Community-led recovery in a time of cascading disasters
The Blacksmiths’ Tree is a stunning nine-metre steel and copper gum tree which stands in the small town of Strathewen, Victoria, as a memorial to the people and communities impacted by Black Saturday and the 2009 Victorian bushfires.
The project began with designer and metal artist, Amanda Grant, who coordinated a local and international team of blacksmiths and volunteers to create what has become an enduring symbol of hope, resilience and connectedness.
In this episode, Amanda joins us to look at the different roles of artist and facilitator, and what these roles mean in a disaster recovery context. What role can the arts play in community-led recovery? What does a community-led project look like, and how can artists facilitate authentic community engagement in their work?
We also head to Central and Western Gippsland, where three shire councils are collaborating with Creative Recovery Network to support local artists to develop community-led bushfire recovery projects, with Amanda as lead mentor.
We speak to Latrobe City Council’s Robyn Duffy and Linda Snell about the important role of local government in community recovery and we also hear from Gulsen Ozer, one of the artists on the project. Gulsen shares her insights on the current challenges of cascading disasters and the creative solution found by the project team when their community consultation process was interrupted by Victoria’s Covid19 lockdown.
- Amanda Grant, Lead Mentor, Creative Recovery Network / Project Lead on The Blacksmiths’ Tree
- Robyn Duffy, Municipal Recovery Manager, Latrobe City Council
- Linda Snell, Yinnar South Recovery Officer, Latrobe City Council
- Gulsen Ozer, Artist
Executive Producer: Jess O’Callaghan
Produced by Scotia Monkivitch and Jill Robson
Edited and Mixed by: Tiffany Dimmack
Season 2 Episode 2: COMMUNITY-LED RECOVERY IN A TIME OF CAsCADING DISASTERS
Scotia: In regional Victoria, about an hour’s drive North-East of Melbourne in the small town of Strathewen is a gum tree, 10 metres tall.
You can stand under it, and look up into the canopy of leaves. But this is no ordinary tree.
The leaves tinkle, metallic, in the breeze. And its trunk is thick and strong.
Amanda: It’s made out of two tonne of stainless steel. It’s forged. It’s, we believe it’s the longest forged taper in the world.
Scotia: Each of these leaves was forged by a blacksmith, some here in Australia and others from around the world.
Amanda: It was all Gum leaves, so all Australian leaves. And they decided also because they wanted to put it outside and they didn’t want it to rust, that they should do it out of stainless steel. And at the last minute someone chimed in and said, what about a few copper leaves? Because they would they would turn green over time, which would be really beautiful. So very, very quickly, this idea of a hand forged stainless steel and copper gum tree just came together.
Scotia: This tree grew in the years following the 2009 Victorian bushfires, and the huge sculpture has come to memorialise the community’s immense loss.
Many of the leaves are imprinted with words.
Amanda: And people started asking if they could have names on the leaves, including the names of people who perished in the fires. And this became messages and names of townships and all sorts of really lovely things. And the blacksmith, really sweet bunch. And they they’re quite romantic, actually. And and they were really happy to to do all of that. And so, you know, we had many, many days where the blacksmiths would be just standing because it takes a while to stamp a name or message into a stainless steel leaf and it’s done one one letter at a time and you have to hit it very hard.
Scotia: I’m Scotia Monkivitch… and this is Creative Responders, a podcast from the Creative Recovery Network that explores how creativity and the Arts have a unique role to play in disaster management.
In this episode, we’re looking at the role the arts can play in community-led recovery. It’s a term that’s used a lot, but what does a community-led project look like, and how can community engagement in a project change how it takes shape?
We’re going to explore the different roles of artist and facilitator, and what these roles mean in a recovery context.
We’ll be spending some time in Central and Western Gippsland, where three shire councils are collaborating with Creative Recovery Network to support local artists to develop community-led recovery projects.
The partnership was built to support the recovery from the local Bunyip, Yinnar South and Walhalla District bushfires of March 2019.
Amanda Grant was lead mentor on the project, supporting a group of eight artists across the three shires, deepening their understanding of the role of facilitator in a disaster recovery context.
It’s a role she knows well, from her work on the Blacksmiths Tree.
