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Naked Practice: Outcomes of Two Community Arts Projects in WA



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2 1
It is important to acknowledge that the there is some diversity of opinion about the best
way to describe people with longstanding cultural heritage and affi liations to this country.
Some people prefer to use the term ‘Aboriginal person’. Others use regionally generic
identifi ers such as ‘Nyungar’ (or ‘Noongar’) or ‘Wongutha’. Some are even more specifi c,
using the name of dialect groups such as ‘Ballardong Nyungar’. It has also become common
for those involved in public policy and government to use ‘Indigenous Australians’. There
is some contention and all of these terms have their limitations. The way this dilemma is
dealt with here is to use a mix of identifi ers, interchanging and shifting the way groups are
described. This choice was made partly because that is what people do and this is how it
was during the projects.
Assistant editor and coordinator
1ST ROW (L-R) Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Neil Fraser,
Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
2ND ROW (L-R) Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Luke Cousins,
Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
3RD ROW (L-R) Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Mikaela Garlett,
Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Lockie McDonald
4TH ROW (L-R) Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Caitlin Phoebe,
The Hedge Bandits band, Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Mike Gray
FROM TOP Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Mike Gray,
Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Kylie Mackintosh,
Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Eileen Hall
PAGES 56-57
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Coonana dancers, Rock Hole Long Pipe
PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger, Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Kristy Colbung,
Creating costumes for Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Barb Howard,
Creating a safe path across the road, Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Mike Gray,
Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Carolyn Stokes,
Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Luke Button,
House Lantern, Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Mike Gray,
Captain Cool Gudia PHOTO Mike Gray,
Voices of the Wheatbelt, Aubrey Nelson PHOTO James Berlyn,
Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Melissa McCarthy
Background on Community Arts Network WA
’Opening the cage, sending smoke and dancing the
stories for country’: An evaluation of CAN WAs
‘Rock Hole Long Pipe project’
VOICES of the Wheatbelt Project: An Evaluation Study
Appendix 1:
Rock Hole Long Pipe Project Evaluation Methodology
Appendix 2:
VOICES of the Wheatbelt Project Evaluation Methodology
Author biographies
Hedge Bandits and teacher Kiera Hill and students
from Kambalda PHOTO Mike Gray
We work with the arts in communities with the
conviction that this work has the capacity to
transform people’s lives, opening up opportunities
for people to express their ideas, frustrations and
dreams and helping them map a path towards
those aspirations.
CAN WA and its national counterparts are progressing
the appreciation and sophistication of community cultural
development work being produced in Australia. The more of that
work that is subject to scrutiny by peers from other disciplines,
the more we can learn and develop our skill. The increased
interest in community initiatives as a potential response to
social, cultural and economic challenges mean that many
disciplines are looking for examples of community building.
The arts in Australia has years of experience to draw on - skilled
practitioners, strategic funding and project partners, example
after example of transformative practice. We need to engage
with our peers to share our knowledge and learn from theirs.
In this case, Dr Dave Palmers community development
background provides grounding for examining the immediate
and long-term outcomes of the Rock Hole Long Pipe project.
Palmer has made a particular study of the role of the arts
in transforming people’s lives, because he has seen that it
works. His extensive study of this area means that he is well
placed to examine CAN WA’s work. Dr Chris Sonn has worked
with CAN WA over a long period, evaluating its work and
studying the impact of community arts and cultural development
on his area of concern, community psychology.
The contribution of these two academics in assessing
the work and presenting their fi ndings in a form that can be
easily digested by others is signifi cant. This, together with
CAN WA’s openness in scrutinising the projects and publishing
the outcomes is something we can all learn from.
That’s an ambitious undertaking that requires signifi cant
commitment, time and resources. When all this comes together
and the process works, those involved know that it has –
they feel it, they hear about it from participants, they share
in the joy of change and possibilities. That’s been sustaining
community artists for decades in this country - through all the
ups and downs, the vagaries of funding, policy changes, new
government and public rhetoric … increasingly we need to do
more than feel the success of our work. It’s important to be able
to look at what works, why it works, what the challenges are
and what we’ve learnt from the process. Doing this helps us
rise above the subjective response to the work and allows us to
share what we’ve learnt with others who were not a part of the
experience. At this point in time it is especially vital because the
value of ‘community’ has recently been elevated in government
thinking and we have an opportunity to ensure that it is more
than the latest policy buzzword.
The commitment of Community Arts Network WA to effectively
evaluate its work and publish its fi ndings is a generous gift to
those interested in better ways of working with communities.
The integration of the evaluation methods into the design and
implementation of the project is especially useful because the
learning is constantly informing the work and this dynamic
keeps everyone on their toes. Moreover, CAN WAs work in
the Eastern Wheatbelt and the Goldfi elds has been signifi cant
and strategic. Apart from the immediate benefi ts enjoyed
by the participants of these projects, the ongoing work of
engaging local government in community cultural development,
particularly in partnership with local Indigenous people, is crucial
to the broader healing and growth of local culture in Australia.
Ms Dunn had a 30-year public service career including as CEO of the
Departments of Arts, Local Government and Family & Community
Services in South Australia and the City of Port Phillip in Victoria.
She now runs a consulting practice, working in the areas of chairing,
facilitation, mediation, community consultation, leadership and
organisational development.
Her previous board appointments include: Deputy Chair, Australia
Council; Chair, Community Cultural Development Board; Chair,
Australian Government’s Regional Women’s Advisory Council and she
currently chairs the Health Performance Council for the South Australian
Government. She was until recently a Director on the Australian Rural
Leadership Program for 10 years. She was awarded a Member of the
Order of Australia (AO) in 2010 for service to rural women, a range of
arts and cultural organisations and to local government through
administrative roles.
She is a regular keynote speaker at conferences, appearing as fi ctional
characters appropriate to the event including Mayor Rita Rodeo (from a
town somewhere in regional Australia) and Ms Sheila Presley (a woman
with a newly found identity). She remains a practicing community artist.
Teardrop lanterns
PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
Captain Cool Gudia PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
The publication of these evaluation reports is
part of the ongoing commitment of CAN WA
to share the learning that arises from our work.
We do this to assist others working in this fi eld
and to encourage others to see community
arts and community cultural development as
an effective, powerful and creative approach to
working with communities.
Community Arts Network Western Australia is a not-for-profi t, peak
organisation supporting communities by facilitating community arts and
cultural development programs to help build community wellbeing. We
inspire and mobilise communities to explore and express their unique
culture through our programs, training and funding opportunities.
Established in 1985, CAN WA has a 25-year history in the arts and
culture sector of Western Australia. We are driven by the knowledge that
culture and the arts play an important part in shaping communities. We
understand the need to involve the community in processes that help
them track the past, understand and explore the present, and use their
imagination to consider how things can be different for the future. Broad
community engagement invigorates the arts, generating captivating
artworks and delivering signifi cant social and community benefi ts that
build community networks, cohesion and resilience.
CAN WA is serious about evaluating its work and along with
the regular internal reviews by staff of projects and working
processes, we appreciate the skill and insight that is offered
to us by academics whose experience allows them to provide
a rigorous and more objective view of our work. We have a
very active relationship with those undertaking the evaluation
and benefi t from their input throughout the project as well as
through their fi nal reports. In this case our evaluators work
from different disciplines – Dr Dave Palmer from Community
Development and Dr Christopher Sonn from Community
Psychology which adds to the interest in reading them
In publishing these reports we are offering our learning so far in
working with these specifi c communities of the Wheatbelt and
the Goldfi elds, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. CAN WA is
not attempting to make defi nitive statements about community
cultural development or offer universal truths for others to
follow. We are sharing what happened for us in this instance,
what we felt worked, what could have been improved, the
issues that arose and the joys we shared. We hope that
the enclosed interactive CD gives you a real sense of that,
and together with the evaluation reports, it inspires your work
and learning.
By Pilar Kasat
An evaluation of CAN WAs
‘Rock Hole Long Pipe project’
Written by Dave Palmer
LEFT House lantern PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
The CAN WA team used a
community-based approach to
draw young people and others
into task-focused workshops,
arts and cultural activities, music,
dance, performance theatre,
narrative and story-telling pieces,
and a range of other performance
and arts-based activities,
including the production of a
large community event called
Rock Hole Long Pipe which was
subsequently documented in a
publication called, Captain Cool
Gudia, the Monster and the Girl.
As well as the intrinsic value of
offering art and performance
to people who live in regional
Australia, the intention of the
work was to:
1) Bring members of geographically
isolated areas together.
2) Encourage interaction between
Indigenous and non-Indigenous
people in the region.
3) Provide opportunities for other
personal and social developmental
experiences, such as education,
training and employment.
4) Help prepare local people for
participation in community life,
including local government.
In other words, the intention
of CAN WA was to use arts
and cultural practice to help
the people of Coolgardie and
Kambalda to come together to
recreate hope, tell their stories,
participate in art and performance
and build people’s sense of
connection to their community.
Although not solely restricted to
work concerned with community
building, the evaluation will begin
by examining the achievements
of CAN WA in relation to the
plans as set out in its funding
agreement as part of the Stronger
Families and Community Strategy
of the Department of Families and
Housing, Community Services
and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA).
The report then moves on to
discuss some of the lessons
learnt from carrying out the
work; focusing on the methods
used, the challenges confronted
and some of the unintended but
socially productive consequences
that were achieved.
The report concludes that over
the past two years, CAN WA
has managed to achieve some
important things both in relation
to the production of good quality
art and performance, and in
making a difference in the lives of
the community. Clearly there is
solid evidence of the successful
achievement of key objectives
as set out in the various project
plans. CAN WA can lay claim to
considerable success in achieving
the ‘milestones’ established
The following report
provides a review of
CAN WAs work on
what was known as the
Water Dreaming project.
The project encapsulates
CAN WAs work in Coolgardie
since 2007 and includes the
community building, training,
performance and community
celebration elements of their
work. Throughout this work,
arts-based practice has been
used in an attempt to help
make a difference to the
lives of people living in
the Coolgardie and
Kambalda areas.
Captain Cool Gudia sets the lanterns alight
PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
Initially, CAN WA and the Shire of
Coolgardie jointly undertook the
project. As discussed later in the
report, during the early stages it
became apparent that the Shire
was not in the position to take on
the role of ‘joint project partner’.
The project was supported by a
number of funding groups but
received its principal fi nancial
support from FaHCSIA.
