This digital photograph was taken by Melbourne-based photographer Bri Hammond as part of her photographic series, 'Isolation Stories - Public Housing.' This series was produced in May 2020, in between lockdowns, and documents the experiences of residents living in the Collingwood and Richmond public housing estates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depicted in this image is resident of the Richmond public housing estate Yith [last name withheld] standing in a hallway with her daughters Kate and Sally. In May 2020, Yith, Kate and Sally were interviewed by photographer Bri Hammond about their experience of public housing and COVID-19 lockdowns. They reflected:
Yith: 'I came to Australia in 2004 for marriage. I live here with my husband and two children. When I first came to Australia it was hard for me because of the weather, the winter times! I couldn't do anything and the language barrier was really challenging for me. I'm from Cambodia, but I also speak Vietnamese. I learned Vietnamese in Australia, from going shopping and meeting people. They told me to not be scared to make mistakes speaking, so now I can speak Vietnamese fluently.
COVID-19 has affected my family a lot. I feel very stressed. Before the lockdown I sent the children to school, but now they are learning from home. The lockdown and home-schooling has been really stressful as I don't have good English skills to help them with homework. It's very hard to go shopping and there is limited time to go outside. I try to lock down in my house. I go outside maybe once a week or once a fortnight to buy food. Now I know that Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House has food relief donations, I can go there instead, I'm very thankful for that.'
Kate and Sally: 'It's been fun being home. We jump everywhere. We've got our own computer and we write some things to our friends. We don't really miss school!'
Digital JPG file
This photograph is one of 13 images that were acquired into Museums Victoria's Collecting the Curve Collection as part of the Museums in My Neighbourhood Project, with support from the Office of Suburban Development. These photographs offer a rare glimpse into life in public housing during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Melbourne, and provide a lasting reminder of the hardships, challenges, hopes, strengths and achievements of residents during this time.
Many public housing residents in the State of Victoria experienced extreme hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly during the Victorian Government's hard and immediate lockdown of nine public housing estates in Melbourne's inner-north in July 2020. Yet, through adversity and hardship, public housing residents also experienced community and neighborhood support, solidarity through grassroots networking, and participation in a range of activities such as food bank programs and arts initiatives. This photographic series shines a light on the community activities of the Belgium Avenue and Collingwood Neighbourhood Houses, and their vital role in providing food, arts, gardening, music and mental health support to residents during the early stages of COVID-19 lockdowns. Although these photographs represent a particular period of time, May 2020, Museums Victoria is continuing to explore ways to document the subsequent experiences of public housing residents in Victoria, including the impact of the hard lockdown of the Flemington and North Melbourne towers in July 2020.
These 13 photographs also provide an example of the important role that artists played in documenting and creatively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time these photographs were taken, photographer Bri Hammond was a lifestyle and commercial photographer, but all of her client work was immediately cancelled with the arrival of COVID-19, so she instead decided to focus her energies on documenting events as they unfolded: 'I knew that the pandemic was going to be a point of historical significance and I thought it was important to document it in some way,' she reflected in December 2020: 'I saw countless articles and social media posts of people getting into baking and other new hobbies, or complaining about lockdown when they had a big beautiful house, an income, and everything they needed. I wanted to share a different side of the lockdown story, one that's not oozing with privilege and comfort.'
With support from Yarra City Council, Bri was welcomed by Belgium Avenue and Collingwood Neighborhood Houses to meet and photograph individuals in their homes. She reflected in late 2020: 'I think that it's important to share the stories from the incredible individuals that live in public housing, to erase the stereotypes and stigmas that exist and lead to this unfair treatment. for me it was mostly about sharing these voices that are so often underrepresented in the media, to put names and faces to the people who live in public housing. I wanted to share the positive and important work that the Belgium Avenue and Collingwood Neighbourhood houses generously do to support the community, especially in hard times like 2020.'
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Health & Well-Being, Epidemics, Pandemics, Public Housing, Public Health, Multiculturalism, Childhood, Motherhood, Homes, Housing, Play, Children's Homes, Domestic Environment, Isolation, Migrants, Cambodian Immigration, Vietnamese Communities