My aim is always to emphasise the connections that bind us, rather than the fractures that divide us.
– Peter Drew, 2019
In 2016 Adelaide artist Peter Drew inspired volunteers all over Australia to paste screen-printed posters of long-dead Australians on public walls in their local communities.
The Aussie posters became a familiar phenomenon on city streets.
They continue to appear to this day.
In the posters, Drew repurposed historical photographs of Australian residents who sought exemption from the Dictation Test required by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901.
The test, which could be set in any European language, gave Immigration officials wide discretion to refuse entry to Australia by non-Europeans. It was not repealed until 1958.
Some applicants had been resident for many years, including Monga Khan.
A licensed hawker in regional Victoria, Khan sought exemption from the dictation test in 1916 upon returning from a trip to India, the land of his birth.
Drew superimposed the word ‘Aussie’ over each photograph, a simple reminder that since colonisation, Australians have included people of many races and backgrounds.
The Aussie posters recall our country’s past and address long-standing questions of belonging, identity and inclusion that continue to play out in the present.