CAN WA’s work began in
August 2007 when the Project
Facilitator, Barb Howard, visited
the community several times. As
part of these visits she conducted
what CAN WA describes as
‘community visioning’ discussions
with community members.
In particular, an event was
organised called the ‘Tree of
Hope’ consultation as part of
the Coolgardie Day Festival
in mid September. Those
participating came together
from different parts of the region
and included representatives
from the Indigenous and non-
Indigenous community. This event
encouraged people to share their
personal and family stories and
knowledge about the area.
During the course of the following
year, 14 artists from a range of
disciplines and art styles worked
with people from Coolgardie
and Kambalda.
The CAN WA team hosted various
events and activities in a bid to
involve a broad cross-section of
the community and to help shape
and create a large arts event.
For example, the team worked
with a number of local schools
(East Kambalda Primary School,
Kambalda District High School
and Christian Aboriginal Parent–
Directed School) to involve young
people and other interested
members of the community in
arts-based workshops, fostering
their arts and performance skills
and creating work that could be
used in a large performance.
In March 2008, the team carried
out what they called a ‘banner/
cultural visioning’ project with
Year 4 and 5 students in three
primary schools and Year 9 and
10 students in two secondary
schools. Visual artist Paula Hart
led a process in which young
people created banners, using
this as a means to explore their
relationship with the community,
the natural environment and
the future. Each young person
created an individual banner
design to contribute to a group-
produced banner. The intention
was also to use this as a way
of making banners from each
school and help stimulate further
creative work to be used in the
A particularly impressive element
of CAN WA’s work has been the
way it has used arts, creativity
and performance to involve
Indigenous young people and
members of their families, and
to draw non-Indigenous and
Indigenous people together.
If there is a singular important
feature of the project, it is
that CAN WA staff managed
to work in a relatively isolated
region, something many other
organisations fi nd a challenge.
As a consequence, many of
those involved struggled with
a complex array of social and
personal problems without the
support available in other parts of
the country. In this way CAN WA
staff had to contend with a range
of social issues including poverty,
crime prevention, housing,
education and training, family
violence, self harm and ‘risky’
behaviour, mental health and
substance misuse. In this way,
lessons learnt about the approach
used can provide insights for
others in how to work respectfully
in regional Australia.
Overview of CAN WA’s work in
Coolgardie and Kambalda
The aim of Water Dreaming1
was to bring people from the
Shire of Coolgardie together
to explore how drought has
affected the community and
begin to think about how to
improve connections between
people during tough times. In
part this refl ected the fact that
the region has recently been
declared ‘drought affected’ by
the Australian Government.
It also refl ected the region’s
signifi cant problems associated
with community isolation and the
decline in social infrastructure. To
use some of the language that
has become popular in social
policy discourse, the intention
of the project was to use art,
creativity and performance as
means to buttress local people’s
social capital.
The project also set out to involve
groups who were otherwise
socially disparate to participate
in a single event to be held in
Coolgardie. In part the idea
was to create a ‘community
celebration’ that focused upon
the history of contributions by
Aboriginal people. In this way the
project sought to bring together
Indigenous and non-Indigenous
people to hear the stories of
senior people, watch as young
people performed together
and involve people in building
a greater degree of respect for
Coolgardie’s rich history.
1 Initially called the Coolgardie Community Strengthening through Affirming Local Identity Project
large public performance, possibly
as part of the Coolgardie Day
community festival in 2008. It
was also important to involve staff
from the various schools so that
they too could participate in future
community events.
In the lead up to this event,
held the week following the
Coolgardie Day celebrations of
2008, animator Steve Aiton and
community artist Poppy van
Oorde-Grainger spent four weeks
working with students from local
schools to create a performance
about the history of water in the
area. Out of these workshops
students produced larger-than-life
animations (projected onto the
walls of the local museum as part
of the performance) and colourful
costumes (worn by performers
and musicians during the
performance). British artist and
visiting Healthway Arts in Health
fellow, Alison Clough-Jones
worked with a group of local
students to create large lanterns.
These lanterns were used during
the performance to signify the
large fi res that several times
swept through the old Coolgardie
tent township and pay tribute to
those who lost their lives.
The information, ideas and
work gathered from these
various activities and workshops
were then used to shape a
public theatre piece centred
on the theme of water. Lockie
McDonald, a Perth-based writer,
director and producer, was
contracted to help write and
produce a major public event
based on the material that had
been created earlier. In addition,
community members including
the volunteer fi re brigade, a biker,
a local poet, Indigenous dancers
from the Spinifex group and the
Hedge Bandits band, worked
in conjunction with students,
local actor Elizabeth Trott and
professional actor Peter Docker
to help perform the dramatic and
exciting community event called
Rock Hole Long Pipe.
This piece was performed in
the streets of Coolgardie on the
evening of the 20 September
2008. As part of the performance,
over 100 participants from the
community wound their way
through the streets in what was
described as an exciting, fun and
amazing performance.
During the early part of
2009, CAN WA worked in
conjunction with the artists
and key community members
to produce a book celebrating
the performance, outlining the
process used and its impact
upon the community. This book,
Top: Coolgardie Water Dreaming banner
Below: Performance Storyboard
traditions. As Artistic Director
Lockie McDonald said, within
the region are many important
ceremonial and meeting places
for a range of Indigenous groups,
‘from as far away as Tjuntjunjarra,
one of Australia’s most isolated
communities and further down
through into South Australia’
(McDonald 2008).
A number of Indigenous people
also provide accounts of many of
the changes that have occurred
since colonisation of the area.
For example, Mudawanga-
Gulagoo elder, Mrs Dorothy
Dimer, offers her grandfather’s
accounts of fi rst meeting Gadia
(non-Indigenous people) as
they travelled to the region in
search of gold. Spinifex people
who visited to perform dance
and song maintain stories of
how during the last ice age their
ancestors and totemic ‘relations’
managed to deal with fl ooding
of the Great Australian Bight2.
There also exists a more
recent history of a region that
between 1897 and 1910 attracted
enormous mining development
so that the Town of Coolgardie
swelled to about 40,000 people,
providing the wealth generation
for much of Western Australia
during the 20th Century.
Preliminary remarks about art
and community building
Before entering into a discussion
of the project’s performance in
relation to the objectives, it is
worth making some preliminary
observations about the business
of evaluating the use of arts
and culture in conjunction with
‘community-based’ strategies.
According to a number of writers
(see Saggers and Gray 1991;
Taylor et al 2008; McMurray 1999,
Kenny 2006), there has been
a range of ways of responding
to the health and wellbeing of
communities. From the 1930s
to the 1970s, responses to the
wellbeing of non-Indigenous
communities were characterised
by reliance upon a welfarist
model. This approach saw the
emphasis placed upon the state
providing a basic safety net or
social services for individuals and
families who could not take care
of basic needs such as housing,
education, income and health.
Here resources went to experts
who decided what was best for
those who were failing to look
after themselves. Arts practice
was generally seen as having
little role in community building.
However, art therapy began being
used as a means of contending
with social pathology and
community dysfunction.
2 For more information about Spinifex People - Cane, Scott. Pila Nguru: an ethnography of the
Spinifex People in the context of native title. 2000.
Captain Cool Gudia, the Monster
and the Girl, rich in photographs
of the performance, was launched
in late June 2009 and is a
celebration of the work and a
resource to others attempting to
do similar things.
Maddawonga Galagu ‘country
The towns of Coolgardie and
Kambalda are located over 550
kilometres east of Perth. Both
towns sit within the Shire of
Coolgardie that also incorporates
the towns of Bullabulling,
Kurrawang and Widgiemooltha.
The Shire covers an area of
30,400 km2 and is home to
approximately 6,200 people.
These towns are located on the
westerly edges of the Australian
Western Desert.
Mining has long been important
in the region. As a consequence,
those living within the Shire come
from diverse cultural backgrounds
including Indigenous Australians,
non-Indigenous Australians,
Africans, New Zealanders,
Croatians, Irish, Filipinos,
Samoans and Indians.
The region hosts fi ve schools,
including three primary schools
and two kindergarten to year 12
schools. Two of the schools have
been established to cater for
Indigenous students.
Others have a student body that
refl ects the diversity of cultural
backgrounds of people living in
the region.
As mentioned previously,
the region has recently been
declared drought affected by the
Australian Government. This is
a consequence of the fact that
over the past ten years, there has
been signifi cantly reduced rainfall
with long, hot and dry summers
and a lack of replenishing winter
rains. This is particularly critical
given the reliance of piping in
water to the region from outside
the area. Indeed, since the turn
of the last century, most of the
community’s water supply has
been piped over 500 kilometres
from the Mundaring Weir (located
in the hills adjacent to Perth). This
source of water is also critical to
the needs of Perth, which has
had to contend with record low
levels over the past few years. As
a consequence there is additional
pressure on Coolgardie’s water
source and the region’s capacity
to respond to drought conditions.
Importantly ‘country’ included
around Coolgardie has for
generations been home to
many Indigenous families, many
of whom have longstanding
connections and intimate
knowledge of places and
(Kirby 1991). The movement
gained great momentum after
the election of the Whitlam
Government and their subsequent
establishment of the Aboriginal
Arts Board and Community Arts
and Development Committee of
the Australia Council for the Arts.
As a consequence, community
arts initiatives increased
emphasising ‘artsworkers’ as
opposed to ‘artists’ working
with non-elites to help increase
broader participation in arts and
cultural production, encourage
community expressions of culture
and promote cultural democracy
(Kirby 1991, p. 19). Access and
participation were two of the
most formative of ideas and
characteristics of community
arts. The Whitlam Government
argued that, ‘access to art and
culture were democratic rights
and active and equal participation
in them was an indicator of a just
society’ (Hawkins 1993, p. 31).
Although more often used than
clearly defi ned, community arts
practice came to stand for work
that was at least as interested in
the process of arts production as
the product itself. Not surprisingly,
important to this process was the
forming of relationships between
artsworkers and communities,
particularly marginalised
communities, who had previously
been neglected by artists. Also
important was the involvement
of community in choosing the
artistic medium, the subject
matter and the rationale for
cultural production (Marginson
1993, p. 255).
