Originally appeared in Footscray Star Star on .

MADE in Australia, but at what cost?
This is the question Footscray resident Amie Batalibasi hopes her latest documentary film will encourage viewers to ask.
Made in Australia tells the stories of five Vietnamese women who work as outworkers sewing clothes for major Australian retailers.
The confronting stories reveal the working conditions faced by women who work in this industry, a story that Ms Batalibasi hopes will encourage debate and help people make a more informed choice when shopping.
“These are just some of the faces behind the Made in Australia label, the ones that no one knows about,” she said.
“Outworkers are paid per piece or item of clothing – which can work out to be as little as $2 an hour – they work under unreasonable deadlines and can be expected to sew 200 complete garments in one week.”
Ms Batalibasi said with an estimated 330,000 outworkers in this country sewing for some of the country’s most recognised brands, the stories are relevant to everyone.
“A lot of people don’t know about the conditions these women work in. They are amazing women, the hours they work are crazy — they work 14 to 16-hour days, seven days a week,” she said.
Ms Batalibasi created the 11-minute film as part of her graduate diploma documentary course at the Victorian College of the Arts.
“I had the idea before I found people willing to talk to me. When I found out about outworkers in the West I knew it was a film I just had to make,” she said.
“It took months and months to build up the level of trust and I will have an ongoing relationship with these women.”
Due to the fear experienced by outworkers few women are willing to speak out about their working conditions.
“I was told you’re not going to find anyone to let you in, but I found five,” she said.
Each of the women who feature in the film attends English classes organised by the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union.
Ms Batalibasi used a number of techniques to help cross the language barrier and help the women tell their stories as part of the documentary.
“The first time we met I gave each of the women a piece of cardboard and a pen and asked them to draw what was important to them,” she said.
“There were drawings of boats filled with people with an SOS sign, really moving pictures. I used these drawings in the film.”
Ms Batalibasi said she was not ready for the emotional journey she experienced while making the film.
“They are determined, strong women. They are doing this for their family and the sad thing is some women get stuck in this industry for many years,” she said.
Ms Batalibasi’s film will be screened in Federation Square this week as part of the Victorian College of the Arts film and graduation show. The film will be shown ACMI Cinemas on Thursday 13 December at 7pm and Saturday 15 December at 9.45pm.