Migrant Mothers of Australia: Part One

20 / 04 / 2015

“Migrant Mothers of Australia, medicine ” by Sevim Dogan, is a photographic project involving women over 80 from diverse backgrounds. The aim of this project is to honour their many sacrifices and commitments in their journey to call Australia home. Sheilas has been fortunate enough to share some of these images over the next months in a three-part installment.

Dogan says of the project:

“Departing from a sense of belonging in a new place, I wanted to build this photographic study of a long forgotten generation. Their children have been born here, studied here and help build our very own multicultural society and the mothers’ role in this is undeniably prominent.

I’ve had to adopt many ways to locate and approach these women for a photo shoot. I have discovered a mass appreciation for the idea of this project and it wasn’t too long until I found my treasures. The project has found its soul when notions of ‘belonging’ and ‘ identity’ vocalised itself in the stories of these women.”

The Migrant Mothers of Australia will be exhibited at Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in September 2015.


Alena, now 93, was a young girl when she migrated from to Australia with her husband and son. She came from Lithuania, a country torn between the Gestapo and Russians, long out of shape to provide peace for a family. Alena’s father moved to Australia with them leaving her mother in Lithuania. Her mother chose to stay as one son was captive in a German prison. Alena’s mother hoped her son would come back to her, and if he did, she wanted to make sure she was there.

Alena had no contact with home for nine years as the communist regime was checking every communication from the outside world.

She’s been very active in the Australian Lithuanian community, and was awarded a medal for her achievements in 2007. Alena’s only concern is her eyesight failing her, saying “it was painful to part from my books, but I have found good homes for them.”


Julia, from Italy, was shy like a little girl, carrying a smile mixed with sadness.  I could tell she was not sure of herself. As a photographer, I was conscious of being in her private space, yet at the same time, she was so welcoming to my camera. When I saw the window light on her face, that was the moment that she felt present, existing between that tiny space.

I looked at Julia’s picture countless times and tried to imagine her first day in Australia, getting off the ship. There were many years following that, she was on the other side of the world, without a single exchange with her home in Italy from that day forth.  She is now 87, her husband passed away quite a few years ago and she has no children.

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