking weeks to complete.
“On behalf of Howatson+Company, we thank Maurice Blackburn and more importantly their clients, whose stories can now be told for the first time, and in a new way. We hope Exhibit A-i contributes to genuine hope for change on what has been a dark and horrific time in Australian history.”
Read the stories and examine the evidence at www.exhibitai.com.au.
CEO+Founder: Chris Howatson
Managing Director: Renee Hyde
Executive Creative Director: Gavin Chimes
Head of Production: Holly Alexander
Copywriter: Zoe Finkelstein
Art Director: Raff Gandrabur
Creative: Madeleine Semit
Creative: Brandon Nee
Design Lead: Reece Lawson
Design Lead: Ellena Mills
Senior Experience Designer: Chloe Schumacher
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Business Director: Madde King
Business Manager: India Clarke
Head of PR: Ben Handberg
Senior Business Director (PR): Melinda Durston
Business Manager (PR): Millie Clout
Business Executive (PR): Bella Hayes
Senior Editor: King Yong
Studio Lead: Simon Merrifield
Printing: Carbon 8
Director: Peter Musarra
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Activation & Exhibition: Scoundrel Projects
EP: Adrian Shapiro
Director: James Dive
Producer: Matt Roberts, Giordi Caputo
Music & Sound: Heckler Sound
Composer: Johnny Green
Sound Designer: Dave Robertson
Executive Producer: Bonnie Law
Content & Photography: Remy Brand
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