Fremantle Multicultural Centre of Western Australia


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FMCWA - Sharing the Journey

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© Fremantle Multicultural Centre Inc 2012 241-243, High St, Fremantle WA 6160 ISBN: 978-0-646-57237-6 2| SHARING THE JOURNEY


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Acknowledgements This resource book was made possible by a mental health capacity building grant from the Mental Health Commission of Western Australia. Special thanks to The women who shared their stories. Elizabeth Farmer, Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention Officer, Fremantle Multicultural Centre Katrina Hawley, Photographer, Thirdeye Photography Cally Browning, Designer, Bare Creative Dr Andrew Guilfoyle, Research Supervisor, Edith Cowan University Dr. Helen Lette, Reviewer, Ruah Community Services Bridget Little, Reviewer, Ruah Community Services © Fremantle Multicultural Centre Inc 2012 241-243, High St, Fremantle WA 6160 ISBN: 978-0-646-57237-6 Suggested reference Shand, M. (2012) Sharing the Journey - a community arts resource for building resilience. Fremantle Multicultural Centre Inc,Western Australia. 4| SHARING THE JOURNEY


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Foreword THIS COMMUNITY ART RESOURCE combines powerful stories of strength and hope with evidence-based research to create a colourful journey of an artist, a researcher, and eight diverse and talented women united by a vision to connect and create together. The content is based on a community art research project implemented at the Fremantle Multicultural Centre in 2010. The research was concerned with understanding and building stronger and more resilient people and communities; it asked how participation in a community art program could contribute to building resilience. Each woman reflected on her personal life story and what it means to be strong, happy and healthy. Their stories are revealed in the unique and beautiful sculptures featured in the book, and demonstrate the importance of finding identity, inner strength and community. This sense of community is found in the art class, which provides a safe and nurturing place where people can explore and express their unique individual self while connecting with others. This community art resource provides practical resources and demonstrates the important role that NGOs can play in providing arts and cultural programs that build resilience, enhance the spirit and protect and promote mental health and well-being. Director Fremantle Multicultural Centre inc SHARING THE JOURNEY |1


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Table of contents 04 06 09 11 14 25 THE PROGRAM Outlines the mental health access program and introduces the Program Manager. THE ART CLASS Outlines the art class and art process used in this project; and introduces the Artist. THE RESEARCH Outlines the research project and process, and introduces the Researcher. THE WOMEN Introduces the eight women who participated in the project. THE EXHIBITION Presents the photos of art works and stories from the exhibition. THE FINDINGS Outlines key findings from the research, including factors that contribute to individual and community resilience, and ten guidelines for building resilience with art. 30 ART RESOURCES Provides examples of creative resources for getting started: a basic art kit, warm-up drawing activities, and visualisations; and shares ten ways to enhance the spirit with art. 34 CREATIVE SOLUTIONS Identifies potential challenges when running an inclusive multicultural community art group and offers creative solutions. 37 42 LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION Provides links to cultural, art and mental health community resources. REFERENCES SHARING THE JOURNEY |3


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The Program ABOUT THE SERVICE The Mental Health Access Service is one of the many programs offered at the Fremantle Multicultural Centre. It was established in the year 2000, as part of the WA Department of Health’s commitment to enable equitable and timely access to mental health services for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CaLD). The World Health Organisation estimates that 50% of migrants worldwide have a mental health problem – ranging from chronic mental disorders to trauma and distress; and that these people are less likely to access mental health services than the mainstream population. A report from the Mental Health Council of Australia (2007) also highlighted that when people from CaLD backgrounds finally reach services, they are generally more unwell than people from the mainstream populations, and they are often treated differently. For example, people from CaLD backgrounds are more likely to be prescribed medication rather than exploring other treatment options. People from CaLD backgrounds face multiple barriers when accessing services, including overcoming stigma; communication difficulties caused by language and cultural barriers; a lack of bilingual practitioners and interpreters; as well as insufficient culturally competent service providers who understand different cultural perceptions of mental health and illness. The Mental Health Access Service at Fremantle Multicultural Centre has been working for the last twelve years to improve access for CaLD communities to mental health services through advocacy, provision of information, referral and support. The Early Intervention and Mental Health Promotion components of the service offer people from CaLD backgrounds and their families access to support, recreation and health promoting activities. This Community Art Resource is an example of one of these activities. 4| SHARING THE JOURNEY


