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Yasameen’s art will help heal others

By Fiona West | July 5, 2023

Yasameen Hameed loves creating art for others.

She shares her drawings and paintings with friends and family, as well as staff and fellow students at Navitas Skilled Futures Liverpool, where she is learning English as part of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)*.

But soon her art will be shared with thousands of people in the Liverpool community, and for many years to come, after she was selected as one of five local artists from migrant, refugee or CALD backgrounds to have their work reproduced at large scale throughout the new Liverpool Hospital building as part of the Arts in Health Program.

The program integrates art into NSW Health buildings to create engaging public health spaces and improve clinical health and wellbeing outcomes for patients, staff and visitors.  As part of the program Yasameen and four others are working with a lead artist to create ‘envirographics’ (wall art) that will be on display in patient and public spaces across five floors of the new hospital building, referred to as the Liverpool Health and Academic Precinct (LHAP).

Yasameen loves sketching in her art book, everything from colourful Arabic designs to symbolic art depicting the plight of refugees.

“I love to draw,” Yasameen said. “I started when I was a little girl in Iraq. I have never had lessons but I learned a lot of techniques from YouTube.

“When I came to Australia I had to leave my art behind. I started again, drawing landscapes, animals, people, designs and – my favourite – anime. I like to give people my art as gifts.

“I am very happy to be chosen (for this hospital project). It will be my gift to everyone, to Australia.”

Yasameen, her husband and two sons, now aged 6 and 9, came to Australia from Baghdad for the family’s safety in 2018. She said it had taken her some time to adjust to a new language, new culture and environment. But after learning English, making friends at college, and now being chosen for this special art project, she was “very happy”.

A Health Infrastructure spokesperson said Yasameen and her fellow artists’ envirographics will be installed in patients’ rooms, lounge areas, lifts and lobbies across the new health facility.

She said the art reproductions not only created a hospital environment that aids recovery and provides welcoming, safe and connected spaces, but it also represents the diverse community of Liverpool.  

Yasameen and three other NSF students recently exhibited and sold their art at a Refugee Week Artists Market in Liverpool. Pictures: Jennifer Hosey.

Navitas Skilled Futures Stakeholder Engagement Manager Basim Shamaon initially put forward Yasameen and two artists from NSF as candidates for the project.

Following a public Expressions of Interest process, Yasameen was selected from NSF, along with four other artists from south-western Sydney.

“We were very proud to see Yasameen selected and given this opportunity to share her art in this wonderful public space for the enjoyment of others,” Basim said.

“This is one of the many projects where Navitas Skilled Futures connects our clients with opportunities, and where us knowing them personally, and what their interests and goals are, enables us to help them well beyond English classes. In this case we supported the students in the application process, answered the questions and submitted the application together, and our Pathway Guidance Advisor assisted Yasameen with the contract, because she’d never seen a contract before and needed to understand the terminologies and the process.”

Yasameen and her fellow artists are now working with lead artists, Barahanos Byrne, in community workshops to develop their original artworks for the program.

Brigette Uren, Health Infrastructure Arts Program Director, said the vibrant wall artworks were based on the theme of Belonging and Culture, exploring the ideas of resilience, journeys, nature, family, and connection.

“The arts program at the Liverpool Health and Academic Precinct is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the local creative talent of Sydney’s south-west and create a welcoming space with a unique and distinctive identity,” she said. 

“Arts in health facilities have been proven to enhance the experience of patients, staff and visitors, and the involvement of local artists gives the community a sense of belonging.” 

Yasameen said it was a fitting theme for the art program as, while she was very proud of her culture and to be representing people from Iraq and the refugee community, she was finally starting to feel like she belonged in Australia.

“In my country I stayed at home, I was a housewife, I was looking after my children. My husband did everything,” she said.

“Here I have to learn English, I have to go out, I have to go to shops, I have to find job. When I started at Navitas I was level zero English, and learning was hard at first and I was scared,” she said.

“But the teachers here are very nice. They made me excited to learn, and then everything is OK. I’m also learning from my children and friends and I get words from speaking with other people and going out.”

Yasameen shows her drawings to a fellow NSF student and friend.

Yasameen is now a Level 2 AMEP student and is much more confident. She has also participated in Pathway to Work courses in childcare and beauty, and is now doing her English for Citizenship preparation class.

“War made many problems in my country. I am happy to be here, especially for my children. It is safe here. It is a good place,” she said. “I enjoy doing my art. It is better than spending time on my phone. And it is good for my kids. The little one, he likes to draw. I will teach him. I look forward to taking them to the hospital to see my art on the walls.”

The $790 million Liverpool Health and Academic Precinct redevelopment is being delivered in phases.  

Phase 1, due for completion in 2024, will include a larger emergency department, an expanded neonatal intensive care unit, new birthing suites and a new centralised pathology department. Construction of the new Liverpool Hospital building is due to be completed in 2024. 

Phase 2 includes construction of a new integrated services building with new inpatient units, an integrated cancer centre including the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Oasis Wellness Centre and expanded women’s and children’s ambulatory care. 

*The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs

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