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Humanity Festivals 2012

Five festivals were celebrated to encourage young people to use their creative abilities to explore the idea of humanity.

Thursday July 5, 2012


Earlier this year, Red Cross, in conjunction with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, extended an invitation to youth across Australia to participate in a festival exploring the notion of humanity: What did it mean to today's youth? How could they express their notion of humanity in their own way? 

Five festivals were celebrated in capital cities across Western Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria in March and April. The aim was to give a voice to young people from all cultures and backgrounds and encourage them to use their creative abilities to explore the idea of humanity: through photography, poetry, dance and calligraphy, to name a few. Each festival focused on a particular group of young people who were experiencing a form of social or emotional disengagement from others in their lives.

Humanity Festivals

Western Australia

Kicking off the celebrations in March, WA's Humanity Festival focused on working with recently arrived young refugees and migrants and ran alongside the successful World Aware program, which helps young migrants gain skills and confidence to adjust to Australian life.

Aged between 12 and 25, the young people worked with Perth installation artist and designer Minaxi May to learn artistic techniques using spray paint and stencils and explored the power of belonging and ideas around the meaning of humanity.

"The experience was great fun for them, as they got to work individually and then in groups, so they had to collaborate and communicate on a creative project," Minaxi said.

"Most of them had not done any urban art, let alone used spray paint, so by the end they knew how to use spray paints, make stencils and create an image using these techniques. They then created a group mural around the theme of humanity/humanitarianism."


Throughout March and April, Red Cross Young Humanitarians in Tasmania, as part of the Humanity Festival taskforce, started discussions with young people in and around Glenorchy about what humanity meant to them. With the help of local artist Elizabeth Barsham, approximately 130 young people aged between 12 and 25 used art as a medium to express their understanding of the concept of humanity.

The artworks produced were exhibited at 'Alive on the Green' - a collaborative National Youth Week Event with the Youth Action Network of Glenorchy. Approximately 400 young people came along to the event and participated in aerosol art workshops with local artists, created messages on the humanity message boards and took part in judging the 'People's Choice Award' for the Humanity Festival Art Exhibition.

Artist Elizabeth Barsham, Glenorchy City Council alderman Kristie Johnston and Red Cross Migration Support Programs Manager Al Hines judged nearly 100 entries, focusing less on technique but more on meaningful creative expression of young people's ideas of humanity.

New South Wales

In NSW, our Humanity Festival comprised of seven hubs of creativity. Each hub was assigned a word from the seven Fundamental Principles of Red Cross and participants looked at a variety of creative ways to interpret their word.

Other activities on the day included helping paint and construct pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle and learning to write script in languages such as Arabic, Tamil and Farsi. For those musically inclined, a hip-hop workshop was run by the Banton Brothers, a popular local songwriting and production duo and the amazing vocal talents of sixteen year old DJ Dazzle rang out with her rap about her experiences of humanity on the streets of Sydney.

South Australia

In South Australia, our Humanity Festival focused on giving a group of ten young offenders and ex-offenders an opportunity to build on their abilities and develop professional skills for their futures.

Leading up to the Humanity Festival celebration, the young people took part in a series of art workshops to produce a final artwork portraying their view of humanity. They were also given professional development opportunities, including coaching in their chosen art form, public speaking, leadership skills, confidence building and Red Cross' Fundamental Principles. The young people worked on Personal Development Plans to express their individual goals, such as driving lessons, gym membership, and additional education courses.

The Festival night was a great success. A live hip hop performance, street art show and community humanity messaging booths kept the crowd of 100 people entertained. The artworks were silently auctioned and donations were evenly distributed towards each person's Personal Development Plan.


Our Humanity Festival in Victoria coincided with Youth Week, and focused on sharing young people's stories and how humanity has affected their lives. From interpretive dance and photography to poetry and expressive writing, all creative works were displayed at the Festival exhibition evening, with prizes awarded to the top three entries.

A Humanity Tree welcomed guests at the entrance, encouraging participants to add their own personal humanity messages.

Red Cross volunteer, Emma, one of the Humanity Festival organisers, said getting involved with the festival opened her eyes to areas like community welfare and social justice.

"I hope to put all my volunteering, study and work experience towards a career that will lead to positive change in the community," she said.

Fellow Humanity Festival organiser Brinley joined the Red Cross youth advisory committee last year and says she has enjoyed being part of a team that has created a Festival using art in all its forms to inspire other young people.

"It allows for personal achievement and reflection, whilst providing a powerful tool for sharing ideas and relating to the community around you," she said.

Find out more about becoming a Young Humanitarian or contact a Youth Engagement staff member via our website.