At a similar time there was a
shift in the approach to dealing
with the lives of Indigenous
Australians with the emergence
of the Indigenous community-
controlled organisation movement
and popularity in ideas about
‘community-based’ change and
community development. As well
as being infl uenced by the global
movement towards engaging
‘community’ as a more effective
underpinning to government,
it was also shaped by calls for
‘self-determination’ by Indigenous
groups. During this time, many
Aboriginal community-controlled
art centres grew across the
country. This prompted a surge
in the growth of the Aboriginal
art (and subsequently general
Australian export) industry. As
well as supporting the local
community economy, this
also served to support the
maintenance of culture and law,
support community claims for
land rights and later native title
and provide access to and a point
of focus around traditional country
(McCulloch and McCulloch-Childs
2008, Taylor 2005).
During this same period,
the treatment of Indigenous
communities was characterised
by either neglect or reliance
upon what many describe as a
combination of the biomedical
approach to health and an
assimilationist approach to
welfare (see Haebich 1988
and 2000). These approaches
saw the emphasis placed
upon professionals and
bureaucrats understanding and
strictly governing Indigenous
communities. At the same time,
the state placed great store in
attempts to have Indigenous
young people ‘assimilate’
and take on the culture,
values and practices of other
Australians. During this period,
governments engaged in the
systematic removal of Indigenous
children from their family and
communities, attempting
the eventual ‘absorption’ of
Indigenous people into the
‘white’ community. Often the
consequences for family and
community were devastating,
resulting in long-term social
dislocation, pain and appalling
neglect by the state. However,
it was also during this period
when artists, arts educators and
some missionaries began to
stimulate an active Aboriginal
arts movement.
Examples of Aboriginal art
‘schools’ that grew from this
mission-led infl uence, later
to enjoy international acclaim
include the Carrolup, Ernabella,
Mowanjum, those in the Western
Desert region such as Balgo, and
others from the Tiwi Islands.
The early seventies saw a shift in
approach away from the welfare
state providing for the good of
its citizens, towards an emphasis
upon increased community
involvement in decision-making
processes. In part this was
shaped by the global trend
towards community-led change,
human rights and local people’s
participation in health and social
service delivery. It was also
shaped by a crisis in the ability
of the welfare state to provide
for all but the most troubled and
a need to mobilise ‘community’
as a cheaper way to govern (see
Mowbray 2004).
It was during this period
that community arts grew in
popularity. This movement
(initially called ‘community arts’
but more recently ‘community
cultural development’) was partly
prompted by the assessment
that the cultural expressions of
Aboriginals, migrants, women,
the poor and workers were rarely
appreciated and poorly resourced
of life of communities, not so
much directly on individual (e.g.
educational, criminal, economic)
behaviour. In part it refl ects the
aspirations of organisations
such as CAN WA to provide
opportunities that are themselves
procedural, that is, building
connections and relationships
that may at some point in the
future shape individual and
community change.
Notwithstanding the challenges
confronting this evaluation,
it is important to make some
observations about the project:
the methods used, the outcomes
achieved and its impact on the
community. In particular it is
important to look at the methods
CAN WA has used. It is also
important to compare these
methods to similar work carried
out elsewhere. From here one
can draw inferences about the
quality of the community building
work. In other words, in the
absence of direct cause and
effect data, one can extrapolate
that certain practice is more likely
to encourage community building.
It follows that by comparing
CAN WA’s work with the available
research on sound or ‘good
practice’ it is possible to draw
reasonable conclusions. If
CAN WA is using practice that has
been established to be successful
elsewhere then it follows that
they will see at least some
measure of success.
To assist in this regard, it is
instructive to turn to what the
international literature says
in relation to ‘good practice’
in similar kinds of work. The
following table provides an
overview of what stands in
the international literature
as ‘markers of success’ in
projects designed to help build
healthy communities.
Costumes for the performance.
PHOTO Mike Gray
During the 1990s, and arguably
into the present, there has been
shift towards what Taylor et al
(2008, p. 94) describe as an
instrumentalist approach. Here
decisions about community
wellbeing are shaped by the
need to provide the best services
within a ‘market model’. There
has been movement away
from the idea that community-
based initiatives are in and of
themselves necessarily the
best avenues for quality service
delivery. Instead, decisions about
what is best for the health of
communities has shifted to new
kinds of professionals, those
who contract out and manage
targets, outcomes, deliverables
and consumers in a way that is
competitive, accountable and
publicly responsible. Art in this
context is seen as a means
for communities, particularly
those who are economically
marginalised, to participate
more fully in a global economy.
Particularly as globalisation
opens up new markets and
provides new forms of access
to remote communities, art,
cultural production and new
creative economies are seen as
a way for community to bridge
the geographic and social gaps
previously in place.
It is also worth making three
observations about the
connection between volunteering
and community involvement,
particularly given the emphasis
of the Water Dreaming project.
First of all, although it is often
assumed that volunteering
leads to a healthier community,
precisely what it means to be a
‘volunteer’ and what it means
to ‘do community’ is often
ambiguous. Secondly, there is
not always a straightforward
connection between volunteering
and community building. Indeed,
people undertake volunteering
for a range of reasons including
self-interest, self-satisfaction
and self-promotion. Thirdly,
recording the level of participation
in volunteering is diffi cult given
that most volunteering occurs
in informal settings, often in
ways that are impromptu and
frequently without the instigation
of governmental institutions.
Another challenge confronting
this evaluation is that it is not
easy to defi nitively demonstrate
a cause and effect relationship
between arts practice and certain
kinds of impacts upon individuals
and the community. In part this
refl ects the fact that many of
the strategies used are designed
to shape the long-term quality
A full evaluation of project
achievements against project
plans is available on request from
CAN WA. However, total reliance
on such an evaluation runs the
risk of being of limited value. It
is also important to recognise
that practice is often contingent
and emerges from a range of
circumstances, not simply what
organisations, funding bodies and
program architects imagine at
the beginning of projects. What
follows is a discussion of what
stood out as distinctive about the
work in Coolgardie and Kambalda,
as well as the elements that bore
resemblance to similar
work elsewhere.
The achievements and reasons
for success
People who were present and/
or involved in the community
performance took the view that
‘Rock Hole Long Pipe’ was one of
the most successful community
events staged in recent
Coolgardie history. What follows
is a discussion of what worked
and what was behind this event,
and the work preceding it.
There are a range of reasons why
this was an important project.
The centrality of art,
performance and digital tools
The fi rst and perhaps most
important observation to
make about the project is that
it relied upon the use of arts
and performance practice. The
work, described elsewhere
as ‘community cultural
development’, involves the use of
creativity, arts and performance
to help artists, performers,
community organisers, funding
bodies and participants join
together and make changes at the
individual and community level
(Sonn, Drew & Kasat, 2002 p.
12). The intention is to help draw
out people’s taken for granted or
tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1967),
and help them take action for
a better future using creativity
and imagination (Kins & Peddie,
1996). The objective is to not only
produce art but to encourage
people to work together to
make changes in their lives and
communities (Adams & Goldbard,
2002 p. 33).
These changes can be many and
varied. Sometimes the work can
help free people from the ‘traps
of habit, help [them] see things
from a different perspective,
Table 1: Markers of success in community building
Feature one: Connecting the health of people with the health
of ‘country’ and place.
Feature two: Adopting a reciprocal approach to community
participation and development i.e. ‘give and take’ involvement
of local people in governance, decision-making, workshops,
other activities and accountability.
Feature three: Adopting an approach where local (Indigenous)
conceptual ideas lead program organisation.
Feature four: Adopting a healthy and vibrant living approach,
maximising local people’s access to opportunities for
employment, housing, health care, training, sport, recreation,
social activity and arts.
Feature fi ve: Extending the social and skills repertoire of
struggling members of the community and encouraging them
to seek excellence and high quality work.
MILLS, D. & BROWN, P. 2004
Feature six: Drawing upon active methods, arts, creativity and
local cultural forms.
Feature seven: Moving beyond short-term and one-off
programs, opting for a systematic approach involving projects
that have an extended amount of time in community.
Feature eight: Creating a constellation of programs and setting
out a range of activities to cater to a wide variety of interests,
needs and situations of local participants.
WHITE 1998
Feature nine: Adopting multi-organisational involvement,
including the involvement of Indigenous people, so that a wide
range of skills, knowledge and resources can be drawn upon in
creating long-term solutions.
WHITE 1998
Feature ten: Creating opportunities for contact and work
between families and different generations in the community.
Feature eleven: Employing competent staff, in particular those
who possess a combination of skills and experience in working
with Indigenous communities.
Feature twelve: Building in evaluation and review, using
indirect indicators and documenting unintended but socially
productive consequences.
As well as its success as a
community event, the project
offered much in the way of artistic
and performance opportunities
to a community with limited
access to professional artists, arts
education and creative mediums.
As a consequence young people
were exposed to a breadth
of artistic forms, particularly
in relation to areas such as
performance, dance, animation
and costume design. Not only
was this important for providing
new opportunities for students,
it also had considerable merit
in relation to the development
of teachers. As one educator
observed, ‘to be perfectly frank,
schools in places like this have
a large number of graduate
teachers who, as you would
expect, a limited arts education
repertoire. Mostly arts curriculum
consists of a bit painting and
elements of other fi ne art forms.
What Rock Hole did was bring
into the school, and hence the
professional development of
graduate teachers, a whole
range of artistic forms that you
just don’t get out here.’ Clearly,
one of the primary benefi ts
of the Rock Hole Long Pipe
project was that it offered the
regionally isolated communities
of ‘Coolgardie and Kambalda,
one of the few opportunities to
This is partly because the
technology has become fast,
accessible, highly portable and
more publicly available. Most
young people are now routinely
logging into a vast and complex
digital culture largely unfamiliar
to their parent’s generations. This
world is ‘symbolic-rich, language-
saturated and technology-
enhanced’ (Hull 2003, p. 232).
The associated skills, knowledge
and cognitive repertoires that
young people are gaining from
this are changing the way that
they ‘participate’ in the social
world. Young people are leading
the way in reconfi guring how
others see them, forging new
identities and transforming global
ideas from an ever-increasing
pool of sources. These social and
technological changes provide
enormous economic potential for
young people who are leading
the way as experts in the various
creative industries. Discussing
this movement Cunningham
(2007, p. 19-20) cites the Carnegie
Foundation, who suggest, ‘the
new forms of newsgathering and
distribution, grassroots or citizen
journalism and blogging sites
are changing the very nature of
who produces news … the 18-
34 demographic is creating the
inexorable momentum.
participate in a performance that
was of high quality. As a number
of local people remarked, this
gave those involved a sense of
shared pride in a community that
rarely is accorded quality. When
asked to talk about what the
project brought to the community
one person said, ‘the fact that it
was a worthwhile production with
reworks and lighting and sound
… the fact that it wasn’t dodgy
- it has the potential to give kids
the message that if they want to
pursue things like this themselves
then it can be done, it is possible.
