Migrant stories shared in Sale

Film-makers Farhat Firdous and Catherine Simmonds outside The Wedge.Photo: Tom Parry

Tom Parry

Locals have been offered a glimpse into the region’s migrant communities thanks to a new documentary.

The short film Greener Pastures was screened across Gippsland as part of Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week, showcasing the stories of residents who have migrated from other countries and now call Australia home.

Among the venues to play host to a screening was The Wedge in Sale, with film-maker Catherine Simmonds and project coordinator Farhat Firdous in attendance.

Ms Simmonds is credited as the writer and “artistic director” of the film, and was drawn to the project by her motivation to tell other people’s stories.

“I’m always deeply intrigued about our human condition, and particularly in the space of refugee and migrant people, what compels people to move,” Ms Simmonds said.

“In this case … it was learning about in regional Victoria, the changing face of regional Victoria with the inclusion of people from different cultures, and their understanding of the stories and how they feel out here in the landscape.

“Do they feel included? Do they not feel included? And who are they?

“Basically, what inspires me is to discover something I don’t know.”

The screening at Sale was held on March 24, hosted by Michelle Ravesi from Latrobe Community Health.

The event began with a Welcome to Country from Gunaikurnai elder Uncle Lloyd Hood, who reflected on his experiences of prejudice and being treated as an outsider during adolescence – feelings mirrored by migrants in Gippsland.

Following Uncle Lloyd’s warm and gracious welcome, the audience was introduced to the film by Ms Simmonds, who spoke about the themes and messages she wishes it to convey.

Kurdish migrant Noor Shemiss in the film ‘Greener Pastures’ // Photo: Contributed

The film’s showing was then proceeded by a Q&A session featuring Ms Simmonds, producer Irene Metter, subjects Peter and Hedi Kirkbride, and Tamil migrant Amina Khatun.

Audience members used the opportunity not only to ask questions, but to share their own experiences with migration and multiculturalism within Gippsland, drawing plenty of discussion from all involved.

According to Ms Simmonds, conversations like these have been common at other screenings.

“In our first (screening) in Warragul, there were conversations about questions of English and assimilation, and then some appropriately feisty responses from within the audience around that meaning,” Ms Simmonds said.

“It’s interesting with the film being the catalyst to the conversation with the community, where the community are answering each other’s questions and people have been informed about the desire to know what services do exist.”

The film’s ability to generate discussion is touted by Ms Firdous as one of its greatest strengths.

“In this day and age, conversations are the most important thing, Ms Firdous said.

“I think that the next world that we’re moving into, or travelling into, is more relational.

“And I think if we have those conversations, we build relationships, and then we can problem-solve.”

Both Ms Simmonds and Ms Firdous speak with pride about the migrants’ continued involvement with Greener Pastures and its promotion.

“I think it’s that empowerment, for me,” Ms Firdous said.

“It’s looking at those people who have contributed in the film and in the process, have found their own voices.

“They had it previously, but just being able to use it well, and share it with other people, I think that (is) a great outcome of this project.”