Amanda: So in a way, a creative facilitator, certainly the way I approach it is akin to being a choreographer. So, you know, I now go into that space knowing that I’m not the dancer, I’m the choreographer.
Scotia: In the case of the Blacksmiths Tree, Amanda was choreographing blacksmiths.
Amanda: The blacksmith’s tree is a huge, complicated, crazy project that that grew from a very, very small idea was meant to be a six month project and we’re still doing work on it. What is it now? Eleven years later.
Scotia: Amanda was a member of the Australian Blacksmiths Association, and on Valentine’s Day 2009 there was a discussion on a blacksmiths forum she was part of.
The blacksmiths wanted a way to show solidarity and support for the people impacted by Black Saturday.
Why not forge leaves and send them to Victoria?
Amanda: And and this was a discussion between, I think, an Australian and an American and an English blacksmith.
Scotia: Amanda volunteered with the Blacksmiths Association, and she put her hand up to coordinate the leaves.
Amanda: And, you know, we can collect some leaves and we’ll make a little tree and it will be a gift to the fire affected communities. And, you know, in honour of, you know, those communities and the CFA firefighters and everyone else who’s been battling these fires.
Scotia: It was very early days. The fires still weren’t out. But by March, Amanda and a few blacksmiths were visiting local communities in Victoria, doing small forging demonstrations.
Amanda: the blacksmiths would go out and bring their anvils and portable forger’s and just forge leaves.
Amanda: And it turned out that people were very interested and loved watching the leaves being made and wanted to know who was paying for this and it was basically the blacksmiths. They bought their own steel and they were donating the leaves.
Scotia: Somebody asked if they could sponsor a leaf. The blacksmiths stamped their initials into the metal, and the money they gave helped fund the project.
Amanda: That idea really grew legs and got really popular.
Scotia: This was when the tree really grew into a localised community project, with names of people who died in the fires, of towns impacted, and messages of support stamped into the leaves.
Amanda: So we ended up receiving amazing hand forged leaves from probably oh, I think it’s the last count was about 28 countries around the world, which was amazing. And we’ve probably collected about a thousand leaves from around the world. And then we’ve got another two thousand that were sponsored leaves from Australians made by Australian blacksmiths.
Amanda: So it became very apparent within the first 12 months that this was not a six month project and that our desire for two or three hundred leaves actually turned out to be about three and a half thousand, which was not what we were expecting.
Scotia: As the community investment grew, so did the complexity of the project. They needed to engineer a trunk and branches to bear those thousands of leaves.
It was a massive undertaking and Amanda’s work grew to encompass multiple stakeholders, while protecting the vulnerability of the impacted community and coordinating the outpouring of support from around the world.
In managing the project, Amanda knew it was her role to make people feel welcome and engaged in the process.
Amanda: It’s very important to make something like this accessible and to make everyone feel welcome and everyone to feel like a guest.
Part of that is is always having really nice cups of tea on hand. People would often come and visit and bake cakes and biscuits for the blacksmiths, which was really sweet. So we created this. You know, this really sort of magical space.
Scotia: Creating that space for the community to come together and share stories while leaves were forged and the tree itself was built meant that more creative projects were born.
Amanda: There were all these spinoff projects that happened around the tree, which were really beautiful as well. And that’s I guess the really astonishing thing about this project is it attracted creative people that wanted to do other things.
So there’ve been songs written about the tree. There’s one song that local musician went around and worked with primary schools who’d been affected by the fires. And the students wrote verses about the tree.
And they performed a beautiful song with the Federation Bells at a couple of ceremonies about the tree. And we have a line from that song stamped into the baseplate of the tree. You can’t see it. It’s underground but that’s there. There’s a a wish box buried under the tree that the blacksmiths carry throughout the fire affected areas and collected people’s wishes and buried that under the tree … And there’s lots of other things that just just happened around around this tree. It just became, I guess, a sort of a hub of creative energy, which was which was quite lovely.
Scotia: How the tree project evolved was an incredibly creative and generative process.
The tree now stands in Strathewen, it’s a memorial, a place for coming together and reflection.