Another concluded that ‘It created
pride rather than embarrassment’
(evaluation records 2008).
This use of arts and performance
is important in a number of
ways. Arts, performance and
new creative technologies are
increasingly shaping the lives
of communities. Indeed over
the past fi ve to ten years, there
has been a rapid take-up of
creative and digital technology
by young people. Young people
are now picking up and using
multimedia appliances such as
digital and video cameras, MP3
players and other multi-functional
devices. They are also operating
‘user-friendly’ applications for
post-production such as iMovie,
iTunes, iPhoto and GarageBand.
suggest connections between
varied subjects and transform
communities and the way in
which government agencies
operate’ (Mills 2007, p. 36). Boal
(2007 p. 13) adds that using
performance and arts work can
also help to enliven imagination
and provide opportunities for
people to ‘rehearse’ what might
be possible. In other words, this
approach can help people take on
the character of the person they
could become.
Particularly critical in this work
is the use CAN WA staff made
of a variety of artistic forms and
styles. Participants, particularly
young people, got to experiment
with digital animation software,
create lanterns, masks,
instruments and costumes, learn
how to use makeup, perform and
create music, and learn about the
production process and design.
As one teacher said when talking
about the animation work of her
students, ‘these kids are learning
to use software that I have never
seen, let alone used.’ Impressively
many got to work directly with
professional and recognised
actors and very talents artists
(evaluation records).
According to a number who
were involved, members of
the community were able to
Clearly a key outcome of the
project has been its success in
providing the impetus for groups
of people to come together and
work on something of mutual
interest. In this way, the approach
used by CAN WA (drawing upon
community-based participation)
has provided an important venue
for local people to extend their
working relationships.
The project team was in part
made up of locals working with a
small group of outsiders.
This team worked on a daily
basis with local groups such
as the Coolgardie Christian
Aboriginal Parent–Directed
School students and community,
Kambalda District High School
students and community,
Indigenous elders and families,
businesses and mining
companies, local regional artists,
the Coolgardie Day Festival
Steering Committee, the Shire of
Coolgardie staff and Councillors,
Wongutha Birni Aboriginal
Corporation, the Rural Clinical
School of Western Australia, the
Kalgoorlie Discover the Round
Committee, local media outlets,
Coolgardie Volunteer Fire and
Emergency Services, Kambalda
Mine Rescue Teams, Ground
Up Action Group and BHP
Nickel West.
Long Pipe was quintessentially
about building community.
Another hurdle confronting
people in the region is the
range of practical diffi culties
associated with bringing together
people from such distances and
geographic isolation. As one
teacher from Kambalda remarked,
‘it is not easy getting people
from Kambalda to get over to
Coolgardie … its about an hours
drive there and then an hour
back … apart from sporting
events there is little that will do
this anymore.
One person said, ‘it was
wonderful to see our kids all
performing together … its hard
to get people from Kambalda
and Coolgardie to come together
… because of the distance …
Rock Hole was able to make
this happen.’ According to many
who were interviewed, the Rock
Hole project offers an excellent
example of how to support
people living in regional WA
contend with their sense of social
isolation. Partly speaking literally
and partly metaphorically one
person put it simply, ‘Rock Hole
brought people together, to
work together, eat together,
perform together and build
things together.
development, describes it as
‘a movement to promote better
living for the whole community,
with the active participation
and if possible on the initiative
of the community.’ In this way,
community development has
long been seen to be ‘non-
directive’ with people aspiring
to work in such a way that locals
consent and actively participate in
change to improve their lot (see
Kenny 2006).
This technique of using arts to
bring individuals together to work
on social and community change
works in a number of ways to
build healthier communities. It
can help create friendships, social
networks and links between
individuals and their broader
social environment. These include
the ability to act autonomously,
function in socially heterogeneous
groups, use tools interactively and
create art for public exhibition.
Unique to this kind of community
development work is the use of
arts to help create social spaces
so people have a chance to
meet, participate and/or watch a
performance about their place,
share food, encounter each other
as human beings, listen to each
other’s stories and build levels of
intimacy not otherwise available.
The performance of Rock Hole
work with professional artists
and develop the range of skills
necessary to produce a large-
scale performance event.
Making this point, one local
parent said, ‘the observing of
performance is its own education.
Having exposure to arts is
really important for the general
public’s culture.
Another teacher observed of the
work, ‘It expands their horizons
for what art might be.
The importance of working
with the community
An allied feature of the work of
those involved with the project
is the way it uses the arts to
work along with members of
the community. This emphasis
on what some describe as
community development or
capacity building has a number
of dimensions. As mentioned
earlier, it involves arts workers
being led by what is important
to participants, particularly taking
up and following the themes,
views and conceptual ideas
of young people, seniors and
others who make up the project’s
‘community’. This follows similar
work that has its roots in the
British community movement.
T.R. Batten (1957, p. 1), one of the
earliest advocates for community
young people, participated through
their involvement in workshops,
organisation, planning and creating
props, costumes and the creation
of streets of Coolgardie as a stage
for the performance. Some moved
in and out of involvement. Others
enjoyed an intense involvement
in one element of the project.
However, the consistent message
from participants was that a
leading element in the success of
the work is the value they received
from building relationships with
each other. For example, a
number of students spoke about
the chance given by the project
to meet and work with other
students from the neighbouring
town. This is not something many
of these young people would
otherwise have been able to do.
As one teacher said,
Being out in a country high
school they don’t often have
the opportunity to work with
other schools because of our
distance away from others. It
was good to be able to work
individually but have the chance
to work with others outside of
their immediate group.
For these guys it was also
important to learn about the
history of some of our sister
suburbs or areas. Like these guys
still have a hard time believing
that Coolgardie was at one time
bigger than Kalgoorlie is today.
a career in fabric design … you
could see how the mentoring
relationship on the project has
nurtured this.
There is certainly evidence that
the project assisted the capacity
of local schools. Having artists
work with students at almost
no cost to the schools was very
much appreciated by teaching
staff. This allowed schools to
better meet their obligations
in providing quality curriculum
experiences in the areas of
arts education, science, the
environment and social studies. It
also provided valuable knowledge,
extended the contacts and
increased the repertoire of early
career teachers.
Intercultural exchange and
relationships across the
As outlined earlier, the Water
Dreaming Project encompassed
a series of workshops and
community activities that
culminated in a public performance
over an 18-month period. The
extent to which different members
of the community were involved
varied considerably. Some simply
were in the audience during the
public performance or lent a hand
in the week leading up to the
event. Others, including many
‘networks’ created and buttressed
by the project to take on local
social issues such as family
violence, abuse and poor
participation rates in education.
Also impressive has been some
indications that community
participation in the Rock Hole
projects has infl uenced their lives
in other positive ways. There is
some evidence that there exists
a correlation between project
participation and some improved
involvement of young people in
school, young people extending
their interest in a broader range
of jobs, increased involvement
in other arts and community
projects, extra and after school
involvement in community
organisational work and general
civic responsibility. For example,
when talking about a particular
young woman involved in the
performance one local teacher
said, ‘its defi nitively the case that
she has been motivated by her
involvement to look at a future
in performance work. I’m not
sure that she would be looking
at extending her schooling in
Perth were it not for the project.
Another teacher recounted of
one other student, ‘because she
worked alongside a professional
costume designer she’s really
taking seriously the possibility of
Important also has been local
groups taking on elements of
CAN WA’s approach. In particular,
having witnessed the success
in attracting so much family
involvement in the project, one
senior member of a local school
has undertaken to follow a similar
approach. Asked to identify
project strengths he said, ‘We
have been trying to get families
more involved in the school. This
occasion just brought families out
there. This meant that we as a
school got some ideas about
how we can attract families, it
has set a benchmark for us. It has
opened our eyes to the concept
of getting communities and
families more involved’.
Evidence from elsewhere
demonstrates that success
in bringing groups together in
this way helps create the kind
of organisational connections
that are valuable ingredients
for building social bridges and
carrying out other socially
benefi cial projects (see Wright
and Palmer 2007 and Palmer
2009). It is very early to make
detailed assessments in relation
to Rock Hole’s impact on what
many describe as ‘social capital’.
However, there is already
evidence that people are using
the social and organisational
performance of song and dance
(central in Indigenous cultural
life, government and business)
has been missing for some
time. Indigenous people were
moved to see traditional dance
happening again and children
involved in a public performance.
In fact, reports to this effect have
reached the evaluator from a
range of different sources. One
Indigenous person said, ‘I believe
it has been over 40 years since
that old dancing has happened in
Coolgardie. It made my heart so
happy to see those old dances
coming back’.
The achievements in this regard
need to be seen as considerably
signifi cant. Any aspirations to
‘build community’ in an area
where Indigenous Australians
make up part of the community
ought to recognise that song
and dance are central in the
maintenance of law, culture and
social life. Indeed in Indigenous
cultural life those who hold the
songs and dances are the men
and women of high degree. To
put it another way, the people
who sing are the leaders, the
people of infl uence, those who
shape the government of the
community. As Ellis (1993, p. 1),
one of the most well respected
of western scholars of Aboriginal
music observes, ‘the most
knowledgeable person in a tribal
signalling, where to collect wood
and how to carefully invite people
to become involved (evaluation
records 2008).
The process of checking and
re-checking, consulting and
feeding back to Indigenous
people was another feature of
the project. In this way local
protocols, cultural sensitivities
and important Indigenous
practices were regularly reviewed
and taken into account. This is
important in any work that aspires
to work with community and
encourage ‘community cultural
development’. It also helped
ensure that breaches to local
protocols were minimised. It
was also critical as it modelled
traditional Indigenous systems
of respect and community
governance (see Woods et al
2000). As one person said,
Even if you think you know
the answer … and often you
actually didn’t … the process of
asking makes people feel like
you are paying them respect
… because you are. (evaluation
records 2008).
Others thought the project
and event impressive because
local Indigenous cultural forms
have had few venues for public
expression over the past few
years. In particular, public
celebration’. Another noted, that
‘the event brought Indigenous
and non-Indigenous people
together … while it needs to
keep happening and it would
take something more consistent
to achieve long term change, it
did do something that is very
rarely achieved’ (evaluation
records 2008).
