RICHARD McLaren has a deep appreciation for Australia's multiculturalism.
The Springfield man was recently awarded a Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) grant for a project that will see refugees and asylum seekers introduced to the art of digital photography.
Mr McLaren said the course would enable them to develop creative skills that will allow them to access other community activities as well as provide a platform whereby they could express themselves.
As a Vietnam War veteran, Mr McLaren understands the power of artistic expression.
After spending 12 months as a soldier in Vietnam when he was 21 years old, Mr McLaren soon found himself in the darkness faced by so many soldiers and war veterans - PTSD.
"At the time, there was very little information on PTSD, or how to manage it," Mr McLaren said.
He found solace and an outlet for the mental turmoil he was facing through photography.
"My father was a keen amateur photographer and taught me how to use a camera when I was five years old," he said.
"When I returned from Vietnam, the anti-war movement was really strong, and I was made to feel like a criminal.
"I picked up the camera and started taking photographs and it made me feel good, an emotion that had become quite rare in my life."
He soon started shooting the annual Brisbane Writers Festival, which would one day spark the inspiration for the project Mr McLaren is now embarking on.
"At a poetry reading, the poem of a speech impaired poet was read and it was incredible." he said.
"It reminded me of how art can be such a powerful healing force of self-expression."
He developed a photography course and since 2007 has been running them with various organisations, including the Endeavour Foundation.
With the RADF grant, Mr McLaren will be running two courses in Logan with refugees and asylum seekers between the ages of 12 and 21.
Eligible persons who are interested in participating are encouraged to contact Mr McLaren on 34661645 .
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