In 2012 Jill Meagher was raped and murdered in the inner Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. Jill and her husband Tom had recently arrived in Australia from Ireland.
One evening Jill was having drinks with work colleagues - it wasn’t late and as they were leaving to go home a friend offered to walk Jill home. Jill lived just around the corner On Hope Street so she insisted on walking alone home alone.
On her way home Jill was approached by a male who was a drug and substance abuser only recently out on parole. Jill tried to walk past him but he pushed her aside and raped and murdered her in the lane way.
There was an immediate outpouring of grief from the multi-ethnic community. Twenty-thousand people held a vigil on Sydney Road and the response was incredible- people were moved and the media covered the anger, the rage, young men were crying and strangers were hugging and supporting one another.
Samoan weave artist Maryann Talia Pau recalls …”This was an enlightening time for the community of faith in our Brunswick community.” She collected messages for Jills’ family – bringing in candles, messages, changing the flowers.
The quote by Martin Luther King Jnr was what Maryann needed to hear; she ran up to her studio, came back to the vigil and started weaving stars. Maryann felt compelled to weave these symbols of light to stop all forms of violence.
She stated that …“we can’t continue like this, my friend Anna Greenwood and I started weaving stars and the response to the violence and the outpouring of despair from not only the people of Brunswick and Melbourne but from all over Australia”.
Maryann spoke that…”The idea of stars as symbols of hope and light was the perfect way to express both the pain but also the hope and collective goodness of the community.
Girls in hijabs, groups of young men, people from all walks of life and faiths were grieving with Jills’ husband and family and this became a positive symbol that violence was not acceptable.
I thought of the idea to weave one million stars to fight against all forms of violence - corporate violence, racial violence, religious violence, domestic violence, psychological violence -all types of violence needed to be exposed and fought against.
The response has taught me that ‘There is goodness in people, I was blown away and I found comfort and hope. It was a commitment to end all forms of violence.”
The project took on a life of its own and Maryann thought it would never really take off… “A few groups would meet and weave stars and have a few wines together and it would be over.”
But it has kept growing and now there are Star Communities all over Australia, in New Zealand, the Cook Island, Canada, the UK, the USA, and now Samoa.
A Million Stars grew and people wanted to make the Million Stars a reality; “we set up a website and Face book page and people wanted to make stars.” Maryann was invited to place thousands of stars in a large installation at atrium of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.
She was fortunate to be sponsored by the Commonwealth Games Committee in February 2016. They have provided a team who help with all aspects of the project and an expert who will help design the final installation - to hang the One Million stars at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Overseas people wanted to learn how to set up Star Weaving Communities so Maryann’s husband made a video of the project and how to make the stars, the website response grew and the Melbourne installation showed people how it might look and Star Weaving Communities just grew.
“I have been involved with lots of women’s’ groups, diverse groups correctional centres, rehabilitated facilities, asylum seekers, primary schools and secondary schools, sports teams –
I have been to many workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Aboriginal Youth Communities outside of Adelaide. I have moved to Brisbane to be closer to my husbands ‘Mob” and instead of the project closing it’s been charging forward and moving towards the Million Stars goal.”
“I have worked with other crafters, doing workshops Creative women and Pacific women’s groups. Starting again in Brisbane I had a few people I knew like Polytoxic, and social media helps as there is a small network of artists.
I approached people and incredible opportunities occurred in the craft community. The steps to be where I am now have been great and I have learnt to hustle!”
MaryAnn was part of the G20 Cultural programme all over the city and she hung 2,000 stars in the city. Jane Jenison has been hugely supportive and it was a huge learning moment involving a lot of volunteers and during this event Maryann spoke about the One Million Stars project. Gillian Gardener from Commonwealth Committee really wanted to support local artists and take on big issues.
I asked Maryann where to from now …”Where to now? Next month Hawaii, Guam for the Festival if Pacific Arts, and while I am there I will do some exchange weaving with local artists, and Canada where there are already weaving communities. I will be running weaving with Hot Brown Honey. Most if it is touching base with communities ready to show their 10,000 stars.”
This past week we have been privileged to have Maryann hold two workshops at The Vanya Taule’alo Gallery / Legends Café. Both workshops have been co-funded by UN Women and The Vanya Taule’alo Gallery. We are hopeful that from this training the individuals who learnt to make the stars will take this knowledge to their organisations and that we can watch the Star Weaving Communities in Samoa grow. Maryann plans to return to Samoa in November to offer more community workshops
In Samoa we can weave solo in the comfort of our space, run a Star Weave Jam with friends, colleagues or family, or become a ‘Weave100 Community’ and help weave and collect 10,000 stars. The Vanya Taulealo Gallery and Legends Café will be a Weave100 Community so if you want to help The Vanya Taule’alo Gallery by setting up smaller Star Weaving Communities please contact Vanya or Mele Maualaivao so Samoa can make 10,000 stars and then display them before sending to Maryann by June 2017. Ph 20011 and 7772993.
For more information-
www.onemillionstars.net and firstname.lastname@example.org