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THE SERVICE MANAGER ~ Country of Origin Croatia Year of Arrival 1989 Age 51 years Marina I joined the Fremantle Multicultural Centre in 2006, having been through the process of migration several times myself; I thought I could contribute to the wonderful work of the centre. Migration, whether by choice or by force, is not an easy task and affects an individual on many different levels. Migrants and refugees may experience the whole spectrum of emotions, positive and negative – happiness, sadness, excitement, worry, guilt, hope, fear; and this can make the transitional period unsettling. Because I have been through this experience myself, I am able to recognise these emotions and through my work I am trying to help people to find ways to deal with them. I will always remember the day three years ago when Dawn Meader, the art teacher, walked in to the Centre and asked if we were running any art classes. Everything started from there. We shared a passion for people and art, and for the well-being of one of the most vulnerable groups of our society – migrants and refugees. When Meagan approached me with the idea for her Masters research project, I saw it as a great opportunity for participants of the art class to explore the pressures and challenges of their life and how they deal with them, through a wonderful art project. Meagan’s idea was just a logical continuation of an already well-established project, and great way to celebrate the emotional and life experiences of participants. Her involvement with the class brought together these experiences in a thoughtful and cohesive medium. Our passion, Dawn’s dedication and a unique method of working with people have resulted in a number of projects that we are very proud of; and we hope that similar experiences can eventuate in the future. SHARING THE JOURNEY |5


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The art class The Art Class is one of the activities of the Mental Health Access Service at Fremantle Multicultural Centre. The class started in 2009, with the aim of providing people with the opportunity to express their emotions and creativity through art and to build new experiences, friendships, understandings of personal experiences, and trust in self. The class was fundamentally established to provide for the mental health needs of culturally and linguistically diverse clients at the centre, however, it is not restricted to people from a CaLD background or with a mental health problem or illness. Rather it aims to support community participation and inclusion by welcoming people from all cultural backgrounds and of all abilities. People are referred to the program by government area mental health services, community organisations, GPs and social workers, and from other programs at the Fremantle Multicultural Centre. People are sometimes referred by family, friends or carers; others refer themselves. Classes are held once a week for three hours and are facilitated by fine artist Dawn Meader. Dawn bases her work on the belief that everybody can create and that art is more about the experience of opening the heart and mind than about technique. The class is unique in the way that it combines art, culture, dance and spirituality. Each class starts with dancing and visualisation, and often includes sharing food, music, tears and joy. Art activities include individual and group painting, sculpture, drawing and painting techniques, and making art works for community festivals. Examples of Dawn’s techniques can be found in Chapter 8, and the following section outlines some of the philosophy behind her teaching. 6| SHARING THE JOURNEY


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THE ARTIST ~ Dawn Country of Origin England Year of Arrival 1986 (and again in 2002 after moving away) Age 49 years I first visited the Fremantle Multicultural Centre in 2009. Understanding the impact of moving to a new country, I was motivated to do community art projects with new migrants and refugees. I‘ve emigrated twice. The first time I was young and it was fantastic; the second time I was in my 40s and I moved away from a strong network. I became depressed for a while. I hardly knew anyone initially, and I just felt very isolated. I hear the same story over and over again with the women in the class – this depression of moving out of your community and not having people there and everything being new. A lot of power comes from knowing where to go and who to go to – community keeps you strong. When you start getting involved in community, you actually start putting your roots into the ground and building a community around you. When you create, you start connecting to your inner worlds, which I think is actually your greatest resource, but in community art you are connecting to others at the same time so you develop a sense of belonging too. My main reason for teaching is to help people access their inner resources, to listen to that voice within us that just knows. When you’re learning to draw, when you get into the habit of trusting your intuition for every mark, then it opens the door to trusting yourself. Creativity opens the heart, and when people are more open from the heart, they are more likely to connect to others. I believe in the power of creativity to bring people together and create communities that genuinely care about each other. SHARING THE JOURNEY |7


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THE ART PROCESS The process started with a series of visualisations that correspond to the different chakras and different areas of our lives. Chakras originated in yoga traditions, and relate to different energy centres in the body. For example, the base chakra, which is located in the pelvic area, is explored to create strong roots that enable a connection with the earth, home, tribe, security and stability; the solar plexus, located beneath the rib cage, links us with the power centre in our body; and the heart chakra opens our trust in ourselves and each other. Each woman‘s torso was body cast by a small group of participants using plaster bandage. A sense of ritual was created as each bandage was placed: each woman was honoured for her past and present, in an environment of ceremony and playfulness. The casts were removed as they hardened, and left to cure. As the body casts were drying, the class reflected further with drawings and discussion of how their stories and gifts could be embodied in the sculptures. Each woman developed a concept or image of how she would like the sculpture to look, then went about gathering materials. She collected materials for her own sculpture, but also shared materials and resources with others. The material gathering became a collective process, with a variety of beads, buttons, fabrics and odds and ends added to a communal box. Special gifts from one class member to another were also incorporated into the sculptures, reflecting the exchange of friendship within the group. Slowly, over a four month period, the sculptures emerged, each one unique. Together they told the stories and brought into being the essence of each individual and her sense of community. It was great getting the cast done touched on some very primitive thing that belongs to human collectiveness. The ladies who were working on me were very gentle. I felt a lot of love. This project was different from other art classes, because it was not just about technique, it was about us … we had to think about ourselves. At first I didn’t know what to put in the sculpture - it was like building a little me - like looking in a mirror I was watching myself... the sculpture showed me the change I needed to be. 8| SHARING THE JOURNEY


