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18th March 2021 Latest News Creative Health

Mental and emotional recovery for bushfire-affected communities

Magda Szubanski and Will Connolly bushfire affected communities

Magda Szubanski and Will Connolly drive support

Communities affected by the 2019/20 summer bushfires will be able to participate in creative art workshops aimed at assisting psychological recovery and wellbeing, thanks to a new partnership between The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF) Group, University of Canberra and Phoenix Australia.

The partnership, titled Regeneration, is being driven by Australian comedian Magda Szubanski and social media influencer Will Connolly who raised more than $185,000 for people in bushfire affected communities last year.

Magda and Will (pictured above thanks to Australian Story, ABC), along with researchers and support teams from the partnership, are travelling to communities in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria to deliver the programs and conduct further research in the arts and trauma space.

The towns chosen to be involved include Tumut in NSW, Kangaroo Island in South Australia and Alpine communities in Victoria.

THRF Group is facilitating the funding process with MagWill Trust, plus offering research and creative expertise for the art workshops through its Group charities Military and Emergency Services Australia (MESHA) and Centre for Creative Health (CCH).

“Creative arts activity can help you access the emotional memories part of your brain that trauma can make it hard to access,”
said MESHA Senior Research Officer Holly Bowen-Salter.

“And if you can get something that’s inside your brain out in a painting, a poem or a piece of music, you can stand back from it and work with it to understand what you’ve been through.”

Instead of bringing external people in for the workshops, art therapists and practitioners from CCH and the University of Canberra will help train local artists and craftspeople on KI to deliver their own trauma informed art workshops to the local community. This will allow local artists to feel better equipped to recognise the signs of trauma in themselves and others and to be able to create a safe space where people can talk and tell their stories to the extent that they feel able.

The teams, including Magda and Will, are visiting Kangaroo Island next week to roll out the program.

“The trauma informed art workshops will be able to gift skills to local artists to allow them to not only heal themselves, but those around them,” Will said.

“This project really aligns with our original goal of long-term trauma support. I hope that Regeneration will be able to sow the seeds inside these towns that will allow them to grow and heal from the inside out.”

Fundraising is still ongoing for the projects. Visit to provide your support.