There is also evidence that those
involved in leading the project
had considerable experience and
knowledge in relation to working
in association with Indigenous
communities and Indigenous
artists. Indeed, local Indigenous
people provided much of this
expertise. For example, making
arrangements for the Coonana
dancers to perform demanded
considerable cultural knowledge
and sensitivity. The combined
skills of people like Mrs Dorothy
Dimer, Trevor Jamieson, Geoffrey
and Christine Stokes, Allison
Dimer, Steve Sinclair, Lockie
McDonald and Peter Docker made
this possible. The leadership of
Mrs Dorothy Dimer was also
important. She provided regular
feedback on the writing of the
story for the performance,
where and what point various
activities occurred, the route the
performance would take and
the timing of fi re and smoke
Through the animation they
learnt about little snippets of that
history. (evaluation records 2008).
What this produced was
noteworthy. As a number of
those involved in the planning
of the project said, one of
the major successes involved
bringing different kinds of
people together. As one person
said ‘there was an opportunity
to bring two disparate groups
together at a number of levels.
There is the physical and social
distance between Coolgardie and
Kambalda. And then there is the
distance between Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal people across the
communities. What we managed
to do was bring them together.
(evaluation records 2008).
According to a number of people
interviewed, the history of ‘race
relations’ in the region made
contact between Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal people fraught.
It is evident from the number
and mix of people attending
and participating in both the
workshops and performance that
one strength of the project was
its success in bringing together
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
people. As one person said,
‘there has never been an event
like this that brought together
black and white to join together in
That night, under a new moon,
they opened the cage together
and set the tjilkarmata, the
mingawi, the echidna free.
Once again the Maddawonga
Galagu people made smoke
signals calling people in from
across the desert, the coastal
mountain ranges and the sea
to make ceremony, dance and
tell stories.
On that night they dance dances
and told stories of old man emu,
of miners close escapes, of water
pipes from the city, of rock-holes
and water trees and stories of
country (Docker in CAN WA
2009, p. 38).
Intergenerational exchange
Another important feature of
the project was its focus upon
working across the generations
and bringing children, young
people and other age groups
together. This kind of work is what
in the US and Britain people have
described as ‘intergenerational
exchange’. The asserted benefi ts
of intergenerational exchange are
many and varied and include the
idea that they help instil important
civic values (Woffard 1999, 92),
strengthen mutual understanding
(Berns 1997), rebuild social
networks and create inclusive
communities (Granville and
Hatton-Yeo 2002, 197), increase
tolerance, a level of comfort and
It is also the act of bringing
back health to a community.
Furthermore singing ‘calls one
to extended fellowship with
community and country. By
singing country (community)
one gets drawn into an
interdependent relationship with
country (community). As one
Pitjantjatjara man put it, ‘you
don’t sing the inma (song, dance
and performance) – it sings you.
Kulila! Kulila! (Listen to it! Feel the
music!)’ (Marshall 2001, p. 33).
Therefore it is of immense
importance to note that when
Mrs Dorothy Dimer invited the
people of Coonana to dance
in Coolgardie, she encouraged
a profoundly infl uential act in
relation to ‘building community’.
This is signifi ed in the
performance when the characters
of Leena and Captain Cool Gudia
in one voice drew the night to a
conclusion by saying, ‘coming
together as one people: one
sun, one moon, one fi re, one
community – one town.This was
followed by the performance of
the Spinifex visitors, who for the
rst time in a generation, shared
their dance with the people
of Coolgardie. As the script
of the performance and the
book records,
of Indigenous music] inevitably
gains a great deal of experience
in reconciling and rising above
contradictions both within himself
(sic) and in his (sic) relations with
others. This occurs as a group
process when people centre
their attention on the common
goal of making music together
(Ellis 1993, p. 2)
In this way, through song and
dance it becomes possible to
experience what Pitjantjatjara
people call, nganana
tjunguringanyi (we are all
becoming one).
One might say that the act of
‘singing for country’ is also
the act of strengthening the
connection between community
and country. This means that the
act of singing is instrumental in
‘building stronger community’.
This is so because in Indigenous
law, culture and community
‘music is an essential part of life,
a force without which [the] known
world crumbles.’ (Ellis 1993, p.
129). In Indigenous culture and
law, learning music is often a way
of entering the highest levels of
intellectual, spiritual, political and
community life.
The act of singing involves not
only entertainment, but also
bringing into being certain events
in the life of the community.
community was the person
‘knowing the songs’.
In Indigenous tradition, song
and dance often acts in a
multitude of ways to maintain
‘community.’ It operates as one
of the most important vehicles
of communication, education,
transmission of knowledge
and, importantly, government.
Through song and dance people
learn about the history, the laws,
the system of relationships,
how individuals are developed
and nurtured, how country is
managed and cared for, news
of others and where and when
to go to particular places. The
public performance of what
Ellis (1993, p. 56) calls ‘open
songs’ features to ensure that
the whole community learns and
develops together.
Additionally, dance and music
play an enormously important
role in encouraging ‘cross-cultural’
exchange. Again Ellis (1993, p.
2-4) is instructive on this topic.
She observed that through
experiencing and producing
music (and dance given its
mutual association in
Indigenous practice),
People can attain a perspective
which allows validly opposite
opinions to coexist without
damage to either … [the student
a mouth full of answers and a
monster in a cage. That fella called
himself Captain Cool Gudia, but
those three kids they gave it to
him proper, anah!’ (Docker in CAN
WA 2009, p. 9). The story also
models the act of young people
drawing upon the wisdom of their
elders. Its lead character, Leena,
offers her grandmother’s ideas
and astute perceptions with such
pearls as ‘in the old days when
people worked together as one
family, they succeeded more
often and survived times of great
drought’, and ‘we have two ears,
two eyes, two nostrils, two hands
and only one mouth, you learn
when your one tongue doesn’t
work.’ (Docker in CAN WA 2009,
p. 25 and 30).
Staffi ng, fl exibility and
presence in the region
Another important element in
CAN WA’s work was the quality,
attention, demeanour and skills of
key project workers. In addition,
a critical factor was that workers
spent considerable time in
Coolgardie and Kambalda during
the workshop process and in
the lead up to the community
performance. In this way workers
provided a much-needed extra
set of ideas, hands and ears
in a community setting where
resources are diminishing.
way public space can be shared
in the future. During the later
stages of the performance, young
people, seniors, Indigenous and
non-Indigenous people shared
connections over a meal and
cups of tea. In this way unforced
natural connections were made.
The performance itself was
intergenerational in its content
and substance, examining and
revealing public consideration
topics relevant to the
development of intimate and
long-standing relationships
between the young and elderly,
the ‘sustainability’ of the region
for future generations, and
the complex and intertwined
connection between looking
after country and looking after
others in the community. One
might suggest that the storyline
of Rock Hole Long Pipe is itself
a narrative about the need for
a richer and more courageous
exchange of ideas between
young people, those who have
come before them and those
who come from outside. Indeed
the story acts as a metonym for
local young people’s fi ght against
outside forces that seek to take
away their future inheritance.
It concerns a dream ‘about the
three kids who took on that fl ash
bloke who came to town with
young people, also offering
histories, advice and carrying out
preparation work more directly
with younger participants. For
example, a number of local
teachers provided ‘out of the
classroom’ support acting as
arts and production mentors
to young people. Another local
musician took a role of musical
director, working closely with
young people in the lead up to
and during the performance. The
public performance itself provided
one of the most signifi cant
intergenerational events
Coolgardie has seen in many
years with parents, young people,
seniors and others from the two
communities literally working
side-by-side in the lead-up,
during and after the performance
(evaluation records 2008).
Furthermore, those working
on the public performance
designed things to encourage
the various generations to share
the same (communal) space.
The performance of Rock Hole
Long Pipe occurred through the
streets of Coolgardie, involving
the community moving together
through the backlanes, parks and
important sites of the main town
area. In this way the performance
encouraged people to not only
share, but also think about the
intimacy between the old
and young, and dispel clichés
and myths about the aging
process (Manheimer,
cited in Intergenerational
Strategies 2004).
The intergenerational elements
of CAN WA’s work emerged
in the earliest stages of the
project when local elders such as
Mrs Dorothy Dimer expressed
their keenness to pass on their
knowledge to young people.
Deeply moving was the care
expressed on the part of older
community members towards the
future of local young people. For
example, Mr Victor Dale said, ‘I
love the concept of working with
the children as their minds are
young and they still listen.
(CAN WA 2009, p. 3).
Following on from this, the
project continued the theme of
working across the generations.
This has been put into practice
in a number of ways. Senior
people took on important roles
in storytelling, offering accounts
of what it was like to grow up in
Coolgardie in earlier times. They
also provided advice to CAN WA
about elements of local cultural
protocols that needed to be
maintained. They were assisted
by others, not quite so old, who
worked closely with artists and
that would otherwise not have
been available. These skills were
both varied and recognised by
people from the community. For
example, people said,
The artists were great in the way
they worked with students, giving
positive feedback, not telling the
kids off so that they got treated
with a degree of positive regard.
This is something that many of
these kids don’t get very often.
They were good at remembering
people’s names.
They showed respect for
local people in the way they
refl ected back how important
their stories were.
People like Barb and Lockie kept
coming back to see us, get our
ideas, check that things were
going along well and ask our
advice about who and how to
involve people (evaluation
records 2008).
People saw the team as
creative but fl exible and
responsive, sensitive but astute
to the possibilities and
opportunities that members
of the community might bring
to the performance. As one
young person testifi ed, as a
consequence of the team’s skills
and openness they were able to
offer practical support.
Being able to work with Barb, and
Steve and the Hedge Bandits and
the rest of the project team that
the region already possesses
remarkably well-recognised
talent. Importantly, having two
very successful artists in their
own community also provides
young people with extraordinary
role models.
The team’s patience and tenacity
was also noticed. Another person
observed that,
Barb led us into organising
the event. I think that her
perseverance was an important
ingredient in the project’s
success, particularly in the early
stages when we had problems
with others in the community.
Barb believed in us and believed
we could make the event work
(evaluation records 2008).
Another picked up on the
dexterity of workers,
One of the consistent qualities
of the artists was that they were
wonderful working with students.
Now that I think about it, they
were wonderful at all sorts of
things. They were patient, kind,
generous with their time and
their skills and above everything
else they really chipped in for
this community (evaluation
records 2008).
