The Creative Recovery Story: Evaluation Report

The Creative Recovery Story: Evaluation Report Report

  • Author(s): Dyer, Geraldine, Leenders, Michelle, Saunders, Vicki
  • Published: 2011
  • Publisher: Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health Queensland

Abstract: Creative Recovery was implemented as a pilot project in Lockhart River, a remote Indigenous community in Far North Queensland during 2008 as an innovative, community arts-based, wellbeing and mental health recovery project. Over the following three years it evolved from a project focused on addressing issues of social inclusion specifically for Indigenous consumers of remote mental health services to a broader initiative extending to the communities of Aurukun, Mornington Island and Doomadgee. During this time, over 28 organisations became involved in an effort to promote social and emotional wellbeing for a diverse range of community members. The project also began to explore opportunities for social and creative enterprise within these communities. The following report describes the processes involved in implementing and the outcomes obtained from Creative Recovery, as well as outlining the challenges and future opportunities. Outcomes from the project were evaluated in an evolving way that used yarning/unstructured interviews, weekly activity reports and the production of documentaries. In response to the need to adhere to culturally appropriate methods of enquiry and to enable Indigenous mental health consumers to have a voice, the multiple elements and forms of Indigenous storytelling were incorporated as a way of generating meaningful data in this context. Several themes emerged consistently across communities as being crucial to the successful outcomes of such a project, including: a sense of ownership; acknowledging that simply engaging in arts based activities can be healing; the role of engaging in creative activities as a means for promoting pride and identity; the potential for such projects to promote cultural continuity and renewal for the benefit of children; the teaching and acquisition of new skills. The more tangible ‘returns on investment’ included: 80 workshops in Lockhart River, 14 artists residencies conducted in other communities, 4 major public exhibitions, 8 community launches/exhibitions, and 6 documentaries produced. In addition the projects generated over 300 artworks from amongst the participant groups with 15 emerging artists generating a regular income from the sale of their work. Given the challenges and investment needed to coordinate and initiate similar projects in remote locations these represent significant 'returns’ for the community, arts organisations and for health services. In the short term the evaluation has provided insights about the processes which are critical to ensuring the success of such programs and evidence for positive outcomes. In the long term it is envisaged the report will help to inform similar projects or programs geared toward building social capital in remote Indigenous communities through arts-based initiatives. Such programs can lead to improvements in health outcomes for individuals and communities, as well as promoting sustainable local economies. Itis acknowledged however, that any economic benefit to participants will need to be carefully managed. Finally, the project outcomes including the evaluation have made a positive contribution to non-indigenous awareness, understanding of, and respect for Indigenous culture. It provides an approach to essential maintenance of Indigenous culture and traditional knowledge by engaging with a wide range of community members. The arts and cultural products are also showcased through exhibitions and documentaries in a culturally appropriate and sensitive format.

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Dyer, Geraldine, Leenders, Michelle, Saunders, Vicki, 2011, The Creative Recovery Story: Evaluation Report, Report, viewed 09 August 2022,

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