Amanda: And since then, we have designed seating and sculptures that sit around the tree that are based on grass blades found in the areas around those around Strathewen. We’ve also worked with local Landcare and a local Indigenous nursery to to actually make a, I guess, an Indigenous garden around the base of the tree.
So the idea is to make a really beautiful, reflective space so anyone can just go there and and sit in a beautiful seat around these these lovely plants and look at the tree. And fairly recently, we had lights installed at the base of the tree. And you go into that space now it is the middle of the bush. There’s no other lights around. And and it lights up like something out of a fairy tale. It’s it’s quite profound.
Scotia: The Blacksmiths Tree experience taught Amanda a lot about the role of the facilitator in creative recovery projects.
Amanda: I think that’s really the role of a creative recovery facilitator is is probably threefold to ensure that the fire-effected or disaster affected community is, you know, is made to feel welcome, not threatened by the project, part of the project, has ownership in the project, to also concentrate on the project manager, who also maybe if it may be a facilitator as well, and to to look at what what they need in order to succeed, in order to create a project that they’re proud of and the community love.
And I guess the third thing is, which I guess comes in under that first one as well, is to help broker partnerships between that facilitator, project manager, artist person and their stakeholders, which may be the local council, or it might be the local hall committee, it might be a funding body. And to make sure that those relationships are good and strong and the communication is really good and people are understanding what the project is about and what the benefits of the project are as well.
Scotia: It’s a role she’s now supporting others to understand in her capacity as lead mentor on the Bunyip, Yinnar South and Walhalla recovery project in Victoria’s Gippsland region.
Amanda: It’s a complex role. Like, it’s not it’s not clear cut. You often and you often do many, many jobs within within this role that, you know, the focus is, you know, those relationships with those stakeholders looking after the wellbeing of the project manager, but also the artistic integrity of the project and also making sure that the community feel some sort of ownership of that project or it’s not going to work in the community.
Scotia: This balance of the community’s need, the creative vision and the complexities of the broader recovery efforts can be challenging to manage.
Amanda: you need a strong leader with a beautiful vision who is open to changing and accommodating that vision to for the community. So the community, you’re allowed to, you know, come in and participate and dream and alter the course of that project.
But it’s got to be up to one person or a handful of people that protect the artistic integrity, the creative integrity of that project.
Scotia: The Bunyip, Yinnar South and Walhalla District recovery project is a collaboration between three shire councils in Victoria’s Central and Western Gippsland region – Baw Baw, Cardinia and Latrobe City.
They have the same approach Amanda does to facilitating creative recovery.
Robyn: So definitely want that interest in an artistic project or how they can best identify projects that can be creative for their communities. Expressing the needs and the desires of that local community. But then they’re got to be able to engage with the community and and go beyond what they have preconceived ideas. So they need to explore and be able talk. And at a common level and in a way that the community want to be engaged in. So it’s that talking, that listening and then providing some direction without over, over bearing on on the community. So it’s just prodding and giving that support as I go along, as the community identifies what they want to do in the future.
Scotia: This is Robyn Duffy.
Robyn: I’m the municipal recovery manager for Latrobe City Council and coordinator of health services.
Scotia: Robyn leads a team of people to implement programs across the shire.
Linda: My name’s Linda Snell. I’m the Yinnar South recovery officer for Latrobe City Council.
Scotia: Linda and Robyn are engaged in the whole of community recovery for the Latrobe City Shire.
Robyn: So essentially, we’re trying to look at the four pillars for recovery. So we’re looking at the environment. We’re looking at economic development. We’re looking at building, which are the structural things that have been damaged potentially by an emergency. And we’re also looking at the social well-being of people that have been impacted by emergencies. So when we’re looking at programmes to roll out over the months and, you know, sometimes it might be years for longer and larger event, we’re trying to address all those areas and see if it’s issues that could be identified and remediated. And often it’s the social well-being that kind of gets forgotten. And that’s usually the longer term implications on how well people are recovering from an emergency.
Linda: Community led initiatives always start with a gathering of community ideas and then asking the community to prioritise what those ideas are. And as Robin said, often it’s hard and physical infrastructure that they want replaced quickly. But it’s really about asking them what their priorities are before we go, really foisting what we think they need on them without asking them.
