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This stunning portrait of women’s rights campaigner and Bell School PhD candidate Susan Hutchinson has made the finals of the prestigious Kennedy Art Prize.
The portrait by Australian painter Marieka Hambledon depicts Susan Hutchinson, the founder and campaign architect of the ‘Prosecute; don’t perpetrate’ campaign. After decades working in human rights, conflict and development, Susan founded the Prosecute; don’t perpetrate campaign in 2016 to help end impunity for the rampant sexual violence experienced by women in wartime and armed conflict.
There were tens of thousands of foreign fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS. “We knew they were committing sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Unlike other in conflicts, these perpetrators were from countries where the law criminalises these actions and the state has the capacity to respond. I decided to set up a campaign to ensure justice was done.”
Susan has met with politicians of all persuasions and had both houses of parliament announce their commitment to investigate and prosecute. But more work still needs to be done. So far, not a single ISIS fighter has been prosecuted for these crimes in any court in the world.
Ever since she was small, Susan Hutchinson has been a social justice advocate, selling her handicrafts to raise money for refugees when she was in primary school. She campaigned for human rights for many years and knew she wanted to work in conflict and development when she was at university.
Joining the Australian Army, Susan continued her interest in the role women play in peace and security. She left Defence to work as the Civil-Military Advisor for the peak body of Australian international aid and development non-government organisations. There, she started the Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security to improve the way Australia implemented a suite of Security Council resolutions that call for increasing women’s participation in conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution, relief and recovery as well as preventing and responding to conflict related sexual violence.
Susan is now doing a PhD on women, peace and security in the Department of International Relations at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU. Her research looks at how intervening militaries can implement the relevant components of the UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security by looking at a range of activities and tasks in the pre-planning, planning, conduct and transitional phases of contemporary military operations.
Susan lives with a chronic disabling illness called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that leaves her with extreme physical and cognitive fatigue. She often uses a wheelchair to get around in public and sometimes has trouble with words. Everyday noises like lawnmowers, loud traffic and crowds cause her to lose physical control of her limbs and cognitive function. Her condition means that she can’t fully participate in the traditional workforce because she can’t commit to being able to work in advance, however she spends all her limited energy fighting for better conditions and better understanding for a range of underprivileged people and issues. This includes people with disabilities, intersectional feminism, food security and the environment. The ‘Prosecute; don’t perpetrate’ campaign is an important way for her to continue fighting for global women’s rights within the confines of her condition.
“When I saw Marieka had named the portrait ‘The Inexhaustable’ I cried. It was a really significant moment for me.” The Kennedy Prize is awarded to works that “embody, comment on or celebrate beauty” either internally or externally. Hambledon said, “Ms Hutchinson, her work, and her story, fit that bill precisely. Susan’s beauty radiates through her inexhaustible, selfless ambition to make the world a better place.”
The “Beauty” exhibition, featuring all the Kennedy Award finalists will be held in Adelaide, from Saturday August 31 to Sunday 15 September at Royal South Australian Society of Arts, Level One, in the State Library Building.
Photo: ‘The Inexhaustable’ by Marieka Hambledon, 128x89.6cm - Acrylic on Canvas