Refugee Art Project was conceived amongst a collective of academics and artists, united by a concern for the plight of refugees to Australia and the asylum seekers who wait in Australian detention centres. Since its inception in late 2010, more than 500 artworks created by Refugee Art Project refugees and asylum seekers have been exhibited to the Australian public. Refugee Art Project is passionate about showcasing the enormous talent, locked away, beyond the razor wire.



Artist Spotlight

Alwy Fadhel

The images in this gallery are paintings made with instant coffee powder that has been diluted in water and then put to the page. The technique was initiated by an Iraqi detainee who had some knowledge of art and who liked to paint in his free time. Upon entering detention, he had no access to paints so he reached for whatever was at hand, in this case finding an alternative use for instant coffee. He then taught the technique to Alwy Fadhel, who became its chief exponent. Coffee painting has gained a life of its own inside the Villawood Detention Centre and is now something of a tradition (a young Afghan asylum seekers has also begun to use the technique after Alwy’s example). The recourse to food as an artistic medium speaks to the ingenuity of detainees who have limited access to adequate materials and tools.


  • The Refugee Art Project is a great example of art being used as a tool for social change. Whilst the project is not a political organisation, its work offers the opportunity for art-goers to examine a major political issue from a new perspective.