'Now is the time for empathy’: new virtual museum to explore the UN’s Human Rights declaration
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;
Story

'Now is the time for empathy’: new virtual museum to explore the UN’s Human Rights declaration

Stories/737 , Issues/Human Rights
Perth WA
15th May 2020
'Now is the time for empathy’: new virtual museum to explore the UN’s Human Rights declaration
As the scale and severity of COVID-19 continue to intensify across the globe, it’s revealing the very best—and the very worst—of human behaviour.

Racially-motivated attacks against Chinese Australians have spiked in recent months, with the Human Rights Commission saying around a quarter of people who have lodged complaints about racial discrimination in the past two months have been targeted because of COVID-19. Division is also being stirred by the likes of One Nation, who are inciting fear on social media for political gain. 

It was this fraught socio-political context that prompted Perth’s Museum of Freedom and Tolerance to launch its new campaign: Human Rights x Human Responsibilities. 

Launched on 20 April at hrxhr.org in partnership with the United Nations Association of Australia, the virtual museum pools the insights of academics, artists, philosophers, and scientists, exploring each article in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights over the next 30 weeks with live conversations, webinars, articles, digital artworks, and discussion groups.

“One of the first things that struck me when the pandemic started to play out was the immediate impact on our basic human rights,”  says Shaheen Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of Freedom and Tolerance. “Globally, communities are feeling the effects of a sudden curtailment of a basic right, but the effect is magnified for vulnerable and marginalised communities already facing a lack of basic human rights.”

“Close to home, refugee communities are uncertain of their status and first nations communities Australia-wide are facing the prospect of devastating loss,” she continued. “We believe there has never been a more important time for our work in social cohesion.”

Each week, the virtual space explores and unpacks a new article in the UN’s expansive Human Rights declaration, including our rights to equal pay, social security, freedom to move, the right to play, and the right to participate in civic and cultural life.

In doing so, the Museum of Freedom and Tolerance calls on its network of social justice and human rights experts, including lawyer and author Rabbia Sidique, diversity and inclusion strategist Fadzi Whande, and Doctor Sandy Chong, President of the United Nations Association of Australia (WA). 

In her writings on article three (the right to life), Doctor Sandy Chong commented: “Solidarity matters because our best chance for survival and recovery is to fight the coronavirus together. After all, protecting and preserving life is the primary goal of our current struggle.”?

“As an Asian-Australian, this ideal of solidarity is one which is part of my social DNA and the way I was brought up. It is an ideal which hearkens back to the origins of Chinese philosophy.” 

Central to the campaign is its Facebook group where members of the public can share personal reflections and anecdotes on human rights, learning from the online tools and devising strategies for fostering tolerance in their communities.

The group’s 442 members have also been sharing haiku poems (a traditional form of Japanese poetry consisting of just three lines) about human rights, which are published on the campaign website. 

Ingrid writes, “The world seems scary, but my heart knows this won’t last, my spirit stays free.” And Zoe says, “To live as I wish, as an equal to others, to walk without fear.”

Using creative interventions to explore complex ideas is archetypal of the Museum of Freedom and Tolerance’s ethos. Founded in Perth in 2012, the Museum is a virtual and physical space that aims to dismantle prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance across Australia through programs embedded in social history, art, research, storytelling, and values-based learning. As well as its online campaigns, it runs community outreach programs and operates as a research centre and think tank.

“I feel we have two pathways out of this pandemic,” says Shaheen. “One guided by hope, and the other by fear, xenophobia and nationalism. So we’re going to try and reach as many people as possible with this message so that we can emerge from this moment unified by compassion, humility and greater dignity.”

The Museum of Freedom and Tolerance, the Community Arts Network and the Edmund Rice Centre collaborated for the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to create a booklet with photography by Duncan Wright. This image is from that project and the booklet launch on  Human Rights Day, December 10, 2018.
The Museum of Freedom and Tolerance, the Community Arts Network and the Edmund Rice Centre collaborated for the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to create a booklet with photography by Duncan Wright. This image is from that project and the booklet launch on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2018.

The Museum of Freedom and Tolerance, the Community Arts Network. and the Edmund Rice Centre collaborated for the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to create a booklet with photography by Duncan Wright. These images are from that project and the booklet launch on  Human Rights Day, December 10, 2018.

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