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Australia artist Belinda Mason’s work has focused on taboo social issues that explore the very personal and sometimes difficult subjects of grief, body image, identity and family.
For more than 17 years Mason’s has conceptualised, produced and presented high quality socio-cultural engaged art exhibitions and events for national and international audiences.
Mason’s exhibition of photographs titled Intimate Encounters concerning sexuality and disability, toured to every metropolitan and key regional city throughout Australia – 32 venues from 2001 to 2007 and to nine international cities from 2002 to 2014 including London, Barcelona, New York, Toronto and Auckland. Intimate Encounters toured with the assistance of Accessible Arts Australia and Visions of Australia.
The exhibition of media and photomedia titled Unfinished Business by Mason exposed the impact of disability in Indigenous communities throughout Australia. Though Unfinished Business’s was produced in Australia it was internationally premièred at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, 2013. Attending the exhibition was the Director General of the United Nations in Geneva, and the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations. Their offices organised for Unfinished Business to coincide with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with the Human Rights Council, 24th Session. Unfinished Business was supported by the First People Disability Network and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through the Australian Mission in Geneva and their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program.
Other exhibitions include invited commissions. In 2013, the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Liverpool NSW, commissioned Mason to produce a series of 3D lenticlars photographs to explore her concept of women in sport. She selected women from diverse experiences including a 102 year old athlete who still competes and a Muslim woman who represents NSW in the Australian Football League. Two of these images are on permanent display at the building of the United Nations, Geneva.
A recent collaboration was last year with artist Dieter Knierim. The exhibition was titled Outing Disability. This project engaged the Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people with disability. These groups are often excluded from both the disability and LGBTIQ communities. The exhibition exposed a multiple of discriminations including inhibiting LGBTIQ’s ability to experience sexuality, sex and gender as positive aspects of their lives.
While Mason’s exhibitions are her core focus, she is also submits her work to significant art prizes. In 2008 Mason’s peers award her the riches photography prize in Australia, ‘The Moran Prize’ of $50,000 with her photograph titled Four Generations (2008). Her digital photograph Beyond the Burn series (2004) was awarded the 2008 Kodak Salon Centre for Contemporary Photography and the Perth Centre for Photography 2008 Iris Award. Her Images from the Maningrida series won her the 2008 Human Rights Award for Photography. She came third in the prestigious International Spider Awards for Photojournalism in 2008.
Other national photographic awards including being a finalist in Head On (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008,), Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award (2002, 2006, 2012), the Olive Cotton Awards (2007, 2008), the Iris Award (2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010), The Moran Prize (2012) and VIVID (2014), The Blake Prize (2009,) and the winner of BHP Images of the Outback Award in 2003, 2004, and 2012.
Her photographs are held in national and international museums and galleries including Shape Arts Gallery UK, Museum of Sex, New York, the Australian Commercial and Media Photographers Collection and the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.
Mason is also regularly invited to speak at professional conferences and events such as the Arts Activated Conference in 2011 and 2014, Australian Institute of Professional Photography Blowfish Conference 2010, Australian Centre of Photography 2006, International Festival of Photography in Sydney 2004 and the Melbourne Festival of Arts 2002.
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Dieter Knierim is a Sydney-based photographic and video artist. He completed his undergraduate degree, Bachelor of Communications in Media Arts & Production at University of Technology Sydney in 2016. He is currently a studying a Bachelor of Science at Macquarie University.
Working with peak bodies such as First Peoples Disability Network, People with Disability Australia and Women With Disabilities Australia he has produce projects which reveal the complexity of the issues facing people with disability both internationally and nationally.
At the end of 2013 Dieter, completed his work on the project Unfinished Business along side Belinda Mason, creating an awareness of Indigenous Australians with disability, his 24 minute documentary, tells the story of 30 Indigenous Australians that come from all around Australia. This exhibition was shown at the United Nation in Geneva 2013 and in 2014 was shown at the Museum of Tolerance for the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Persons in New York. The goal of this exhibitions is to shows the impact of disability within Indigenous communities and to help the participant a voice to the wider international audiences. This work is currently touring nationally.
In 2013, Dieter along side Belinda Mason, both completed “Outing Disability” a project about disability and sexuality within the LGBTIQ community partnering with NSW Family Planning. In 2013, Dieter became the winner of the Connections Anti-Poverty Award, and his work is included in the Australian National Maritime Museum, Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Studies. Dieter is a finalist in the Blake Prize, The Moran Prize, Josephine Urlich & Win Schubert Photographic Award.
In 2012, Dieter was involved with the Casula Power House, on the exhibition Inside, and exhibition which showed the diversity of women who are breaking down the stereotypes of how women in sport are defined.
With his brother Liam, in 2010, he founded Knierim Brothers Productions which currently provides services to the Film and Television Industry. Dieter identifies as a person with a cognitive disability.
As a young artist Dieter has already been exposed to large amounts of diversity that enables him to have deep understanding of the human condition. From the young age of 16 in 2010, Knierim was already teaching photography to young students in the remote community of Aurukun in Far North Queensland. At the age of 17, Knierim was sent back to Aurukun to create a training program for young adults on documentary filmmaking. This program was design to help younger generation and older generation to reengage with each other, to help culture to be carried down. In 2010, Knierim also took part in an exhibition called “Yolngu on Balanda”, along side Belinda Mason. As part of the project Dieter filmed and asked Indigenous Australian what they would like to say to a “non Indigenus Australians. This exhibition was opened at the Perth Centre of photography. By 2013, Knierim documentary “Black on White” along with Belinda Mason photographs were exhibited at the State Library of NSW for three months. This exhibition then inspired Knierim to continue his work within Aboriginal communities.
From 2010 to 2013, Knierim took part in the Festival of Dangerous Ideas as well as the topical debates at the St James Ethics Centre, interviewing people from all over the world about taboo topics, dealing with child soldiers, assisted suicide, body image, population debate, and interview such greats as Germaine Geer, Dick Smith and John Howard. From this Knierim was able to learn the complexities that there is no such thing as a simple solution and that there is not such thing as true right and wrong, and that ones opinion must be heard, reasoned with and discussed to evaluate ones own individual opinion.
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Margherita Coppolino is the vibrant change agent, with a diverse range of skills and interests, relating to workplace diversity and inclusion, as well as in the training arena. She is an experienced manager of diversity and inclusion projects with government, business, social justice organizations and the wider community. Margherita has a strong commercial acumen and the ability to frame a range of issues in a commercial context.
For many years Margherita has created images that capture stories from diverse communities as they unfold in her role as a diversity/disability and inclusion consultant. Only 4 Years ago, she realised that she could use photography as a tool was a powerful way in educating people.
In 2012, she was a successful applicant of the Cultivated Grants through Arts Access Australia and was mentored by photographer Belinda Mason. This mentoring opportunity opened her eyes as to what was possible and Belinda challenged her to take the next step and exhibit her work within the public domain. This led to being selected from a range of photographers to be a part of the Head On Photographic Festival, where her work, Short and Sweet , (images of short statured people in every day lives) was featured.
In 2013, she was one of the official photographers for the World Dwarf Games in the USA. During the event, she, along with photographer Ali Ryan captured an images, many ‘a golden moment’ of the Australian team giving rise to an exhibition of the same name at Federation Square Melbourne in 2014. The exhibition was sponsored by Federation Square and Arts Access Victoria. The exhibition was shown at the Albury Library in 2015.
In 2014, Margherita was commissioned by the Melbourne Writers Festival to create portraits of writers with disabilities, which would be developed into postcards series and distributed throughout the Australia by Writerability.
In 2015, Margherita was commissioned as one of the four photographers for an exhibition at the Museum of Democracy entitled ‘Grass Roots Democracy – the Campaign for Disability rights.’
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Denise Beckwith is the Diversity Consultant and Documentary Photographer with the Silent Tears multi-media exhibition. Denise is currently a PhD student within the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at Western Sydney University. Denise is also a graduate Bachelor of Social Work Honours student. Denise’s honours thesis explores the silences within the social work curricula nationally, in relation to sexuality and disability content and the impact that this has on social workers’ abilities to support perspective clients with disability in relation to their sexuality and sexual expression.
Denise’s involvement in Silent Tears has enabled her to travel extensively between 2014 and 2017, both nationally and internationally, to contribute to the expansion of the exhibition. Denise believes artistic endeavours such as photography are a tool of social activism and advocacy, framing people’s stories, allowing them to share their insights, knowledge and experiences to create social change.
In 2016, Denise spoke at two side-events to promote Silent Tears at one at the 60th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women in New York and the other at the United Nations Geneva for the 10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Denise’s career spans 15 years within the disability advocacy sector including roles with both People with Disability Australia (PWDA) and the NSW Mental Health Advocacy Service. Her roles have involved supporting people with disability to address several issues, including supporting them through incidents of violence. During her time at PWDA Denise had the opportunity to attend the United Nations, New York to observe the formation of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability in 2005. For nine years, Denise was involved with the Touching Base Committee, holding various roles including Vice President. Touching Base is an organisation which creates linkage and education between the sex industry and people with disability through their advocacy for the sexual rights of people with disability and the rights of sex workers, two equally marginalised communities. Denise is a member of Women With Disabilities Australia and a member of the Australian National Committee for UN Women.
Denise has a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Chemistry from University of Canberra 2001, and a Bachelor of Theology from Australian National University 1998. In 2013, Denise made the decision to undertake further tertiary study at Western Sydney University and is currently completing a Bachelor of Social Work, Honours. Her Honours thesis investigates the impact that the lack of sexuality and disability content within social work curricula has on social workers preparedness to support people with disability in relation to the topic of sexuality. The absence means people with disability are less informed about their rights, making them more vulnerable to experiencing violence, particularly sexual abuse.
