RMIT has worked with social enterprise STREAT to tell the stories of young homeless people, in a project enabling Christmas shoppers at Melbourne Central to truly support the spirit of giving.
The GPT Group’s Melbourne Central Shopping Centre is once again offering Christmas gift-wrapping for gold coin donations to benefit homeless youth and this year the wrapping paper directly reflects the cause – incorporating a unique design based on Melbourne’s CBD created by STREAT in conjunction with RMIT’s nonfictionLab.
STREAT provides homeless and disadvantaged young people with vocational training and work experience through their cafes in Flemington, Freshwater Place and Melbourne Central.
This season’s wrapping paper takes the form of a map, featuring stories from homeless youth and their supporters, as well as artistic impressions of city landmarks.
The wrapping paper features a festive and innovative design with much to discover in the detail.
Hashtags link the curious to longer versions of the stories and also to songs composed by Melbourne songwriters working with some of the authors.
Graphic artist Alex Hotchin, who has worked previously with map-based design, collaborated with writers from RMIT, who took the lead in editing and curating the text.
Stories were collected from workshops and events such as Melbourne Central’s Sleepless in September, where supporters were encouraged to contribute their writing. Stories were also sourced directly from STREAT’s program participants.
STREAT CEO Rebecca Scott, who was recently crowned Victorian Local Hero of the Year in the Australian of the Year awards, said she was extremely proud of the wrapping paper initiative and the possibilities to do more in this creative space.
“We see this as just the start of some amazing creative collaborations,” Scott said.
“Our young people have really engaged in this project and it's given them the opportunity to positively express themselves, to dream about their futures and the type of city they want to live in.
“For them it was really special – it felt like getting a group hug from the arts community.”
RMIT’s nonfictionLab co-director Francesca Rendle-Short described the collaboration: “When you lose everything or nearly everything, your story is all that you have; it belongs to you and you to it.
“These stories on this wrapping paper, evidence of ‘applied creative writing’, are tangible proof of what is possible.
“You can't take these stories away: stories that have been lived and stories of imagined futures.”
Of bringing all the elements together, artist Alex Hotchin said: “These stories and songs of hope and heartache, memories and dreams, inspiration and insight all live on the streets of our city.
“This mapped telling of these stories gives them a place to be heard, and by listening we all learn.”
Michelle Aung Thin, one of the coordinators of the RMIT/STREAT collaboration, was happy to see the university engage with the community in this way.
“RMIT is all about uniting passion with purpose. I think this collaboration with STREAT is a great of example of exactly that,” she said.
The STREAT self-serve wrapping station is on the second floor of Melbourne Central, outside Peter Alexander, and is open daily from 7am to 7pm.
Story: Stayci Taylor