We are all born equal in dignity and rights.
The statement not only forms the core for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is also the opening line of Citizen – a Tasmanian documentary film exploring what it means to be a citizen and the social injustices inflicted on so many.
The work of 21-year-old Grace Williams, the project asked Tasmanians to share their stories in an effort to raise awareness about human rights abuses.
Born in Ghana in West Africa, Williams emigrated to Tasmania with her family in 2005.
After graduating from Launceston College, she made the move to Hobart where she is now studying law at the University of Tasmania.
Williams said she is committed to exploring and upholding human rights for all, and as an Australian citizen, is especially passionate about advocating for the human rights of Tasmanians.
“When you come from a society that has breakdown of rule of law, all of a sudden law and dignity becomes really important,” she said.
“If you have seen conflict, if you are aware of the impacts of war and destruction, it becomes a very core institution and a core value that you need.
“You only cry out for it when you are suffering, but I guess because of my background and my families background, it is so important.”
Launched in Hobart in October, Citizen will debut in the North in January.
As the film’s director, Williams has already been recognised for her efforts in facilitating an important discussion about human rights and diversity in Tasmania.
The film was supported by the Sandy Duncan Social Justice Bursary for Human Rights, which Williams was awarded in May.
Earlier this month she was also named the youth award winner for the Tasmanian Human Rights Awards.
Considering it had been 11 years since the Law Reform Institute launched its paper and recommendation that Tasmania should have a Human Rights Act, Williams said she felt compelled to start a community conversation about human rights and what they mean to every day Tasmanians.
The finished product – Citizen – features 10 Tasmanians who share their human rights stories and was co-produced by Alex Rylah.
Topics covered in the film range from war and conflict survival, statelessness, sexual and physical abuse, discrimination and Indigenous discrimination, genocide as well as racial vilification.
Williams said while confronting, the responses to the film had been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think that for these big global human rights issues, in a place like Tasmania this film has finally given it a face,” she said.
“People could finally see the face of a genocide, see the face of an Indigenous Tasmanian woman having to negotiate her own identity with people who don’t recognise her as such.
“I think for most people that would have been uncomfortable and shocking, but also I have got responses from people saying it has opened their heart.
“That they couldn’t imagine having to live like that and how empowering it was as Tasmanians to see themselves in that light.
“Because Tasmania is depicted as a place where we are quite isolated, which means we might not be touched by things.
“But I think for the audience what they have said is – ‘wow, we are touched by these things. We are connected’.
“These issues have an impact here on our lives, and so the responses have been overwhelmingly positive.”
In conjunction with the documentary, Williams has also written a book along with Rylah, further exploring human rights violations in Tasmania.
Titled Together We Stand, the book connects the community ‘local voice’ with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As for Citizen, Williams said she hopes the film will continue to be screened across the state, with a roadshow planned for next year.
“I am really looking forward to bringing it up to Northern Tasmania,” she said.
“We want to try and get to every major [Tasmanian] city, because every person is represented across the state so that’s where we want to take it.
“So that people can watch it in their own home town and keep the message there.
“Call-out to anyone who wants to host a screening. Support is always welcomed.”
- For more information about Citizen and its future screenings, visit citizentas.org or email contact@citizen tas.org.