Healing through art

The participants in the first ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills (ARRTS) program for 2022 put on an impressive showcase at the University of Canberra’s Inspire Centre on June 2.

CAPTION: ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills program participants at the showcase night at the University of Canberra. (This image has been digitally altered by Defence for privacy reasons) Story by Captain Jacqui Day. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Jacqueline Forrester.

The showcase featured paintings, sculptures, stories, poems and songs produced by the participants during the four-week residential program.

The 17-member group comprised serving and transitioning people from all three services, two Australian Defence Force veterans and a member of the ACT Emergency Services Agency, all sharing the desire to reset their mindset, re-integrate with family and friends, and re-engage with society.

The showcase, which marked the end of the program, represented the restored self-confidence, renewed purpose and enhanced wellbeing the participants gained from the creative engagement.

Varying health and wellbeing challenges prompted participants to join the program.

The participants were guided by experienced mentors to create original artistic works across three streams: music and rhythm, creative writing, and visual arts.

The group also came together to write a song called Here Today to convey the difference the ARRTS program had made to their lives.

Members of the showcase audience – which included the families and friends of the participants as well as senior Defence and ACT Emergency Services staff – were visibly moved by the performance of the song, and the rest of the repertoire, which featured heartfelt readings and poems. The audience watched the show live and via a live stream.

CAPTION: ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills program participant Em Chettle performs during the showcase night. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Jacqueline Forrester.

Air Vice-Marshal Steven Roberton couldn’t resist tapping his foot in time with the well-known songs from the 1960’s through to the 2000s that were performed.

“Considering they were strangers just 19 days ago, it’s great to see how close they are after sharing this journey together,” Air Vice Marshal Roberton said.

“I’m quite impressed by the depth of talent within the group, but I’m not surprised by it.

“I think there is a suppressed creative side in all of us and it’s great to witness how this program enabled participants to unlock it and express themselves.

“I hope they take forward the confidence in themselves, friendships they have made and the skills they’ve learnt from the mentors to carry through the rest of their lives.”

Able Seaman Keoni Geritz, who had never played a musical instrument before taking part in the program, said her highlights were the ‘instrument speed dating’ in week one and the showcase performance.

“Through pursuing the music and rhythm stream, I’ve learnt that I can actually sing. I’ve learnt to play the drums, bass guitar and ukulele,” Able Seaman Geritz said.

“I’ve noticed a significant change within myself – I’ve found an outlet that sparks my interest and creates joy for me.

“My partner plays the keys so I’m looking forward to jamming together in the lounge room when I’m home.”

The next AARTS program will run from October 30 to November 25. Applications open on August 1 and close September 26.

For more information, email adf.arrts@defence.gov.au or visit defence.gov.au/jcg/arrts

CAPTION: ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills program participant Michael Payne with his artwork at the showcase. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Jacqueline Forrester.





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