Held at Melbourne’s The Butterfly Club, the one-woman play Journey of A Thousand Smiles captures Jessica Hackett’s experience of walking from Melbourne to Parliament House in Canberra to hand-deliver a petition which draws attention to the treatment of asylum seekers in Nauru.
As a Year 7-12 drama and English teacher at Killester College in Springvale, Hackett regularly hears stories of struggle and hope from her students, many of whom are themselves from refugee families.
As a former student of the school, she also feels that the values espoused at Killester informed her decision.
“One of the main themes of our school is to welcome everyone, especially the most vulnerable,” Killester says.
Angered by the Australian Government’s treatment of asylum seekers, she decided to take action.
“If it were me I’d want to know there were people out there who were going to try and support me,” she explains.
The walk lasted 35 days, during which Hackett passed through rural towns like Wangaratta, Wagga Wagga and Euroa, collecting more than 17,000 handwritten signatures for The Welcome Petition.
Not content to rest on her laurels, Hackett decided to write a play about her experiences.
“There’s a bit of mime, a bit of slapstick, a bit of storytelling … there’s audience participation, there’s multimedia, there’s sound, so it’s kind of like I take people on the journey with me,” she says.
The play has been well received by a wide range of theatregoers, and Hackett encourages her viewers to react with action and not despondency when it comes to social issues.
She also hopes to take the show to theatres and community centres across the country, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.