LifestyleArtsExhibition explores seasonal workers’ viewpoint

Exhibition explores seasonal workers’ viewpoint

Kaya Barry seasonal
Artist and research Dr Kaya Barry explores the typical daily life of seasonal workers in the exhibition ‘Seasonal' at Childers Arts Space. Photo: contributed.

The typical daily life of the region’s seasonal workers will be explored from the workers’ own viewpoints, in a new exhibition Seasonal, at Childers Arts Space, opening Saturday 20 April.

Collated by artist and researcher Dr Kaya Barry, Seasonal examines the experiences and contributions of migrant farm workers to Queensland farming communities.

As part of a three-year research project, Kaya provided workers around Queensland with disposable cameras to capture their daily life, providing a unique insight into everyday rhythms of seasonal work.

Kaya shared some insights into her project and how the exhibition came about.

How did you become interested in the lives of seasonal workers?

I've been researching backpacking and migration for over a decade now, as I did a lot of backpacking overseas in my 20s, and I became fascinated [with] how people decide to live out of the one bag and travel around.

Here in Australia, backpackers and seasonal workers are such a big part of our history and culture, especially in farming – and when the pandemic hit there were major shortages of farm workers, so the ideas for this project tried to capture the challenges that many small communities faced during some very hard years.

I also grew up living in a caravan and travelling around Queensland with my parents who picked up seasonal work too, so I've always been fond of lifestyles where people are ‘on the move' and able to travel around.

How were people in the Bundaberg Region involved?

In 2019 I did a pilot study on farm worker hostels in Bundaberg, and so I was delighted to be able to spend a lot more time in the area over the last couple of years.

The community of people and businesses involved in farming – the accommodation and hostel owners and local growers – have all been really helpful and supportive of the research.

You'll see in the exhibition a lot of photographs from Bundy, Childers, and smaller areas in the region too.

I've spent a lot of time in Bundy and the Wide Bay-Burnett region!

How did the exhibition come about?

As I was travelling around Queensland over the past two years, I've met so many lovely people working on farms.

It was important to me to invite people to take the photographs who I had met and spent time in conversation with first.

People had a lot of fun with the idea, I'd hand over the cameras, show people how to use them, and then they started planning what they wanted to “show” in the photographs, it was really exciting.

They took photos, and posted them back to me, and I curated and selected those that you see in the exhibition.

I'm a cultural geographer, so my research involves short interviews and discussions with people – but also, I'm an artist, so photography and documenting the people and places I visited was important too.

What’s next for your research project?

I have one more year to go, it has been a whirlwind and such a great experience being able to tour around Queensland and visit so many beautiful towns and meet a lot of people.

This final year will involve collecting more photographs, a series of exhibitions and running some workshops alongside the exhibitions to get people thinking differently about how we value food production and the people who migrate to small communities.

Seasonal opens at Childers Arts Space on Saturday 20 April, with a special opening event and panel conversation from 3 pm.

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  1. Congratulations Kaya!! I am so happy when I see ex students following their dreams. Clayton updates me when I see him. Keep up the good work!
    I am planting koala trees on my property at present. An old man’s wish to leave good things behind! Have a wonderful time!

  2. Kudos, Kaya! It’s genuinely uplifting to hear about former students chasing their dreams. Clayton keeps me in the loop whenever we cross paths. Keep shining!
    Right now, I’m dedicating time to plant trees for koalas on my land. It’s this old timer’s way of hoping to leave the world a bit better. Wishing you all the best in your adventures!


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