INTERVIEW: Peter Drew – Real Australians Say Welcome

Interviewed By: Molly Schmidt
Image Credit: Peter Drew Arts Facebook Page

REAL AUSTRALIANS SAY WELCOME. 1000 posters. Three months.

One artist from Adelaide, with a passion for the rights of asylum seekers. You might have seen his posters pasted on the side of the café where you get your morning coffee, or on those apartment buildings across the road from where you work. This is courtesy of Peter Drew, who is about half way through his trip across the country, with 1000 posters supporting refugees and questioning what it really means to be Australian.

Drew is headed for Brisbane this week, after spending last week here in Perth. His project is entirely crowd-funded, showing the support of hundreds of people who also believe Australians need to be more welcoming towards asylum seekers. His posters have been met with mainly positive responses, however Drew says there is a loud minority of people who are angered by them, feeling excluded by the phrase “real Australians”. He says this is exactly why he picked it, to make people think about how it feels to be excluded from society, using their own discourse against them.

The clever guy actually chose his slogan based on a verse in our own national anthem, which tell us

For those who’ve come across the seas,
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia Fair.

He says this acknowledges that it’s ok to be slightly afraid of people who seem a bit different, but it’s how we choose to react to this fear that needs to change.

There’s something really beautiful about seeing people from all different backgrounds united by one poster, displaying one belief. If you click here you can see his facebook page showing photos. Drew says it is this diversity and openness that makes him proud to be Australian.

He says he thinks “our national identity has been hijacked by people who are not really representative of what it means to be Australian”, and that although there seem to be a lot of bigots, the majority of Australians don’t respect that. He believes “there are so many people in the middle who aren’t bigots and aren’t racist, they are just maybe a little bit frightened.”

From running from a shouting middle aged man in Sydney, to losing all three thousand dollars worth of camera equipment from his hotel room in Perth, Drew says it’s all about the adventure. He says there’s something about being a part of creating art in a public space, and knowing anything can happen. He says he’s had refugees see the art and tell him how welcome it makes them feel. However, despite the awesome amount of support coming from crowd funding, Drew says the truth is expenses are already cutting into his savings. So if you think his work seems pretty cool, or you want a poster of your own, hit him up here, which will also take you to a video in which he will tell you his story himself.