Knitting helps bridge cultural divide in Tasmania

Natty Knitters create woollen garden

A new documentary has shown how Tasmania's cultural divide is being bridged thanks to efforts from a local knitting group.

With the debate on asylum seekers set to be central to the federal election campaign, the Mercury reports that cultural stereotypes are being broken by crafty volunteers.

After the Pontville Detention Centre first opened in 2011, a nearby knitting group chose to help the detainees by making beanies.

One such knitter was devout Christian Mary, who admitted to the TV show Mary Meets Mohammad, that she was initially hostile towards the centre and viewed asylum seekers as a "pack of cowards who had abandoned their homeland".

But, following rumours of the detainees "living in a lap of luxury", she felt compelled to find out if this was true and visited Pontville herself.

However, she soon dramatically changed her opinion on asylum seekers after talking to the detainees and learning how they came to be in this situation. While there she formed a close bond with Mohammad, an Afghani Muslim.

The documentary tells the story of their strong friendship and shows how despite their different worlds and religious beliefs they grew to become very good friends.

This includes Mary showing Mohammad how to knit, showing him some of her patchwork blankets and other skilled garments she was working on.

It follows the transition Mohammad has from asylum seeker to local resident, largely helped by Mary, and is due to premiere at the Tasmania State Cinema this week.

The 83 minute film was made by first-time filmmaker Heather Kirkpatrick, who documented the duo for 15 months, beginning with their early friendship and finishing with Mohammad being granted asylum and joining the community.

She told the publication: "When I first started I saw a lot of opposition in the Brighton community. Then I met Mary, an amazing woman with strong opinions."

These soon changed however, making for a very insightful and heart-warming documentary.

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