Wonthaggi artworks to the rescue

Community stories Event: 24 June 2021

Building confidence and connection with youth through art was the focus of a project supported by a $4,840 Gardiner Dairy Foundation grant in 2019.

The State Coal Mine – Rescue Station Arts Inc. (SCMRSA) in Wonthaggi Victoria runs a community arts hub in the heritage listed former Rescue Station building. Their Artworks project specifically targeted disengaged youth aged 15 to 20 years through the local school, council and youth related services including a disability provider.

While it was initially intended to contract one part-time community development officer for six months, the project greatly benefitted from the dual appointment of a youth community development worker and arts therapist.

“This gave a much broader reach and depth to the project with increased benefit for participants.”
Their first challenge was to engage with youth and plan a 12-week program of activities that would most interest them. The open plan industrial building was considered ideal for “making a mess” so a wide range of art activities were discussed at the ‘Come and Try Days’ which attracted 52 young people. Disabled youth met the facilitators in smaller groups to ensure they felt comfortable.

Ultimately 38 young people signed up for the program and numbers grew to 53 through word of mouth. All had barriers to participation be it behavioural, financial or social isolation. Clay work and decorating old skateboards proved to be the most popular activities.

“Participants did not know each other beforehand but formed a strong friendship group. They excelled with hidden talents they didn’t know they had.”

Community support to the project was considerable with businesses donating materials and artists volunteering their time.

Since concluding, the benefits have continued. “Some young people have taken on a leadership role and, together with facilitators, have successfully gained funding for a further two projects.”