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Fields of Hearts display

The Field of Hearts project

The Field of Hearts project is the brainchild of Andrew Hall of Public Servants for Refugees in Canberra, in the lead-up to World Refugee Day 2003 whilst planning with the ACT Refugee Action Coalition.

The momentum of this important project is now building, in preparation for World Refugee Day 2004, and the planned convergence on Canberra prior to the 2004 Federal Election. At Project SafeCom we're part of the action!

Note April 2008: The Field of Hearts Project is no longer current for the intent it had at the time it was developed. We've left this page in place as a memory - but hey, who said it can't be started up again! Use the contacts on this page for further inquiries!

Related pages

Organised by Project SafeCom in collaboration with Oxfam and Amnesty International Perth19 June 2004: Three World Refugee Day 2004 events: a time of action for the entire family - For World Refugee Day 2004 we have combined forces with Amnesty International and Oxfam Community Aid Abroad for a great family day of local action in Fremantle. The day features the Daybreak in Detention project, The Field of Hearts, theatre at Deckchair (Something to Declare) and concludes with the screening of the movie The Deported. Review the program and come see us!!!

24 October 2004: A Canberra Rally: Stand up for Refugees - The re-election of the Coalition Government poses an enormous challenge for refugee activists. Yet it is one we must rise to meet. A page about a rally in Canberra on Tuesday 16 November 2004, the first sitting day of the new Parliament.

30 November 2004: Stand up for Refugees Canberra: the photos - Twenty-four photos of the Stand up for Refugees Rally on Parliament House on November 16, 2004, the opening day of the new Parliament. Project SafeCom was there, and we showed we want to be counted!

What is the Field of Hearts?

The Field of Hearts is a visual installation project launched in the ACT on UN World Refugee Day, June 20th 2003.

The idea behind the Field of Hearts is to provide a vehicle for ordinary Australians, particularly those not already involved in campaigns for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, to symbolically "Show their hearts for refugees". It is an expression of support for the plight of refugees in a world of war, poverty, tyranny and hunger, and to oppose our government's heartless treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

We believe that many Australians - from all political persuasions - are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the lack of humanity in current policies and want a more open-hearted policy towards refugees.

For example, the long-term mandatory detention of all onshore applicants, the Temporary Protection Visa policy as well as the comparatively low intake of offshore refugees and low level of financial support for the UNHCR in their caring for refugees word-wide.

Refugee activists from many groups in the ACT have been working together over the last few years to develop a positive message to represent our commitment to the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees. In June 2002 we had a major event called "Canberra Welcomes Refugees" where 3500 Canberrans marched across Commonwealth Bridge to "WELCOME" a boatload of refugees who already resided in the ACT Region. The refugees were officially welcomed by the ACT Speaker of the House, MLA Wayne Berry, and Ngunnawal Elders, Ruth and Don Bell.

This was a very emotional event, which profoundly impacted on the self-esteem of the "boat people" many of whom had spent a long time in camps before entering our community. Many Canberrans also reported that the event was a turning point for their involvement in refugee issues, as many got to meet Temporary Protection Visa holders and other refugees for the first time and get involved in support networks or political activities about refugee issues.

When the 2003 UN World Refugee Day planning committee met in early 2003 to plan the next event, we wanted to build on the positive experience of the previous year. Andrew Hall of Public Servants for Refugees proposed we create a Field of Hearts, similar to the successful 'Sea of Hands' concept in support of Aboriginal Native Title and Reconciliation. Andrew envisaged that the Field of Hearts could provide a vehicle for people to symbolically register their support for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Multi-coloured hearts could be made available to be decorated, signed and prepared with refugee rights slogans and images which would culminate in a visual installation project, the Field of Hearts.

Five days before our event, a working group cut out 860 plastic hearts and spread them around their core groups including a couple of schools and churches. The key message: Australians want more open-hearted policies towards refugees and asylum seekers, was already a fundamental building block of the mission statements of many groups working for refugee rights. For example, Rural Australians for Refugees uses the slogan: If you knew the facts you would open your hearts!

What we hoped to do with the Field of Hearts project was to capture the broad range of positive views about refugee issues. People were encouraged to either just sign their hearts, or write a slogan of their choice on the heart, or decorate their heart with a photographic collage. After just four days we received back more than 300 fully decorated hearts, from individuals, from refugee groups, from school classes, from Church social justice groups, from artists, from political activists and from some politicians.

History of the Field of Hearts

The Field of Hearts was officially launched in Canberra by Wayne Berry MLA, ALP Speaker of the ACT Legislative Assembly on Friday June 20, 2003 (UN World Refugee Day). Several hundred hearts were placed on the green mound outside the Assembly and a number of people including Australian Democrat's Senator Andrew Bartlett and Greens MLA, Kerrie Tucker spoke to the gathered media.

Two days later, on Sunday June 22nd, we had our major event. Following torrential rain all morning, several 100's of refugee supporters marched down City Walk in the heart of Canberra and "planted their hearts" in the lawns. We then sheltered under the shop overhangs to hear a number of speakers address the notion of more open-hearted policies towards refugees.

The most significant speech was that of Marion Le (Independent Council for Refugee Advocacy), who passionately highlighted the plight of women refugees who have been subjected to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Other individuals who addressed the crowds included Bishop Pat Power, Andrew Hall, Jenness Gardner (CPSU), MLA's Kerrie Tucker, Roslyn Dundas, and Wayne Berry, Sudanese refugees, ACT Network Opposing War, Falun Gong Refugees, and Refugee Supporters from the Young Community. By the end of the day 700 hearts were signed and/or decorated.