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The research The research for this project was undertaken by health and social scientist Meagan Shand as part of her Masters of Social Science research project. The project was concerned with understanding and building stronger and more resilient people and communities; it asked how participation in a community art program contributed to building resilience. At the time there was much debate among researchers about the concept of resilience. Resilience was commonly described as the ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficult times, with some experts arguing that it is ‘ordinary magic’, a human capacity that most people can call upon. In the researchers' view, these 'everyday' classifications of resilience dismiss the strength and courage required to endure adversity and challenge. They focus too much on individual responsibility, disregarding broader notions of community resilience, and the role and responsibility that we all have in creating supportive environments that enable and sustain resilient people, families and communities. Based on the notion that to promote resilience, we need to understand the way local communities understand resilience and what they perceive is needed to build more resilient individuals and communities (Unger, 2008, Auseinet, 2008), Meagan’s research aimed to explore three questions: • How do the women participating in the art program understand and experience resilience? • What do they think is needed to build more resilient people and communities? • How does participation in an art program help to build resilience? THE RESEARCHER ~ Meagan Country of Origin Australia Date of Arrival 1964 - Born in Australia Age 47 years It was a personal experience with adversity in 1997 that launched my journey to discover how and why some people manage challenge and adversity better than others. I spent a number of years exploring the concept of resilience as an area of personal and professional interest. After years of volunteering and working in the field of human services, sharing the lives and stories of people who seemed to have an unfair share of hardship, I came to the understanding that we all face challenges at some point in life and that resilience is a key factor in surviving these times. SHARING THE JOURNEY |9


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Resilience enables us to deal with the ups and downs of life and for some, extreme circumstance and challenge. In 2009, I enrolled in a Master of Social Science at Edith Cowan University, launching my formal research into resilience. That same year I visited the Fremantle Multicultural Centre, and during a discussion with Marina, the program manager, the potential of doing practical research arose. Marina told me about the new art class that was running, suggesting that this might be a good place to start. It was a winwin situation: the research would provide much needed evidence for investment into the program that would help keep it running, while for me it was a dream come true. I was able to indulge in three of my great passions – art, sharing stories, and understanding resilience. My research supervisor, Dr. Andrew Guilfoyle, summed up my experience when he said, ‘You’re not supposed to have so much fun when you do your Masters.’ They say laughter is where your friends are … and through the research process I have made some endearing friendships at the Fremantle Multicultural Centre. THE RESEARCH PROCESS The research process followed standard academic methods for narrative enquiry to examine the lived stories of the women who participated in the project. The researcher worked alongside the women, gathering stories through in-depth interviews, and supplementing these stories with observations, and written and visual documents to capture a rich account of resilience. This study followed a three-point plan: • Stage 1 – collecting narrative data from interviews and artworks • Stage 2 – conducting a thematic analysis of the narrative data and interpreting it • Stage 3 –presenting the information in a narrative form Twenty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted between February and November 2010. • before the art class commenced (March 2010) • after the art classes were finished (September 2010) • after a public exhibition of the art works (November 2010) Each woman was asked to reflect on her life story and what it means to be strong, happy and healthy. Their stories are revealed in the unique and beautiful sculptures presented in Chapter 4; and Chapter 6 offers a summary of the key points that emerged from the data. 10 | SHARING THE JOURNEY


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The women Eight women from culturally diverse backgrounds participated in the community art research project. Seven women were born overseas; four had migrated to Australia in the last five years. Marriage and family reunions were given as the most common reasons for migrating. All the women had experienced some form of depression, grief, anxiety, loss of self esteem and confidence, loneliness and isolation. Some faced a complex set of physical and social challenges, including physical illness, injury, family and relationship breakdown, and spiritual doubts. Ela Country of origin Portugal Year of Arrival 1982 Age 51 years I love to come … that’s why I don’t miss it. I come to this class, weaving and sewing. They are all different. I like all, and I love to do more different ones. I keep myself busy... my brain working. I get up in the morning and think today I have to do this and do that. I enjoy meeting people, it gives me energy it helps my nerves – my migraines. For me I am stronger for coming to class. Criselda Country of origin Philippines Year of Arrival 2005 Age 29 years I found the group when I was in the hospital. When I was in hospital the social worker asked me if I would like to go out and meet some people, because I spend too much time by myself – I am isolated. I met Marina and she said the art group has dancing, and I like that, when I hear “dancing” I am interested. I like to do art work, I am not really a good drawer. But they said that it is not important. It doesn’t matter – as long as you enjoy it. I feel better with the art class because I see the girls and they help me with the projects. I really look forward to it every week. I can share my troubles, they are good friends. It’s like another family here. SHARING THE JOURNEY | 11



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