Hey all! It has been an incredibly busy few months over at Phunktional HQ. Our two projects are progressing nicely and we couldn’t be happier. Both projects revolve around our ‘theatre in education’ productions – ‘Love Drunk’ and ‘Who Stole the Sole?’ – high impact theatrical performances that deal with youth culture. ‘Love Drunk’ deals with issues of safe partying, drug and alcohol abuse, race based tension and sexual assault; and ‘Who Stole the Sole’ addresses cyber-bullying, sexting and the acceptance of difference. Most importantly, they are engaging and encourage adolescents to reflect and make positive choices to build healthy and respectful relationships.
All too often development projects are carried out in rural communities – but to what end? The idea that you can walk into a rural community and make a sustainable difference in a couple of days is a crude and unrealistic assumption. It is for this reason that we have adopted a ‘whole of community’ approach to our projects. As the ‘outsiders’, our role is to support, not direct, we focus on a community’s assets and how we can build on it rather than what they are lacking.
Our projects are:
Chit Chat (Pilot) Project
With the support of Victoria Legal Aid and South Eastern CASA, the Chit Chat Project will be piloted in the Loddon Mallee and Gippsland regions in 2014 to 2015. Chit Chat adopts Arts strategies and a whole of community approach to harm-minimisation education and aims to build the capacity of the school community to effect change from within.
The goal of the project is to deliver ‘Love Drunk’ and ‘Who Stole the Sole?’ to high risk rural communities and engage the young people in these areas through theatre. Here are a couple of statistics in the areas we will be working in:
- 47.9 percent of adolescents in the Gippsland region and 50 percent in the Loddon Mallee reported being bullied recently, higher than 44.6 percent across the state.
- 53.4 percent of 12-14 year olds in Gippsland and 56.6 percent in Loddon Mallee had consumed alcohol before, higher than the Victorian average of 46.4 percent.
The performances are most effective when thought of as catalyst for change, rather than a single intervention. But we also recognise that teachers, parents and the wider school community often lack the time to sort through numerous follow up resources to support harm-minimisation education. That’s why as part of the project, we will be creating an online education resource package to facilitate ongoing workshops and activities that consolidate the core messages of the performances.
Cycles to Circles Project
In partnership with the Mildura Aboriginal Co-Operative and Kurruru Youth Performing Arts, Cycles to Circles is an innovative artistic and leadership development program for young Indigenous women and men living in regional and rural Australia.
One goal of Cycles to Circles is to build an all-Indigenous cast for “Love Drunk” and “Who Stole the Sole?” in order to better engage Indigenous communities by presenting performers that reflect the local community. It will also provide professional role models for young Indigenous people attracted to the performing arts.
What precisely have we been up to? Here’s the rundown:
Our artists performed ‘Who Stole the Sole?’ at the Community Strategic Conversation’s ‘Understanding Sexting Forum on the 4th of September. The artists did a fantastic job and were followed by presentations from various organisations including Victoria Police, South Eastern CASA, and the Eastern Community Legal Centre. The forum was a great opportunity to engage in an interesting social conversation and contribute to the development of collaborative strategies to support young people.
Going hand in hand with Chit Chat is our research project. September was a hectic month filled with research and proposal writing. There is a lot that is being done on the issues raised in ‘Love Drunk’ and ‘Who Stole the Sole?’, but there are certainly gaps in the services as well. Our aim is to fill this gap with Chit Chat. Our main research goal is to discover what is the value of the theatre performances in engaging and empowering ‘at risk’ youth; and, how does the combination of art strategies and the education resource package support harm-minimisation education on the health, ethical, legal and social issues raised in the performances. We are proud to announce that the first draft of the research proposal has been completed and sent out to a number of community stakeholders for feedback.
One idea that was thrown around was to provide USB sticks with referral services to students in return for participating in the research project. We’ve looked at a couple of styles so far, which one do you prefer?
We started October with a bang and it was a whirlwind of a month.
First we had a lovely meeting with Angela from Victoria Legal Aid. We discussed VLA resources that Phunktional can include in Chit Chat’s education resource package. We also agreed on reciprocal professional development and Angela expressed interest in VLA support for Cycles to Circles, which is fantastic. Working with different organisations towards the same goal is important to us at Phunktional, not only in terms of knowledge sharing, but also because we believe it offers the best opportunities for the community. Collaboration and support is key, especially when we are adding value to each other’s work.
Angela from VLA with Pam and Gerard from Phunktional
We are also happy to announce that the first phase of Cycles to Circles has been accomplished. The talented Maurial Spearim has joined the cast of ‘Who Stole the Sole?’. She performed two shows on her first day – incredible. The first was at Northland College of the Arts and Technology, and the second was to friends, family and stakeholders. Needless to say, both performances received raving reviews for the entire cast. One of the students at Northland even joined us when we were packing up to demonstrate his awesome dance moves.
Jamieson, Maurial and Gerard performing Who Stole the Sole? at Northland College
This was followed by our tour to Coonamble, a small rural town about 2 hours north of Dubbo, NSW. The area has a strong Indigenous culture and 59% of the students at Coonamble High School identify as coming from an Indigenous background. The Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service brought us to the town and we couldn’t have felt more privileged to perform for the students and teachers of Coonamble High. Bypassing the wintery Melbourne weather for some sunshine didn’t hurt either. Jamieson, Gerard and Maurial performed ‘Who Stole the Sole?’ on day 1, followed by a hip hop dance workshop; while Jamie, Lachlan and Stephanie performed ‘Love Drunk’ on day 2 of the tour. The students, teachers and representatives from local health providers gave us some really positive feedback. Some of the kids even added Phunktional on Facebook afterwards.
And there you have it! Keep tuning in to see what we’ll be up to next.