The project also provided the
opportunity to recruit people from
outside the community, making
available a set of skills and talents
and ‘committed’ (evaluation
records 2008).
At the same time the project was
able to call upon the considerable
talents of local artists and
performers. For example, local
actor and musician Alice Haines
was involved throughout the
project, assisting in work with
the schools, carrying out some of
the workshops, being a central
local link to people, organising
to get people to events,
acting as musical director and
playing during the community
performance. Likewise,
although he was away on a tour
with the nationally acclaimed
production Ngapartji Ngapartji,
Trevor Jamieson was central to
the preparations, assisting as
protocol consultant and making
arrangements for the Spinifex
dancers to perform. These two
people were critical to the project.
As local Coolgardie people they
possessed important knowledge
of the community, the country
and the Indigenous community.
In addition, both are nationally
acclaimed and award winning
artists, excelling as musicians,
stage performers and actors.
Securing their involvement was
not only helpful for the support
they offered. It served as a
reminder to the community and
The fact that many of the
team spent considerable
time in Coolgardie prior to the
performance is something that
others noticed and appreciated.
For example, when asked to
identify some of the ingredients
for the success of the project one
local woman said,
Barb and then Lockie spent
so much time actually living in
Coolgardie. This was helped by
the fact that Barb had previously
lived in the area. Lockie had
good strong links and had a past
here too. I also believe Poppy
had worked on something in
Kambalda before. Oh, and Peter
Docker was known around here
too (evaluation records 2008).
Another said,
One of the reasons why the
performance worked was that
Barb and Lockie set themselves
and the artists up in a house
for quite a long time leading
up to the event (evaluation
records 2008).
Not only was this important for
the scheduling of workshops and
the organisation of the event, it
also made it possible for project
workers to get to know local
organisations, local councils
and services providers. As a
consequence, they were seen by
people as ‘approachable’, ‘with
their feet on the ground’, ‘helpful’
others. In performing the
quintet, avoiding the danger of
swelling out instead achieves
distinction and articulation within
a whole. By holding back we
make our presence felt – which is
reserve’s most subtle and more
positive side.
As in all expressive labor, there
is an objective problem to be
solved: the soup of notes. The
performers together will have to
solve that problem by learning to
play as one, in unison, but also
by learning how to hold back or
how to dominate. The gestures in
sound they create become rituals,
which orient them to one another
and speak together.
Rituals in social life are equally
complicated acts of knitting
people together – with the great
difference that the ‘social text’
is not a written musical score; it
emerges through trial and error,
and then becomes engraved in
memory as tradition. The hold
of tradition comes from this
knowing already how to express
oneself to others; whereas for
chamber musicians, performing
traditions can help, but the real
social glue occurs when the
performers have to work things
out for themselves (Sennett
2003, p. 212-213).
There is some evidence that this
is what the team was able to
achieve in its work with the people
of Coolgardie and Kambalda. There
were moments when the artists
moment and then retreating
back-stage at other moments so
that community members could
participate more fully.
In this practice there is a demand
for what many artists consider
an anathema: self-restraint
and moderation. However, as
Sennett (2003 p. 212) observes,
collaboration demands restraint.
In his essay on Respect, Sennett
uses the performance of the
Brahms Clarinet Quintet in
B Minor, Op. 115 to help
illustrate the importance of
exercising restraint when building
community and social bonds.
He suggests that the Quintet,
rich, complex and demanding
as it is, will sound like a ‘mushy
soup’ if played by both a group of
amateurs and a group made up
of skilled egotists who insist on
demonstrating their full talents.
On the other hand, it can be
played with beauty when the
musicians demonstrate artfulness
in both being prepared to hold
themselves back at some points,
play together at other points and
dominating the performance
when the time demands. His
analogy is worth citing for its
relevance to the practice of
community cultural development.
In theory, holding oneself back
keeps one at a distance from
be fi xed, managed, immediately
resolved or perhaps covered up,
the experience of ‘not knowing’
is precisely what is necessary for
improvisational performance.
In improvisation, actors are also
taught that their response in a
performance depends entirely on
context. To be sure, the very act
of improvisation is not possible to
completely script or generate in
a formalistic way. Actors need to
be skilled in relating ‘with regard’
to the previous speaker and those
around them. Each speaker or
actor has to see the utterances
and actions of those who come
before as ‘a good offer’ to be
built upon (Wright and Palmer
2007, p. 51).
Therefore, the task of working
with community demands
of workers similar skills and
philosophical approaches. As
in ‘improv’ stage work, the
project’s work demands that
team members manage without
a carefully or defi nitively scripted
plan. It also demanded that artists
let go, at least to an extent, of their
preconceived ideas and technically
trained skills. In contrast team
members were highly dependent
upon what the community, the
landscape, the facilities and the
‘country’ made available. This
project made it necessary for
artists to mix up the ‘dance’ of
taking up centre-stage at one
just talking to them after the
class has given me ideas about
other people who have done
the work. The have given me
particular contacts if I want to
develop stuff and other drama
and music contacts I guess, not
just in our community (evaluation
records 2008).
This was certainly confi rmed
by members of the community
when they were asked to talk
about the things that made the
work successful,
The fact that you have skilled
artists coming to Kambalda
and generously giving of their
time and skills … this meant a
tremendous amount in a place
as isolated as this … it meant
that the students and for that
matter staff got to do things,
like use animation software and
participate in performance art,
that they would never get to do
(evaluation records 2008).
In this way the approach taken by
the CAN WA team demonstrated
a high capacity for improvised
community arts work. This is
reminiscent and perhaps shaped
by ‘improvisation’ training in
arts and stage performance.
According to Farmer (2005, p.
1), in improvisation actors are
taught to free themselves of the
need to have complete control
over the performance. Far from
being something that needs to
fellow actors) also allowed for
members of a community to
start to grapple with some of the
more diffi cult elements of their
future. For example, the themes
in the community performance
gave those involved a means of
contending with subject matter
such as the regions history
of colonialism, drought and
economic recession.
Story was also important because
it helped give expression to
community ideas in ways that
move beyond reductive verbal,
imposed and inscribed words.
According to Watson (2001) too
often those working in public
policy and community affairs
deem it necessary to translate
what is happening for community
into dry, empty utterances that
mean little to local groups.
The use of story together with
performance can help people
express themselves and
understand others in ways that
are more meaningful.
In this way performance is more
than mere entertainment, more
than education or didactic or
persuasion. Performance is also
a means by which people can
contemplate and ruminate upon
their relationships with each
other. They are ‘occasions in
which as a culture or a society we
and work together, despite the
fact that the region suffers from
a history of fear and mistrust
between different groups. There
is much rhetorical stock placed in
the idea of ‘building community
engagement’ in public policy
and community development
language. Involving people in
storytelling was an important,
practical way of putting substance
to this idea of ‘engagement’,
helping the CAN WA team to
breach or challenge people’s
tendency to recoil from social
interaction. This is because
when ‘people share enough of
their stories, they begin to ‘get
a feel for’ and better understand
each other and the kind of lives
they each lead’ (Marshall,
2001, p. 130).
By creating spaces for people
to tell their stories, the CAN
WA team also helped people
extend their contacts. In the
policy environment we might
describe this act as network
building, social capital formation
or partnership forming. Narrative
work was also important because
of its ability to help people
contend with emotions, trauma
and situations in a safe way.
Combining storytelling with a
public performance (playing out
story amongst a community of
You can see it in the way Lockie
approaches the task of looking
after his team. He has a few rules
such as ‘the troops always get
a feed fi rst’, so that you never
see him eating until the rest of
the workers have got their food.
Another one of his principals is
that he sleeps on the couch so
that everyone else gets a decent,
well as decent as possible, bed
(evaluation records 2008).
Story telling and performance
Another important reason for
the success at Coolgardie was
due to the part that storytelling
or narrative played in the project.
Storytelling was important in
a number of ways. Combining
story telling with tactile and
active work (e.g. incorporating it
into school arts workshops, the
performance and the book) both
helped people recall and pass
on elements in their lives and
help shape the project itself. In
this way, story telling mixed with
performance and production work
acted as a form of mnemonics,
improving and bringing to a public
forum people’s memory of life in
the region and shaping the very
subject matter in the performance
work (Horsley, 2007 p. 1).
Storytelling also acted to help
people build the confi dence
necessary to talk with each other
took centre stage, moments
when they worked in unison and
moments when they stepped into
the background.
In large measure this was
made possible because of Barb
Howard’s success in recruiting
talented and competent staff. This
is doubly impressive when one
considers that, due to the isolation
of the work, staff needed to work
away from home, live in close
quarters for long periods of time
and make do with the available
resources and props.
This emphasis on the involvement
in a community and the fact
that the performance elements
of the work had their roots in
workshop and project work that
stretched back 12 months, also
helped lead to quality. Some
participants in earlier workshops
did not participate in the fi nal
performance. However, it appears
that the majority of students
and young people who helped
create the production and build
various props and arts pieces
also participated in the fi nal
public performance.
Another feature of the style of the
team refl ects the importance Barb
and Lockie placed in ensuring
that production workers and
performers were taken care of.
participate in country is to follow
along in a generational legacy that
sees young people taking part in
the country of their descendants
both living and passed on.
Indeed to attempt any kind of
planning, community building or
social action is a meaningless
undertaking if one is abstracted
from country. Work with, on
and part of country is literally
embodied in Indigenous culture
and life.
Furthermore Rose (2004) says
that many Indigenous people talk
about how their country gives
them body and vice-versa, so that
they and the land are embedded
within each other.
Also noteworthy here is the
shared experience of country,
particularly one that involves
following in the footsteps of
those who go before. As a senior
Walmajarri man, Ned Cox, says,
‘Kids gotta know their country,
gotta walk the same way as us’
(Binge 2004, 6). Cox points out
that the opportunity to follow
those who have gone before
is critical in the healthy
incorporation of young people
into their community.
Another element in country
is the important part it plays
in maintaining the health of
a community. Traditionally
an art gallery and a vehicle for
helping people contend with
their differences.
In many ways the country, its
landscape, ecology, history,
spiritual connection and social
use was regularly personifi ed
in people’s accounts. In part
this refl ects the importance of
‘country’ in Indigenous culture
and life.
