Art for Social Change

Art for Social Change is a three-part series of participatory artworks exploring social justice issues that impact the student experience on campus.

What is Art for Social Change?

Art for Social Change is a three-part series of participatory artworks created and displayed on RMIT campuses. Each artwork is conceived by an artist who is either a current RMIT student or alumni with a lived experience of a particular social justice issue.  The artworks themselves explore themes of respect and belonging at RMIT.

Each project is participatory – which means students co-create elements of the artwork through workshops and events. This collaborative process creates an opportunity for informal conversations and learning about important social issues. 

Art for Social Change is a partnership between RUSU (RMIT University Student Union) and RMIT Student Life.

The artworks

We Belong: Beyond Accessibility art project

Amplifying Deaf and Disabled perspectives at RMIT. This participatory arts project is a collaboration between RUSU and RMIT Student Life.

About the project

This new project is the third in a series of three collaborations between RUSU and Student Life which creatively explore student identified social issues on campus, through a lens of belonging and allyship.

In We Belong, an emerging artist who is connected to RMIT, either as student or alumni and who identifies as Deaf, Disabled, or living with disability* will create a participatory artwork to be co-created with students. The project will highlight stories and ideas that relate to students and their experiences of identity, visibility, allyship and belonging at RMIT University.  This project asks the RMIT community to consider: What’s beyond accessibility and inclusion?

Designed with a foundation in the newly launched RMIT Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) Framework, access is embedded across the project stages. 

*We acknowledge people may prefer person-first or identity-first language and support individuals right to use language that best reflects their identity.

Students having a discussion. Students having a discussion.

Project timeline

This project happens in two stages.

Stage one 2023: Mentorship 

Three emerging RMIT alumni or postgraduate artists who identify as Deaf or Disabled, or living with disability were awarded a mentorship with artist Larissa MacFarlane. Rachel Shugg, Penny Pollard and Liwen Lian worked with each other, students and visiting industry experts to experiment and extend their arts practices. Each developed a proposal for a new collaborative artwork. One was selected for commission in Stage 2.

Stage two 2024: Artwork co-creation with students

Announcing artist Rachel Shugg. Rachel’s Project Metropolis will be co-created with students in Semester 2. Keep an eye out for how to get involved and make your mark on RMIT. Additionally, a roundtable workshop will contribute to a disability led social media campaign designed to open conversation and awareness alongside the commissioned artist.

Picture of Rachel Shugg. Image of Rachel Shugg

About the artist

Rachel Shugg is an Australian research and interdisciplinary fashion designer. Examining the relationship between art and fashion, her work stems from a desire to disrupt and change the current way the fashion industry operates, particularly its current approach to designing for disability and inclusivity. 

“The opportunity to integrate the lived and shared knowledge and talents of a community of people with diverse embodied experiences is important. It is a visual demonstration of raising awareness, challenging stereotypes and fostering understanding and empathy within the RMIT community.”

Text And Media Video

We Belong - beyond accessibility art project

Meet lead artist Rachel Shugg and RUSU Champion Samuel Coombs.

Photograph of artist Rachel Shugg sitting inside classroom talking with students.

Calling RMIT students who are d/Deaf, Disabled and living with disability

Rachel Shuggs participatory artwork Metropolis begins with you.  

That's right, the first stage of Metropolis invites students who are d/Deaf, Disabled or living with disability to come together, meet each other and make your mark as part of this new co-created project.


Metropolis: Student participatory artwork

Make your mark across Metropolis during Semester 2 Orientation! 

Suit up and use paint to track your experience. Can you follow the map? Together navigate the obstacles. All students are welcome during Semester 2 Orientation. 

Project champions

Headshot of Samuel
2024 Samuel Coombs – RUSU Disability and Carers Officer (he/him)

Samuel’s role at RUSU and his studies in Community Service both enrich his passion for supporting and collaborating with his community. He has been able to develop his skills in advocacy and learn the good that can come from working with people.

“I am championing this project because I want to support community building and belonging in RMITs Disability Community. I am also passionate about making sure that RMIT is a place where all students can thrive and reach their full potential.”

Untitled design - 1
2023: Timothy Winning – RUSU Disability and Carers Officer (they/them)

As Disability and Carers Officer, Timothy is strongly focused on disabled student belonging; advocating for changes to the University landscape that will allow disabled students to access and receive the appropriate support they require. 

"I hope that this project, this celebration of disability, shows students that they deserve to be confident with themselves, to be proud of their disability, that they belong at RMIT."

Untitled design - 1
2023: Mark Morante – RUSU General Manager (he/him)

Mark held the inaugural position of RUSU Disability and Carers Officer in 2022. During his time in office, he worked with the University on a number of initiatives designed to support disabled students, including the highly successful 'Shut Up and Write' study sessions for neurodiverse students. 

"I’m a champion of this project because I wish to see the diversity and experiences of disabled students represented at RMIT. I believe that this project will demonstrate that RMIT is a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for disabled students."

Artist mentor

we-belong-artist-mentor-profile-pic-800x800 - 1
Larissa MacFarlane – Artist mentor (they/them or she/her)

Larissa is a Scottish-Australian queer feminist, visual artist and disability activist based in Naarm/Melbourne. They work across printmaking, street art and community art practice and use their experiences of a brain injury to investigate Disabled culture, community, identity and pride. Larissa has exhibited work across Australia and internationally. For more information, check out Larissa's bio.

“I wanted to be the mentor on this project because it just sounds exciting. Disability culture is still so unexplored and diverse, and I’m looking forward to coming together and seeing how other Disabled artists explore our unique culture and identity. Disabled artists are often isolated from each other and this mentorship is about bringing us together, sharing knowledge, and building culture and community.”