Scotia: This genuine engagement with the community takes time, and isn’t always in line with pressure from other stakeholders who want to see action.
Robyn: You know, there’s always the pressure from state and federal government to identify projects that can be carried out for communities. And often there’s that balance between thinking about what typical things might be of interest for the community that might fit in with some of the funding opportunities and then seeing how we can actually roll it out in the way that that community want it to be provided to them.
Scotia: These regional communities in Victoria have a longstanding history of participation and support for the arts.
Robyn: Well, certainly, in Yinnar we have the Arc here now, which the gallery and workshops, so are art and interests of the community is quite key. And we were trying to find ways of providing projects or events for all of the community members. So whatever they kind of interests where we were trying to identify things that we could deliver for different people within the community. So it wasn’t just movie nights for families. It wasn’t just rebuilding fences for the impacted farmers. It was other things that people have interests for.
Linda: And the Boolarra Folk Festival was on the day that the fire started and that was attended by 5000 people, so it is quite a community interested in arts and culture and live music and artistic ideas. And it is, as Robin said, it’s about bringing all of the community along. It’s not just about fences and. And events and movie nights, it’s about, you know, having something on like a buffet, really, it’s, you know, making sure that you’re including everybody on the recovery journey.
Robyn: So across the three councils there was they’re all neighbouring councils essentially and the three recovery managers had decided to catch up and see how we were dealing and how we would possibly roll out relief and recovery services to impacted communities across Cardinia, Bawbaw and Latrobe and particularly the Latrobe and Bawbaw, are very close they’re direct neighbours and often their residents will come into our shire for shopping, relief centres. All of those things. So there’s quite close interaction. So probably from about April, May of 2019 the recovery managers are meeting regularly to chat to see, you know, and support each other on how we would manage the recovery project.
Scotia: Creative Recovery Network was part of the regional recovery committee established to support coordination across all of the regions impacted by these fires.
It was the interest and investment of these three councils in the value of a creative recovery process that led to a formalised partnership and a commitment to building long-term capacity in their creative community to respond to this and future disasters.
Lifeline Gippsland also saw the value of creative engagement for community recovery, and committed funding for the training phase of the project.
A call-out for interested artists went out across the three shires. There was an expression of interest process, and eight artists were contracted to undertake a training program.
The aim was to provide a strong foundation for the artists to understand the nuances of the facilitator role within a disaster impact context.
The training would prepare them to work in trauma impacted communities and would include Mental Health First Aid and an introduction to Emergency Management.
Linda: I think because the intent was for them to become creative recovery facilitators. I think it’s a much broader scope than just being artistic or creative. And they definitely need to have really good reflective listening skills and be open to be guided by the community towards the project that the the community want to see long term.
I think they need to have a really collaborative approach, but really to be resilient and and focussed on problem solving. You know, you learn more by things going wrong than you do when things go perfectly smooth. But, you know, ability to manage projects and to manage timelines, I think is is really an important skill. I think it’s really a personality type as well as a skill set. To be able to problem solve and sometimes you have to do that on the run. That’s just how it is. Nobody was expecting a global pandemic this year.
Scotia: The artists were met with a number of challenges.
The fire season they were responding to took place early 2019 – since then, a series of significant impact events occurred and shifted the public’s focus.
A high level of media attention and recovery efforts were now going towards the 2020 Black Summer fire impacts, drawing attention from those that came before.
Robyn: Our communities were feeling that they were potentially being forgotten. That often happens with successive emergencies so late December, January, late December last year and January this year. There were the large fires in East Gippsland and it was up through Hume and in New South Wales. And although that was devastating, we still needed to maintain our recovery projects and programme with our own communities that were impacted by the March 2019 fires. So it was important for us that we didn’t stop with our everyday work with our communities.
Linda: Also on a very much broader scale, a broader level, we would need to consider that anyone that lives in Gippsland, you know, for the last 10 years is going to already have some of their own trauma that, you know, is brought up any time there’s smoke in the atmosphere.
And there’s this pandemic has not helped at all. You know, this is a community that’s been severely impact by far over the years with the Black Saturday fires. So, yeah, the Black Saturday fires, you know, 11 deaths just locally in Churchill and the Morwell mine fire leaving, you know, ghastly impacts on public health long term. And here we are, you know, six years later with more fire impact. You know, so they they most people in the community would not feel, you know, ike this year they are living their best self. That’s probably the best way to put it. You know, they’ve been under duress for quite some time.