As implied and argued in an
earlier discussion of ‘back to
country’ trips (Palmer et al 2006),
for many Indigenous Australians,
talking about and practicing
‘community’ is inseparable from
talking about and practicing
‘country’. As Rose (2004, 153)
explains, for Aboriginal people,
country is multidimensional,
consisting of an intimacy
among people, animals, plants,
knowledge, underground, earth,
water, air and food. She suggests
that living things associated with
country have familial relationships
such that ‘they take care of their
own.’ Rose (2004) also discusses
the temporal dimensions of
country, pointing out that it has
ancient origins and holds the
future as well as carrying
the present.
Importantly for many involved in
this project, this means that to
sensitivity to and use of space
(physical space, performance
space and relational space). As
mentioned earlier, the central aim
of the project was to bring people
together to explore how drought
has affected the community
and begin to think about how to
improve connections between
people during tough times.
The aim of the project was
centrally concerned with people’s
relationship with the place they
live in. Much of the workshop
content involved exploring
connections between the lives of
people and the place they live in.
CAN WA made use of a number
of different community and
public spaces to carry out its
workshops. As mentioned earlier,
the project also helped create
a space for community stories.
Spaces in and around Coolgardie
were used as the ‘stage’ for
the community performance.
Additionally, Indigenous ideas
about and relationships with
country were instrumental in
shaping the project. Space was
used as a metaphor, a location for
meeting, the means for helping
building trust between people,
the topic for conversations about
people changing their practices,
a character in performances, a
stage, an objective of the project,
refl ect upon and defi ne ourselves,
dramatise our collective myths
and history, present ourselves
with alternatives and eventually
change in some ways while
remaining the same in others.
(MacAloon et al cited in Marshall
2001, p. 120).
Performance then makes it
possible to move beyond ‘talking
about community’ and begin
to ‘do community’. Accounts
of community life are rarely
adequately understood through
documented formal means,
particularly of the variety produced
by social scientists, social policy
architects and other external
commentators. In part this is
because people fi nd it diffi cult
to articulate their experience of
community verbally because much
of what they need to express is
not only encoded in words, but
in gestures, music, symbols,
metaphors, relationships, sound,
rhythm, time, space and visual
symbols (Marshall 2001, p. 135).
Unless one gets invited to a
performance of community life
it can be nigh on impossible to
understand a community.
Use of space, place and country
Another important element in the
work at Coolgardie and Kambalda
was the CAN WA team’s
comparing it with the twelve
markers of success outlined
earlier (see Table 1) and based
upon what the international
literature says in relation to ‘good
practice’ in similar kind of work.
One of the key features of this
project was the extent to which
‘country’ and place shaped
things. As discussed earlier,
from its inception the project
took as inspiration the local
landscape, history and ecology.
In particular, the importance of
water to the life of a community
was the central theme. This has
been a long-standing defi ning
local concern in the history of
the area, importantly infl uencing
Indigenous stories for the area.
In this way, the CAN WA team
started their work by making the
connection between ‘country’
and community central. This
continued through the workshop
activities, the community
performance through to the
book. In some ways one could
say that ‘country’ was the central
actor in the project, the stage on
which the project was set and
performed. As discussed earlier,
this is a unique feature of
this project.
Comparing the work with
‘markers of success’
As was mentioned earlier, it is
often very diffi cult ‘measuring’
the long-term success of a
project of this kind. In part,
this is because aspirations to
increase ‘community capacity’
or ‘build community’ are diffi cult
to measure in isolation from
other infl uences. In part, this is
because infl uencing community
change is something that
happens over considerable time.
For example, it may be some
years before people can establish
precisely the degree to which
the public performance of
dance has been important for
Indigenous people.
Therefore it is also important
that we use the best intelligence
about what is likely to contribute
to community change as a
means assessing the likelihood
of success. In other words, it
is important to draw inferences
about the quality of this project
by comparing it to what works
elsewhere. As suggested earlier,
if CAN WA is using practice that
has been established to have
been successful elsewhere
then it follows that they will
see success.
The report will now turn to
a short review of the work
This nexus between
performance, health of
community and land care refl ect
long-established ontological
traditions that connect the health
of country to the health of people.
Rose (2002, 14) puts it beautifully
when she says:
In Aboriginal English, the word
”country” is both a common
noun and a proper noun. People
talk about country in the same
way that they would talk about
a person: they speak to country,
sing to country, visit country,
worry about country, grieve for
country and long for country.
People say that country knows,
hears, smells, takes notice, takes
care, and feels sorry or happy.
Country is a living entity with a
yesterday, a today and tomorrow,
with consciousness, action, and
a will toward life. Because of this
richness of meaning, country is
home and peace; nourishment
for body, mind and spirit; and
heart’s ease.
In a number of ways, the project
managed to draw upon this
important theme of a community’s
relationship to country, allowing
it to shape the very themes and
methods of the work.
Indigenous people have long
considered the act of looking
after country is also the act of
looking after oneself and one’s
community. As April Bright, a Mak
Mak woman from the Northern
Territory explains, ‘If you don’t look
after country, country won’t look
after you’ (cited in Rose 2002, 25).
In their book on the history of
Worrorra care for the Wanjina, the
principal creation fi gure and iconic
symbol of North Kimberley culture
depicted in rock art of the region,
Blundell and Woolagoodja (2005)
describe the Kimberley practice of
keeping country ‘fresh’ by visiting,
walking, repainting the old
Wanjina paintings and performing
dance, song and story telling.
Citing Woolagoodja’s father Sam,
they describe in poetic detail
how in Worrorra traditions, young
people would be selected by
their elders to accompany them
on special walks to visit the
sites of Wanjina, repaint these
spiritual fi gures and ‘freshen-up’
country and enliven the Worrorra
people. For others, doing work
on country, particularly when it
involves walking, digging, burning,
hunting, harvesting, dance, song
and story and other forms of
‘community’ performance, is to
‘clean up the country’ (see Rose
2002, 22).
the project assisted the capacity
of local schools. Having artists
work with students at almost
no cost to the schools was very
much appreciated by teaching
staff. This allowed schools to
better meet their obligations
in providing quality curriculum
experiences in the areas of
arts education, science, the
environment and social studies. It
also provided valuable knowledge,
extended the contacts and
increased the repertoire of early
career teachers.
One important aspiration of the
CAN WA team was to create
the chance for local people to
be involved in producing good
quality art and performance
work. This is by no means easily
achieved when one recognises
the challenges and limitations
facing the community and the
time and resource constraints
facing organisations. Indeed part
of the ‘art’ of community cultural
development is balancing the
need to support groups who are
‘doing it tough’ while attempting
to create high quality art and
cultural productions.
As mentioned the project had
measurable success in getting
different groups of people to
come together and work on
something of shared interest. It
also helped create opportunities
for other organisations to
work together. Evidence from
elsewhere demonstrates that if
these kind of connections can
be sustained these members of
the community are more likely
to enjoy better health. There is
some early evidence that people
have built on these connections
and work with others to further
involve themselves in other
projects to tackle local social
issues such as family violence
and poor community health.
There is also some evidence that
community participation in the
Rock Hole project has directly
infl uenced people’s individual
lives in positive ways. According
to one or two local sources,
some young people have
improved their involvement in
schooling since their participation
in the project. Some adults are
now more directly involved in
local organisations such as the
Western Desert Kidney Project.
It also appears that a few
young people have become more
interested in a future in the arts.
There is certainly evidence that
ideas and conceptual devices.
As mentioned, the history of
Indigenous and non-Indigenous
use of water in the area provided
the central theme. This is most
certainly a key theme in the
lives of the community. People’s
individual and collective stories
were the topic of workshops,
creative production, the
performance and the book. The
script for the performance of
Rock Hole Long Pipe has been
considerably shaped by local
Indigenous accounts. Senior
Indigenous people gave directions
on all manner of content including
locations, stories, people and
themes to be included. The
inclusion of the performance of
an Indigenous dance that has not
been publicly performed for some
time demonstrates infl uence of
considerable magnitude.
Although this project was
relatively short in its duration,
there is some evidence that
in indirect ways it encouraged
people to maintain a focus on
their health and wellbeing.
One feature of CAN WAs work,
particularly in the build up to
the performance, was that it
committed considerable attention
to drawing upon community
ideas about key problems
and community solutions to
challenges. This was done
principally through a number of
meetings with community during
the early stages of the project,
through its creative workshop
program with students from local
schools and through designing
a performance that invited
members of the community to
participate. As one person said
when asked to talk about the
stand out features of the work,
‘The artists and other project
workers treated you with respect,
we were involved in all aspects of
things and Barb and Lockie were
constantly checking things with
us’ (evaluation records 2008).
There is solid evidence that the
project was sensitive to local
project would need a longer life.
For example, one person said,
I think if you repeated the event
then you might start to see
sustained community contact. It
gave them an exposure to things
that might improve their social
circumstances but it needs to be
There is good evidence that the
CAN WA team has used a multi-
dimensional approach, created
a range of small workshop led
projects, used a range of art
forms and technologies, devised
a principal performance piece,
worked with a diversity of
ages and incorporated people
from many different cultural
backgrounds. As outlined earlier,
the project can be said to be
multifaceted in its methodology,
encouraging intergenerational and
intercultural exchange, responding
across social needs and catering
to a number of interests. This is
clear when one examines the
project records, including reports,
photographs and indeed the book.
As one person concluded, ‘there
was something in this event for
everyone, if you didn’t get into the
other organisations offering
arts and cultural development
in regional Australia. This kind
of presence stands in contrast
to the conventional approach of
‘touring’ through regions for days
or weeks.
However, it would be
disingenuous to claim to the
community that the project team
had sustained contact with a
community over an extended
period of time. It needs to be
recognised that the project’s
intensity was very much targeted
at the two-month period before
the community performance. The
project also included time spent
offering workshops, consulting
with community and working
with the community during 2009
to produce a book. However, for
most of this time the presence of
the Project Manager occurred in
one week per month.
Clear feedback from the
community during this evaluation
was that for substantial social
impact to be attributed to this
kind of work it would be desirable
for the project to sustain its
involvement with the community
over a three-year period. A
number of people said that for
deep and longstanding changes
to have been noted in community
relationships with one another the
given voice. In this way they
could be seen and known for
something positive by others
in the community (evaluation
records 2008).
Perhaps the central feature of
CAN WA’s approach is that it is
rst and foremost an organisation
committed to encouraging
creativity, performance and arts
production. Throughout this
project people were encouraged
to exercise their creativity,
draw out new artistic talents
and extend their imaginative
capacities. Often this involved
people moving across genres,
media and modes of performance
‘playing’ with multi-layered forms
including animation, music and
multimedia, banner, instrument
and lantern making, make-up,
props making, costume design,
photography and acting.
