How can street art and the community it brings together investigate what it means to be Australian? The Real Australians Say Welcome street art project created by Peter Drew was inspired by a line in our national anthem. How did this poster series and the subsequent posters spark discussion and debate about multiculturism in Australia? Peter has been making street art for the last 9 years, but he began his Real Australians Say Welcome project back in 2014. While studying in Glasgow for a year, Peter considered in depth what it meant to be Australian; when you go overseas, he says, you “become Australian: Peter, the Australian guy.” He felt then that he should have an opinion about what that means. From humble beginnings, you can now see his posters all over Australia.
In today’s episode of Be The Drop, which was recorded live on stage during the Adelaide Podcast Festival at The Elephant British Pub, Peter talks about the power of the ancient forum of outdoor space, considers the notion of unity and reveals why it’s important to listen to your haters…
Give people something to unite around.
Peter says that his audience is anyone who uses public space. But how can a poster create a community? Peter began Real Australians Say Welcome to find out if Australians really do have the “courage to combine” as is stated in our National Anthem: “For those who’ve come across the seas / We’ve boundless plains to share / With courage let us all combine / To advance Australia fair”.
“With courage, let us all combine” suggests that overcoming fear takes courage – it’s hard to accept people that seem really different. But this is often left out of the rhetoric – you must love multiculturism, but let’s look at why it’s difficult for people. Have the courage to look the truth in the eye and face up to it.
Peter explains that in changing people’s views on something, it’s important not to shame people into developing alternative views. Instead, encourage them to focus on that change being a strength. This gives people something to unite around, which creates community. People want to be proud of something. This motivates them to action. For Peter, it’s what inspires people to actively engage, by donating towards the on-going rounds of this project, in order to continue the dialogue.
For a step by step process on how to create a community and motivate it to action, check out our Be The Drop Manifesto here.
Listen to the Peter Drew interview recorded LIVE at Adelaide’s inaugural Podcast Festival, here:
Take your community on a journey.
Peter already had a following of people that liked his street art, but more recently his community became united by an interest in Australian identity and how it’s changing. Real Australians Say Welcome began as a comment about asylum seekers and Australia having a welcoming nature, and this is different to Real Australians Seek Welcome, which is more about aboriginal rights. The community interested in your first output might not be as interested in your other outputs, so taking them on a journey and showing them the connection between the different things you’re putting out there is a challenge.
Even with Peter’s work, there’s a space for that online connection, as people inevitably turn to the internet for more information to explain the posters they’ve seen. Peter uses video to explain his creative thought process, makes it accessible for people and explains the incentives available for donating to the project.
Criticism provides a valuable tool for personal and professional growth.
Listen to the haters.
Without community – without people expressing their opinions about what you’re doing – what’s the point? The people who actively follow what Peter’s doing online generally agree with the thinking behind his projects, there are also plenty of people that disagree, but it’s the people sitting on the fence that he really wants to talk to. The media shouts about one extreme or the other, about right and wrong. But engaging with those in the middle is where real change can occur.
Peter advises not to crumble when someone disagrees with you, but to pay attention when someone is saying that they hate what you’re doing. It is from this criticism that you can learn and evolve your thinking by adding depth to your position. If you accept people patting you on the back all the time, you’re not learning, you’re not developing. Of course, you’re going to get those that like to hate on things for sport – you can ignore them!
Thank you again for tuning in and listening to the BTD podcast. I can’t wait for the next installment, to bring you more inspiring people talking about their strategies for connecting with and building a positive community.
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