Scotia: The key challenge for the artist facilitators was how to engage their community in a consultation process in the midst of compounding disasters which now included social distancing restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Amanda: So with the Gippsland project, my my role was to, I guess, teach people what a creative responder is and what that sort of work looks like and how it’s it’s different from a personal art practise and to to show people how you can take ideas and enthusiasm and thoughts from the community and fashion into a creative response.
Amanda: And also how to to connect with stakeholders and have that sort of balance between the very casual fun, artistic connection that you can have with community, but also the formality, all, you know, talking to the council and putting structure around your project and and looking at budgets and things like that and and making an idea real, like really, really pulling it together and bringing it into reality.
Gulsen: My name is Gulsen Ozur, and I live in Upper Beaconsfield which is sort of at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in Cardinia. I’ve been here about seven years. And we’re fortunate to live on kind of a large family property. So that’s where we are. So it’s a lovely part of the world.
Scotia: Gulsen saw the call-out for artists in the area who might want to facilitate a recovery project, and the idea of creative recovery really resonated.
Gulsen: I guess I responded to a lot of the I guess the language in that in the offer to to artists who who might want to take part
Scotia: Gulsen has worked across a number of artforms, and is interested in the relationships between people that inform art.
I kind of talk about my my work as interdisciplinary. I tend to say across performance and visual art, which kind of covers, I think, a fair gamut. And I guess I also include that sense that I use collaboration. And often that involves community engagement.
And there’s a kind of a there’s a dynamic that I perhaps more recently, in the last sort of three to four projects that I’ve that I try and have, which is that people that are involved in the project can really see themselves in the project. So there’s like it’s real strong sense of identification. But there’s also a sense of wonder that the project is bigger than what they could have imagined or something about it, the depth or the scale, a little the profundity or I don’t know but that that at once they go ‘oh!’ They that they feel like they someone got them some aspect of their experience. Or reality. And then that also it somehow exceeds what they what they might have been able to imagine on their own.
Scotia: The artists were engaged in early 2020, and by late April most of the state was in lockdown.
Amanda: So the impact of COVID was huge on this project, and I think that made it really difficult for the artists, first of all, because Covid came in after this project started. So the idea was that we were going to get together with and have a training weekend. And I was going to visit them and they were going to get to meet their communities. And there was going to be a lot of sitting down and chatting and getting to know people. The Covid restrictions came in very, very soon after this project started. So all of that personal interaction was out the window.
Scotia: The lockdowns in Victoria were the most extensive in Australia. A second-wave Covid outbreak in late July led to curfews and severe limitations on movement.
This limited artists ability to visit community members in person, changed the way that the council worked, impacted the personal lives and family units of everyone involved, and changed how the group worked in relationship with one another.
The artists were not only engaged in disaster recovery through the project, but were also experiencing complex impacts from the pandemic in their own lives.
Gulsen: So we were aiming had set out kind of a strategy for community engagement that was primarily face to face meetings and various you know processes and it became apparent that that wasn’t going to work.
This radically changed what the community engagement process looked like, and drew heavily on the skills of a strong facilitator that Linda and Robyn mentioned earlier — flexibility, managing a project that shifts and changes.
you know, they had to go out and try and connect with their communities and their their visiting times were very short. In between lockdowns and things like that. And when you’re trying to go and get to know people that you didn’t know before. That’s kind of hard through phone calls and zoom meetings.
Scotia: To meet this challenge, the project team turned to a creative solution.
Gulsen: So we started posting postcards to the affected community members to one to each household. And we sent three postcards trying to build each one kind of building on the last and kind of to, strategically, we were trying to get some way closer to some of the questions that we would have asked in person … And, you know, we’re really hoping that this one, one little piece of card would somehow capture and feel, feel and be welcomed into the home of people. You know, who’ve had this experience. So they went back and back and forth.
Scotia: Each Council’s postcard project worked a little differently, but were generally about celebrating community and place and most importantly, starting a dialogue.
