As a child, I was fascinated by the photographs my grandma kept in her handbag. On these gelatine prints was a faceless man, whose features had been forcefully scribbled over with a blue ballpoint pen, or scratched out of existence altogether, leaving a ghost-like void where his face should have been. This was a common way to erase someone from personal or collective history.

Today, still thousands of refugees who arrived in Australia by boat have been denied visas. Without a path to residency and citizenship, they are unable to work, and cannot access vital services such as Centrelink and Medicare. Denied recognition, status and rights as people, they have been ghosted by the government.

Refugees of the Sri Lankan civil war, the Paramanathan family have lived in Ballarat for almost a decade. The youngest daughter, Nive, was recently granted citizenship, but her parents and two sisters remain in limbo, facing the daily fear of being deported. Their resilience is remarkable.

*ABC News Update: on 9th Sept Neil and his family were granted permanent residency.

Ballarat International Foto Biennale Core Program exhibition 2023 The Real Thing

Finalist Head On Portrait Award 2023 + Finalist Nyland Photography Prize 2023