Arts in Health…meanwhile in Australia

August 18, 2016

This month's blog post is an article I was asked to write for next year's Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference, to be held in Bristol, on the 19th, 20th and 21st June and is a review of the current Australian arts in health sector...



The arts in health sector in Australia is slowly evolving, however the sector faces a number of challenges including


  • Changes to state and federal governance, which in turn affects arts policies, where they exist. The coalition arts minister Arts Minister recently attended a National Arts Election Debate without an arts policy in place…


  • Lack of support, funding or even interest, from Australia Council

‘Arts and health is not a specifically prioritised area of funding for the Australia Council’ direct quote, 2016


  • Varying levels of support and/or funding from state arts bodies and departments of health.


Australian Central Territory – The Arts and Health Pilot Program is a joint initiative between the Health Directorate and artsACT



New South Wales Minister for Health has formed a Taskforce on Health and the Arts



Queensland – Arts Queensland recently featured an article on arts and health by Lynne Seaar who leads the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital Arts programme



South Australia – Country Arts SA recently ran a one-day forum ‘Arts & Health: Making The Connections’



Tasmania - Department of Health and Human Services published Arts and Health - The Evidence in 2012



VictoriaCreative Victoria did have some art health webpages, but these have now been archived - perhaps a sad reflection of where they stand on arts in health...



Western Australia – The Chamber of Arts and Culture and the WA Arts Health Consortium very recently published  An Examination of use of the Arts to improve Health and Healing in Western Australian Hospitals



  • State rivalry – this leads to some duplication of research and development and prevents a collaborative national approach. Some large publications have been produced but are not available in hardcopy, which could have a negative effect on readership and impact.


  •  Fragmentation within the sector. One very experienced arts health practitioner explained to me that as a whole the sector felt ‘over consulted and under-represented. Despite lengthy consultations over the years, very little had developed to actually progress the sector nationally.’


There are some hospital programmes which are well established, examples include Sydney Children’s Hospital, Westmead Children’s Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre with new projects emerging elsewhere. While there is a growing understanding and appreciation of the value of arts in healthcare, there can still be a tendency (from the healthcare side) to not expect to pay for creative programmes, which can lead to a certain lack of professionalism, ‘anyone can have a go’ approach which obviously hinders progress.


On the bright side there’s growing demand for arts commissioning within new hospital builds. There’s a constantly growing population, lots of space and so there’s lots of new hospitals being built. Examples of note would include The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and the New Royal Adelaide Hospital.

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