The Councils and artists worked together to facilitate this new form of community engagement.
Linda: It was tricky to manage because the return of the postcards had to be done as part of those essential shopping trips. Yeah, it was tricky to manage. But I think great learnings have come out of it. And I think it’s been a lovely way of getting some positive, positive messages back to the community. While we’ve all been stuck at home.
Amanda: So one of the things that we wanted to achieve with the postcards is not just to connect, not just to say hi. We know we’re here. We’re doing a creative project, but to also bring a bit of positivity and and to learn a little bit about the communities, because, you know, in most cases, the artist didn’t actually live in those communities. They moved in that shire, but not those communities. So the idea was was to learn about those communities. So what we did is we we proposed a question on the very first postcard, which was simply, what do you love about where you live? Send us a picture or send us a few lines, and you could do that by writing on the postcard and putting it in a special mailbox that we had set up throughout the shires. Or you could answer it online.
Gulsen: When we started to get responses, there was an initial sense of relief and you could kind of say sometimes how questions were interpreted. It was great to see some commonality. Which kind of gave us.
Scotia: What do you mean relief?
Gulsen: Oh, that people responded. Yeah. Because. You don’t have all the things to hold onto, you know, when you talk about skills and you talk about the skills of the working community. So much of that, as I’ve kind of said before, is about my energy and your energy and me. You know. Doing that deep listening. My body language, me showing you that I’m here genuinely, authentically to listen. And when you sending out a postcard? You know that I mean, that’s what most difficult about it for all the out of working across zoom. Is how do we communicate that? And we’re old and we all have a different way of doing that in person. And all of our, you know, our values and the things that we think are really essential and important. And yeah, so creating a two day sort of card and deciding on language and. You know, it’s going to be across the board for everything from young people to seniors in the community. Yeah, it was it was it was a bit stressful at times.
Scotia: It might sound simple, sending out postcards, but there was a lot that went in behind the scenes.
Not all of the skills needed to run a remote community engagement campaign are what we’d think of as ‘artistic’.
Amanda: There’s a whole lot of, you know, a whole other component, which is all online. So, you know, setting up surveys and sending out MailChimp and sending out email. So I was actually giving them classes in how to head a send out batch mails and how to design emails and things like that. So. So there’s actually quite a lot of work behind this post cos it sounds like a very simple project. It sounds like writing like a nice postcard and send it out. But you mean you can’t just do that. You’ve got to support their response. And supporting the response means that, you know, you have physical mailboxes, you have somebody to answer the emails when people send emails in. You have to have a place that collates all the information and then feeds it back to the community, feeds it back to the artist and feeds it back to the councils.
Scotia: There are lots of lessons from the experience of cascading disasters in 2019 and 2020.
For the team behind the Bunyip, Yinnar South, Walhalla District creative recovery project, there were very practical lessons about community engagement.
Amanda thinks these lessons will be useful beyond lockdown.
The potential of a postal exchange encourages a diversity of voices within a community consultation.
It enables responses from people who may not put their hand up at a community meeting, or feel comfortable to speak up at a forum. This is an alternative tool to be drawn upon, any time.
Amanda: Yeah, it was I think was a great project to connect with communities because, you know, where we were working with communities that had been hit by bushfire quite a long time ago, you know, nearly just over a year ago.
And then there was the black summer bushfires after the bushfires. So they felt a little bit forgotten. And then there was the pandemic.
So they felt like, you know, that no one. Why would anyone care? So to send out postcards and say hi? Well, it would actually like to hear from you, which is sort of sending a message just to say that, you know, we do still care. You have a council and other industry people that that care that you lost 30 houses in your area. And it’s awful. And we don’t forget that. So, you know, it was just a nice it was a nice thing to do. And people responded really well.
Scotia: Projects of this nature highlight the important role of local government in community recovery and how a genuine commitment to ensuring that recovery efforts come from within will yield meaningful, far-reaching outcomes.
The three shires of Baw Baw, Cardinia and Latrobe City came together in a shared recognition of the value of the arts and its integral place within the recovery process.
This project was framed around understanding the importance of equipping artists with the skills needed to work with their communities – enabling them to step into a facilitator role and with the right tools to ensure the project can be authentically community led.
As we move into a world of increasing impacts of climate change and the resulting compounding disasters, we need to be growing opportunities for training and supporting artists in the complexities of recovery and the role they can play as community leaders.
Victoria is emerging from a long lockdown, the artist facilitators are able to move about their communities again.
Amanda is hopeful that the projects that eventuate from the community consultation will reflect a deep engagement and express each community’s vision for the future.
Amanda: I would also like to see that the community’s reaction to those those projects is is really positive and that there is also an understanding that these projects are in response to the disaster and that the community is talking about sort of a couple of different communities here that they feel heard. They feel that. I guess they feel that people care. I think that’s that’s that’s a big goal in in these projects is to to get the community to understand that, you know, the council’s working with these artists actually do care about the community and that comes across in those projects.
Scotia: And she hopes the artists will recognise in themselves the potential for creative recovery work moving forward.
I’d also like to see that the artists feel really well supported and then feel that they’ve enhanced their practise, that they have capacity to do this sort of work in the future. And they’re confident in doing this work in the future.
Gulsen: I do think that song, dance, creativity, drawing, creative expression, I think is a kind of it’s a birthright. I think it’s something that if we look at elder cultures, it’s something that is a part of culture and a part of life. And for some people, some communities, some societies, I think that access to that has been eroded. And that is meaning that that these different transitions, these different lived experiences, these difficulties and celebrations are not always I think as enriched as they could be or as enlivened or able to be. Have innovation or to be given appropriate sort of solace and comfort. These are some of the things that I think that artistic expression provides or creativity provides. And so art gives that space alongside these lived experience for us to transform. To move forward, to express sometimes the unutterable. Or or or to or to say it out aloud.
And I think it helps us process and understand what we’ve what we’ve experienced to be in ways that I haven’t seen. I can’t think of any other kind of system or process that is so dynamic that has that capacity and so has the potential to be so inclusive anywhere else. So, I mean, I think it’s essential.
And I also kind of reflect on. I guess, you know, our changing world and the finite resources and things that are in decline that we need places, spaces, leadership, you know, holding facilitation to reconnect and kind of reorient human relationships towards a culture of sharing and caring in practical ways, you know, a food connection, trust, belonging. And I think that at work, making out experiences the ideal kind of liminal spaces for this kind of magic.
Scotia: Creative Responders is an initiative of the Creative Recovery Network hosted by me, Scotia Monkivitch.
We’d like to thank all of the artists and council representatives for their collaboration in the Bunyip, Yinnar South and Walhalla District recovery project. Special thanks to Amanda, Linda, Robyn and Gulsen for sharing their stories with us for this episode, and for their additional efforts to record remotely during the Victorian lockdown.
Creative Responders is produced by me and my Creative Recovery Network colleague Jill Robson, in collaboration with Audiocraft, with Executive Producer Jess O’Callaghan, and Sound Engineer Tiffany Dimmack.
Original music was composed by Mikey Squire.
If you are interested in supporting your community in challenging times, you can find out more about what we do at our website Creative Recovery dot net dot au or connect with us on facebook, twitter and instagram.
We’ll be taking a short break but will be back in January with two more episodes for this season, first with a special episode by producer Nicole Hutton.
Nicole is a young descendant of the Garawa people. She takes us to the Great Barrier Reef to hear how First Nations communities from the reef coast are using storytelling, art and tourism in the face of rapid environmental changes due to coral bleaching and climate change.
And for our final episode, we revisit the theme of self-care for artists and community workers in remote or disaster impacted communities.
This time, we’ll be hearing from the team at Wilurarra Creative, a community hub in Central Australia’s Warburton Community that facilitates a diverse creative program for Ngaanyatjarra people aged 17-30.
Silvano: So it’s very much grounded in community arts and culture development and in a long term approach that provides access to resources and but doesn’t define an outcome, you know, or doesn’t define what what is arts practice or what is not or what, you know, it’s very much community driven.
We hope you can join us.
The Creative Recovery Network is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
Thanks for listening.
How to Listen
You can find Creative Responders on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or your favourite podcast app. You can also listen to all of our episodes right here on our website and access transcripts and resources related to each episode.