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by the community – metaphors for concepts
of belonging and place. Unique public art
projects like this will be created in each of the
FIVE communities and the social impact of
the project is being recorded by DADAA with
an extensive evaluation model.
At the conclusion of each project, in-depth
interviews with individuals will be conducted
and qualitative data gathered. In the end, over
3000 individual voices will form an evaluation
of community mental health and the project.
“In community arts and cultural
development work, ‘change over time’ is at the
core of how wellbeing impacts come about,”
says DADAA executive director David Doyle.
“This idea that change is emergent and not
a single, fixed end point makes a strong case
for the use of new and flexible models of
evaluation that can capture stories, relationships
and impacts – rather than traditional
quantitative methods aiming strictly to ‘capture
data’ or ‘measure’.”
Sensorium Theatre co-founders Michelle
Hovane and Francis Italiano seek to provide
children with profound disabilities theatre that
is tailored to them. They don’t set out to achieve
developmental outcomes for the young people
they work with, but that’s just what they’re doing.
“If you’ve got a kid caught up in a story,
surrounded by this sort of stimulating
“In community arts and cultural development
work, ‘change over time’ is at the core of how
wellbeing impacts come about.”
environment of a magical forest or an
underwater seaworld, you are going to be
inspiring them to do the sorts of things the
therapists are hoping they’ll do,” Francis says.
“That could be anything from reaching out
to touch a puppet creature or actually learning
vocabulary and learning the actions of a song.”
The duo explains that while the therapeutic
outcomes of the Sensorium performances
are obvious, the primary concern is to create
“If you don’t let the theatre have its own
integrity and magic, you wouldn’t have those
great outcomes,” Michelle says.
Big hART uses the arts to advocate for
policy changes and is applying its method
in Roebourne, seeking to reframe the
cultural narrative of the Pilbara community.
Its Yijala Yala program has manifested
into a number of projects that include
a digital comic and video game – Neomads
as well as theatre performance Hip Bone
Sticking Out, which tackles the issue of
“The work in Roebourne is about trying to
free the people who live there from this very
negative reputation that their community has,”
says Big hART producer Yolande Norris.
“We want to find ways to use what has
happened [with Big hART] in Roebourne
as a best practice model. That is something
we have been pitching to government.”
The arts have long been an effective method
of empowering communities like Roebourne,
and community arts group CAN WA has
been working with disenfranchised and
disadvantaged communities across WA for
30 years, using art to strengthen interpersonal
and community bonds.
Two recent projects include the Ya r n s o f
the Heart initiative, which brought women
together in Narrogin and Pingelly to re-establish
traditional doll-making, and the Noongar Pop
Culture project, which aims to make Noongar
language relevant for younger generations
through rap and pop songs.
“In the Noongar Pop Culture case, school
attendance increased by 10 per cent,” says CAN
WA’s managing director Pilar Kasat. “You’ve
got increased self esteem, sense of belonging,
sense of pride in these young Aboriginal people.
All of these are indicators of wellbeing.
“With the dolls, apart from the wonderful
art outcome and the recognition the women
gained by being exhibited at the Museum of
Contemporary Art in Sydney, the impact on their
lives was even greater. If you understand the
stories told around that particular piece of art
you would understand that dolls had an impact
on someone’s mental health and wellbeing. Some
women reported the doll-making project having
had a direct impact on their healing.
“It’s about social cohesion and social
capital,” Pilar says. “Communities that
come together, create together, work
together, dance together are the communities
that respond well to challenges.” S
At Casuarina Prison, art therapy is used as a gateway for further education; projection artist Craig Walsh has created a digital work for the FIVE project, using filmed interviews
with community members; an example of prisoner artwork.
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