The Journey of Mapiyal by Indianna Hunt

Be part of the ongoing journey by considering your solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:

  • Reflect on where you are on your journey towards solidarity and inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 
  • Consider the next step you could take in that journey?
  • What can you do in your everyday life that will make sure everyone feels welcome? 

The Journey of Mapiyal was a participatory artwork by Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia artist and RMIT alumni, Indianna Hunt. It was made of two elements that linked RMIT Melbourne campuses:

  • The Burrow, an immersive multimedia installation at City campus.
  • Mapiyal, a platypus sculpture made of cane and fabric that was over four metres long, located at Bundoora West Campus Lake.

Each element was co-created with students and staff online and in person between 2020-2022. These moments of creative collaboration were an opportunity for the RMIT community to have meaningful conversations and reflect on their journey towards solidarity and inclusion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Students wrote responses to the questions above on fabric pledges, here are a few they wrote that reflected where they were on their journey, and their next steps: 

Be curious and educate myself. 

Listen, learn, challenge my own bias. 

Learn about the country I am on. Be brave and stand up.

Research First nations artists and designers.

Have tough conversations, be uncomfortable, listen and change.

Seek out Indigenous owned business. 

The Journey of Mapiyal was named as a finalist in the 2022 Victorian Premiers Design Awards and was championed by 2020-2021 RUSU Indigenous Officer Kimberly Lovegrove. It was championed by RUSU Indigenous Officers: 2020 – 2021  Kimberly Lovegrove, and 2022 Shylicia McKiernan and fits into RMIT’s ‘Dhumbah Goorowa’ Reconciliation Plan (2019- 2021). Language used throughout this artwork is done so with permission. 

Colourful Mapiyal sculpture with greenery behind. Colourful Mapiyal sculpture with greenery behind.
A hand hangs a message written on a ribbon onto a bunting. A hand hangs a message written on a ribbon onto a bunting.
Two hands construct the frame of the Mapiyal sculpture. Two hands construct the frame of the Mapiyal sculpture.
Text And Media Video

The Journey of Mapiyal

This participatory project by alumni Indianna Hunt was co-created with students and staff at RMIT through meaningful conversation and creative activations. It explored belonging, respect and solidarity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and for people from all backgrounds on campus.

The journey continues

Mapiyal was deinstalled from Bundoora West Campus Lake in early 2024 to become a lantern for 2024 Whittlesea Community Festival in March. At the festival, community members will contribute to the lantern, offering leaves with personal messages that will become part of the lantern skin.

The Mapiyal lantern will then take another journey as part of a winter community event, Walking Thomastown, where it will be lit from within.

Picture of Indianna Hunt at RMIT Brunswick Campus Indianna Hunt at Brunswick campus. Photo Credit: Tope Adesina

About the artist

Indianna Hunt, is a proud Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia woman. She is an emerging visual artist who enjoys exploring different media and connecting people through art.

She grew up in Bordertown, SA on Bindjali country and moved to Naarm (Melbourne) in 2016 for study. 

Indianna studied a Diploma of Visual Arts at RMIT, graduating 2017.

Key collaborators

  • Indianna Hunt, Lead Artist and Burrow Design (Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia)
  • Elder Kerry Clarke, Story of Mapiyal (Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia)
  • Israel Carter, Sound Artist (Wemba Wemba, Ngarrindjeri)
  • John Power, VFX Animation Director
  • Mahony Kiely, Cane and bamboo artist and mentor
  • Darcy, Israel, Caley, Anjali, Calleen, Winyinar, Fiona, Jesse, Shylicia and Elijah, Flag hearts

Blooming Now by Joanne Mott

How can you lend a hand to acknowledge and reclaim space for women and non-binary people?

Blooming Now is a participatory art project led by artist and RMIT alumni Joanne Mott. The artworks are comprised of more than 800 colourful 'hands' made by students and staff, created during workshops at Brunswick, Bundoora and City campuses. The individual hands contain personalised messages of resistance and strength, along with symbols of respect for women, female identifying and non-binary people across all RMIT campuses.

The original banner artwork proudly hung above the RUSU offices on the City campus from 2019 until the end 2022, before it moved to Brunswick campus in 2023. 

In 2024 new blooms have sprung, at RUSU Women’s Room in the City and the RUSU Lounge, B204 at Bundoora West, connecting the three places where the hands were made. 

Championed by 2019 RUSU President Ella Gvildys, this project has created opportunities for the whole RMIT community to come together and support  RMIT’s ‘Respect. Now. Always.’ campaign, along with RMITs Three Year Plan to Prevent Gender Based Sexual Harm

Artwork hangs in a building on Brunswick campus. Artwork hangs in a building on Brunswick campus.
Colourful hands form the shape of a woman on a black background. A student appreciating a Blooming Now piece.
Artist Jo Mott shapes the hands into a large design. A close up of the details of a Blooming Now piece.
Text And Media Video

Blooming Now Respect Mural

Blooming Now is an art project led by artist and RMIT alumni Joanne Mott comprised of 800 'hands' made by students and staff that contain messages of strength and respect for women, female identifying and non-binary people across RMIT.

Picture of Joanne Mott Picture of Joanne Mott

About the artist

Joanne Mott is an Australian artist who works across a broad range of artforms including collage, sculpture, installation, new media and site responsive public art. Her works engage the themes of ecologies, environment, sustainability and placemaking, and her practice includes creating social and community art projects. Joanne has served a member of the C3 Artspace board, the Visual Arts Grants Selection panel for Creative Victoria and the Brimbank Public Art Advisory Committee, the selection panel for Be Bold Artist Residencies. She is currently a committee member for The Gisborne Botanic Gardens.

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aboriginal flag
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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.