We didn't realise until some months later how much the Field of Hearts idea had captured the imagination of the Canberra community. The Field of Hearts has now become part of a large body of installation material used by refugee groups in the ACT for Library Displays, and in displays at school fetes and community markets and street stalls.

The Field of Hearts has been lent to churches to be used in ceremonies for Refugee Sunday. We are still having requests from schools to bring in the hearts and have "heart-decorating workshops" with classes studying migration and refugee issues. The owner of two local Body Shop outlets has featured the Field of Hearts in her window displays and is a collection point for donations towards the project and people can pick up blank hearts and drop off decorated ones at the Shops.

ACT Amnesty International's Refugee Team is launching their involvement in Field of Hearts on Valentine's Day at the ACT Multicultural Festival. A Wollongong Refugee Action group borrowed hearts from the ACT and did their own launch on the beach and there has been significant interest from schools on the East Coast. Adelaide refugee activists from the SA Greens and "Circle of Friends" launched their version of Field of Hearts in early February, and groups in Newcastle and Queensland are working on producing hearts.

The Field of Hearts was also set up on the final day of the Rural Australians for Refugees National Conference in Albury in February, so that refugee supporters from around the country could decide whether their local groups would like to get involved.

Where to for the Field of Hearts?

Our intention now is to encourage other groups nationwide to get behind the production of a massive one million strong Field of Hearts, which can be planted on the lawns of Australian Parliament House at a Convergence sometime before the next federal election. Our goal is to show all sides of politics that Australians want to open their hearts to refugees and asylum seekers.

We hope this will be an activity that:

World Refugee Day

The ACT UNHCR Education Officer has encouraged us to use UN World Refugee Day 2004 - Sunday, June 20th - to 'plant the Field of Hearts' at Parliament House and we hope to gather all the hearts from groups nationally for a mass installation to celebrate that day. We hope groups from around the nation will be able to send or bring their own Field of Hearts to Canberra on this day, so we visually illustrate that a vast number of ordinary Australians really do want "more open-hearted policies" towards refugees and asylum seekers, both here in Australia and globally.

The HREOC Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski has agreed to address the next Field of Hearts event, as have last year's key speakers.

Getting involved

To get involved in helping to distribute hearts, to build a future Field of Hearts display, to endorse the Field of Hearts convergence over the June 20 weekend, or arrange to get hearts, contact one of the people below.

Making your own Hearts

The hearts are made out of 3mm plastic corflute, which is like plastic corrugated cardboard. Corflute comes in large (6 x 4 ft, 183cm x 122cm) sheets of black, white, red, yellow, blue and green.

For people cutting out their own hearts, the sheets are 72 inches long (about 183cm) and you cut them into 6 equal strips of 12 inches (about 30.5cm) wide. Then using a template of one heart, trace five hearts across the strip, placing the heart "tip to tail" so that you can fit the 5 hearts along side each other across the strip.

the hearts, drawn on the sheet

If you are cutting out the hearts yourself, you must start with a heart shape that creates five hearts per 12 inch strip, therefore 30 hearts per 72 inch (183 cm) sheet. The heart must be 25cm from tip to indentation at the top. 27.5cm across the heart at the point of the indentation and 28.5cm at the widest point or the curve. Because I have these measurements from a heart already cut out, check these measurements by making a template and trying to fit 5 across one strip. If they are a little too wide and the 5th heart ends up getting its last curve clipped, cut a thin sliver off the curved edges on BOTH sides and try again until you can fit 5 heart tip and tail, flush up against each other across one strip.

The Stake that plants the heart in the soil

The 'stakes'

After long deliberations we decided to not make or order the metal stakes that support the hearts once they are planted. We decided to do things this way because the final destiny of hearts, painted and committed though our events and stalls (click to see the photo) is the mail or courier parcel to Canberra anyway. The cost of shipping our hearts to you when you order would increase a great deal if we would have included the stakes.

If you want to make the stakes, think of contacting a local metal engineering workshop, show them a heart and the picture we printed here. You will then be able to choose the metal suitable for the stakes, bend them into shape yourself, or have them made by the workshop.

Alternatively, you may want to contact Canberra RAC for more information about getting stakes - see contact details below.

Field of Hearts in the ACT

Pick up and drop off points for the hearts in the ACT include:

  1. The Body Shop, Woden and Civic,
    Radio 2XXfm, Bunda Street,
    Uniting Church Pilgrim House, Northbourne Ave,
    The Resistance Centre and
    The AI Activist Centre, both above Dymock's Book Shop, City Walk.
  2. If you or your group wants to get behind the Field of Hearts project, please email Linda [lindafrd (at)] or phone:
  3. Claire Bruhns on 0401 325 943 or (02) 6288-0535
    Andrew Hall, (Public Servants for Refugees) on 0438 624 744
    Amanda Bresnan (ACT Greens) on 0417 193 407
    Jane Keogh on (02) 6249-8613
  4. If you would like someone to come out to your school, church or community group to speak about this project, and about refugee issues generally, both Jane Keogh and Claire Bruhns are available weekdays.
  5. If your group would like to borrow the hearts for an event of your own, or to kick start interest in the project, please contact us!

This page is an adapted copy of the original at: