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Community digs deep to help University students

Proving that a picture tells a thousand words, a new photography exhibition captures Australia’s resilience in the face of a pandemic and personal hardship.

Photographer Anne Smith’s research into helping communities to cope during a crisis, developed at the University of Southern Queensland, inspired a South Australian town to tell their COVID-19 story.

The ‘Our Strength During COVID-19’ exhibition is underway at the Burton Community Centre, where images of empty streets and grocery shelves sit along heart-warming photos of families existing in a virtual world.

“From a drawing of a hug sent to a grandmother, to a screenshot of laughing friends donning a sunglasses filter in group chat, we were inundated with positive images,” Dr Smith said.

“Images can be a powerful tool for people to express themselves, sharing and amplifying their responses to adversity.

“Despite fear and isolation, each community member/photographer involved felt uplifted taking their images - there seems to be an inbuilt need in us all to look for the positive.”

Dr Smith completed her PhD through the University of Southern Queensland, researching resilience and wellbeing through photography in the drought-ravished Barcaldine region in Central West Queensland.

The project culminated in her Resilience Through Images (RTI) Model and a ‘Our Strength During Drought’ exhibition, empowering people to share their experience via photos amid tough times. 

“Participants felt they had contributed to helping their community through the crisis by raising awareness around the country about what they had gone through,” she said.

“Also, when focusing on positive aspects of the situation, those upbeat experiences were amplified dramatically when shared with other members of their community.

“Community spirit and connectedness shined through”

The Burton project also honoured resilience in the face of personal tragedy, dedicated to the memory of Dr Smith’s granddaughter who passed away in a multiple car fatality earlier this year.

‘Our Strength During COVID-19’ will be nominated in two states (Qld & SA) for a Federal Australian Resilience award 2021 and has been honoured as a finalist for the Communities SA Loneliness Cure Awards, with the outcome to be announced in December 2020.

Framed image of a "hug"
A drawing of a hug sent to a grandmother (image supplied)