As a Paralympian, she represented Australia at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games in the sport of swimming. She was a member of the 4 x 50m Freestyle Relay team that won the bronze medal. Denise was an Paralympics Ambassador for the Link Elite Athletes Program and also an Ambassador for Senior Card NSW, Million Smiles Program.
She is a participant of Belinda Mason’s exhibition about about women in sport, Off-side about women in sport and the International project Intimate Encounters about sexuality and disability, which toured nationally and internationally for 14 years.
‘It is important to break the silence concerning the topic of violence against people with disability, and particularly the topic of violence against women with disability, as the silence exacerbates naivety. It would be naive to think violence doesn’t happen to people with disability and it is even more naive to think violence doesn’t create disability. Silent Tears creates the opportunity for violence that women with disability experience to be acknowledged, and to create bridge for people to begin a journey of realisation that violence does cause disability. Silent Tears has provided a platform of support, uniting women in the realisation they are not isolated in their experience of violence. Participation has enabled women to take control and tell their respective story. This opportunity for women with disability to voice their experience of violence, is in a unquestioned way. The unquestioning approach is unique as often the onus is on victims to provide evidence of their experience in order to obtain the various forms of support, which can be a barrier to actually obtaining support. Often when things happen to people with disability, they are siloed by their disability making it difficult or even impossible to access support services. The exhibition breaks down the silos of culture, gender, identity and disability as it shows participants as multi-faceted people with varying experiences and identities. Silent Tears is educative of the wider community to realise a person’s identity is multi-layered and a collaborative approach is required to respond in a meaningful and holistic manner.’ – Denise Beckwith 2013
Medical Science Consultant
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Liam Knierim is currently studying a Bachelor of Medical Science at Sydney University, with the aim of becoming a medical doctor. Liam is also a founding member of Knierim Brothers Productions which has provided media services to to the health and disability sector since 2008.
In August 2016, Liam was invited to co-present at the Australian Medical Students Association Global Health Conference on the topics brought forward by the participants of the multi-media art exhibitions Silent Tears, Outing Disability and Unfinished Business projects. In November 2016, he co-presented again with Denise Beckwith and Belinda Mason at the Western Sydney University the Social Workers in Disability Conference on a panel discussing the exhibition Outing Disability.
By combining his passions for journalism, health, science and technology, Liam hopes to use his skills to help the wider community gain a greater understanding of diversity in order to improve the lives and health outcomes of people with disability. This is a reflection of his commitment to both medicine and human rights.
‘Growing up, I have been lucky enough to be exposed to array of different communities from CALD, LGBTQI and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. I was once asked, ‘What is it like to grow up in such a diverse environment’. I replied, ‘What is it like not to?’ People are not defined by any single label, they are reflective of the intersections of their own culture, gender and identity and the need to recognised that as individuals we are multifaceted. We all share what is innate, lived human experiences of love and hate, pity and empathy, sadness and happiness. Through these similarities, a greater appreciation and understanding of our differences can evolve and create a more inclusive and tolerant environment.
Through journalism I discovered a powerful conduit to share these experiences with others in an informative and engaging manner. I subconsciously invited people to reflect upon their attitudes and assumptions and challenge themselves rather than others. A pivotal moment in my life was working with Belinda Mason on such projects as, Unfinished Business, stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability; Outing Disability, stories from people with disability who identify as Gay Lesbian Bisexual Queer Transgender and Intersex+; and Silent Tears, stories from women with disability who have been subjected to violence and women who acquire disability as a result of violence. These projects have been displayed in conjunction with the United Nations in both New York and Geneva and exhibited widely across Australia.
It is achievements like this that I hold dear, as I witnessed the diversity health outcomes and the complexity of the provision process. This valuable experience lead me to the realisation that journalism, was the preparation for a larger chapter of my life, and that it was medicine, not journalism, that was my calling.
The social model of disability challenges the discrimination and prejudice faced when articulating the personal experience of impairment. The medical model equips support services in the management of heath care of the physical self. Integral to creating balance between the two models is the assertion of our common humanity to support ethical approaches in order to improving the human rights and health outcomes of people with disability.
Throughout the past three years studyingMedical Science at the University of Sydney I have been lucky enough to learn what physically makes us human. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the anatomy and physiology of human beings. Comprehending more of how the human heart functions or the determinates that govern our gene expression is part of the incredible adventure into medicine that fuels my thirst for knowledge of life and the world around us. I have begun to look at the people I had interviewed through a different lens, in order to understand the causation of their disability. The aetiology of their disability is like a puzzle that the medical fraternity have the resources to begin to solve. The key is to ensuring an inclusive process, by partnering with people with disability on a equal platform. I know to create an impact on the entire world is an almost impossible task, but to impact someone’s entire world is possible.’
– Liam Knierim