CAN WA’s presence in the region
extended from August 2007 until
mid 2009. This represents an
attempt on their part to signal
their difference from many
There is some early evidence of
extending community skills and
quality in the arts. The community
performance was well attended,
not only by people who chose
to watch it, but also by over 100
people who joined in as part of
the performance. All who spoke
about the event were impressed
by its quality. Examples of what
people said include:
My wife described the event
itself as spectacular. I think that
says it all.
I think a highlight was the
fact that it was a worthwhile
production … well done with
reworks and sound … it was not
dodgy … in this way it has the
potential to encourage kids to do
this themselves.
The standard of this event can
push students and others like us
in the community.
It was a real high quality show,
which is not something you get
here often. But what was even
more impressive was that they
(the community) did something
that can be achieved again. They
didn’t just bring in these wiz-bang
things and then not be able to re-
do it. The project showed us what
we can do ourselves.
The fact that the show was
of good quality and very well
attended allowed for participants
to be literally and symbolically
team had a vast stock of
knowledge in relation to
Indigenous sensitivities and
sensibilities. Perhaps the two
greatest professional qualities he
possesses are rarely matched in
the WA community arts arena:
1) creative ability to produce
large scale community-based
performances and 2) experience
in working closely with regional
communities. There are few
people in the country that would
be more able to carry out a
project of this kind.
CAN WA have established a range
of mechanisms for reviewing
and documenting its work. Both
the Project Manager and Artistic
Director maintained detailed
records and reports of meetings,
workshop and performance
activities. An impressive feature
of the working relationship
between these two people is the
regularity with which they met
to support each other and review
their work and ‘pitch’ new ideas.
The key artists prepared reports
of their work. A comprehensive
archive of reports, photographs
and production material has been
performance was an evening that
a number of people described
as ‘family friendly’. The book that
records this event is full of photos
that stand as evidence of the
cross generational connections
occurring on the night.
There is good evidence both
from community perceptions and
the quality of the work, that to a
large extent the project’s success
can be attributed to the quality
and talents of key members of
the CAN WA team. The Project
Manager and Creative Director
were singled out for praise in this
regard. In particular the project
relied heavily on Barb Howard’s
previously developed local
contacts, her events management
skills, regular presence in the
region, ability to work in isolation
and ability to recruit community
artists with a combination of
technical, artistic and community
work skills. Like Barb, Lockie
McDonald also has a considerable
network of local people given
his longstanding work in the arts
in the region. His experience
in working with Indigenous
communities meant that the
we were in the loop.’ Finally one
local service worker said, ‘I don’t
think I have seen any community
projects that have tried to link
Coolgardie and Kambalda. The fact
that this project involved both was
excellent. I haven’t seen this tried
before. This is extremely important
for creating community capacity’
(evaluation records 2008).
As outlined earlier, from its
outset this project was motivated
by the desire on the part of
senior Indigenous people to
encourage young people to
better understand the region’s
history. Following on from this,
there were a number of ways
the project continued with
the theme of working across
the generations. Young people
worked with visiting artists who
ranged in age and experience.
They consistently worked
with people outside of the
conventional teacher/student
or child/adult relationship in
workshops, creating props, and
in the community performance
itself. As suggested earlier, the
performance itself examined
the theme of contact across the
generations. The community
frontline acting side of things then
there was the animation,
the lantern making or helping
out with production’ (evaluation
records 2008).
Another clear feature of the way
the project was managed has
been the extent to which the
Project Manager and Artistic
Director worked in close contact
with a range of organisations,
schools, the local government
and local families. Many of
these people made very positive
remarks about the extent to
which they received support,
good information and practical
assistance from CAN WA
representatives. For example,
one representative from a local
school said, ‘you often don’t
get outsiders (organisations)
coming in to do this work … but
when you do you usually don’t
have the ongoing feedback and
information that we had from
Barb.’ Another local person said,
‘an important ingredient in the
project’s success was that Barb
and the other artists would keep
up good contact making sure
turnover of staff with some staff
experiencing high levels of stress
requiring extended periods of
leave. Subsequently the CEO
resigned with a new CEO not
appointed immediately.
As one Shire representative put it:
The Shire’s initial involvement
was as a partnership. As
people are aware, because of a
breakdown of the organisation, it
had to redirect its energies into
higher priorities.
As a consequence of this a
number of problems had to be
dealt with including:
• Securing time and support from
Shire staff who had previously
planned to be involved in the
• Readjusting the project to refl ect
limited resources available to the
• A high turn over of Shire staff
demanding that CAN WA
representatives nurture new
relationships, fi lling in people about
the project
• Encouraging the participation
of members of the community,
given their shock, general mistrust
and concern in relation to the
management of the Shire.
CAN WA’s decision at this point
was to carry on with the project,
largely unsupported by the
project’s main ‘partner’. Eager
to maintain at least one close
‘community partner’, a decision
In addition to understanding the
successes of a project it is also
important to consider the barriers
confronted during the work and
turn attention to the lessons learnt
in order to shape future work of
a similar kind. What follows is a
discussion of both the challenges
that stood out, how these were
dealt with by the project team and
observations about what could be
done differently the next time this
kind of project is carried out.
The major challenges
confronting the work
In addition to the achievements
outlined above, during the period
CAN WA was involved with the
work in Coolgardie, the project
has been confronted by some
important challenges.
In the early stages of the project
it was announced that the major
project ‘partner’, the Shire of
Coolgardie, was confronted
with serious fi nancial problems.
Prior to this announcement the
Shire was experiencing a high
really important. Things that you
might think are quite basic are
extra for us.
Young people made similar remarks:
• ‘It was all about respect.
• ‘We learnt about the pipeline, how
to do animation. Now we can do
animation at other times on our
• ‘Learnt about echidnas, how they
were tracked, if they released it
then people would be free.
• ‘The food was excellent. Steak
burgers were good.
• ‘It was fun to be involved, not just
standing watching things.
• ‘Fun, amazing, interesting,
hardwork, opportunity, cool,
• ‘We had to accept what others had
to say and had to listen to each
other to get ideas.
kept. CAN WA commissioned this
report in order to help it comply
with the requirements of funding
agreements and assist with its
internal review processes.
As is outlined earlier, there
is some early evidence from
testimonials and observations
from members of the community
of the socially productive
consequences of the project.
Talking about the opportunity
for students to have artists from
outside the school (‘incursions’)
one teacher said:
These kinds of incursions are
very important for our school
because we don’t have access
to specialist arts teachers, we
don’t have access to these sorts
of opportunities to engage in
performance art. For our kids, that
is something that is brilliant. It
was fantastic for us.
Another said,
In this school, which has a
signifi cant number of graduate
teachers, even the basics of arts
curriculum … such as exposure
to a range of materials in the arts
… this project gave our kids an
opportunity to have that. If you
are a teacher and you are in your
rst year of teaching and you are
not confi dent, you will stick to
visual arts, painting, drawing. But
the exposure to performance art,
working in cooperative groups is
The Echidna from Rock Hole Long Pipe
PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
for our school is because we
are in an environment where
teachers have just been told that
they can’t remain in our school for
a third year … they have to either
transfer or commit to another two
years … which for them in their
lives is too long. We are going
to up skill them using artists
and then they are going to leave
again. (evaluation records 2008)
CAN WA staff contended with
these challenges by:
1) Locating the production team
on-site for a period of eight weeks
leading up to the main performance
2) Maintaining a regular agenda item
on team meetings where local
‘issues’ and community problems
were discussed
3) Keeping up weekly telephone
contact between the Project
Manager, the Artistic Director and
key members of the community
involved in the project
4) At times adjusting project plans
to meet the regular contingent
demands of the community.
In part these challenges were a
refl ection of the fact that CAN
WA was only able to secure
resources for this project and
this community for a relatively
short period of time. A number of
people quite fairly concluded that
it is diffi cult to make assessments
about the project’s capacity
to signifi cantly impact on the
state of communities in such a
short period of time, particularly
energy. In part this refl ects the
day-to-day pressures of living in
an isolated region. In part this
refl ects the conditions facing
a community associated with
the demands of mining, where
people often work long hours,
under considerable physical
burdens. This has a roll on effect
so that community groups often
suffer from poor participation
and lack skills to carry out their
organisational demands. A
number of people concurred
with CAN WA’s analysis that they
often felt ‘weighted down and
overwhelmed by bureaucracy’
and concluded that they ‘no
longer had the time to do the
things that they enjoyed, which
had prompted them to join a
community group initially’ (CAN
WA report to FaHCSIA 2008).
This problem is particularly felt
by schools and teachers who
likewise expressed diffi culties
associated with their own and
parent’s overwork, the impact
this has on preventing more
active participation in community
activities. The ability of local
schools to retain teachers is
both shaped and in turn shapes
this problem. As one school
representative said,
I think the reason why these
sorts of projects are worthwhile
appears to have prompted the
more active public involvement of
Aboriginal people. It was reported
that, ‘Aboriginal people had
something to say that wouldn’t
have been listened to otherwise’
(evaluation records 2008).
Another challenge confronting
the project refl ects the general
diffi culties and circumstances
facing the community. This is a
refl ection of the nature of the
work, given the dual aspirations of
offering support to a community
with multiple social problems
while helping them create high
quality art. This meant that
participants sometimes brought
to the workshops, performances
and other sessions social issues
and problems. At other times
community wide problems, such
as the fi nancial struggles of the
shire, the impact of the global
recession and the death in a car
accident of local young people,
had to be carefully and sensitively
dealt with by project staff. So
the very thing that triggered the
project, the day-to-day struggles
of a community living in regional
Australia, presented the project
with some of its greatest
A number of people spoke of
the general feeling within the
community of being depleted of
was made to seek a closer
partnership with the Coolgardie
CAP School.
Other strategies adopted to
maintain strong connections with
the community included providing
grant-writing workshops to assist
in building up skills of members
of community groups, seeking
strong relationships with and
between community members,
particularly the Indigenous
community who have a long-term
connection with the place and
are unlikely to leave, and working
closely with the schools to involve
broad cross-section of young
people and parents.
This challenge helped shape
the project in ways that may
not otherwise have occurred.
According to those who spoke
about the relationship between
the council’s ‘troubles’ and the
project’s development, the
devastation got people talking
to each other.’ It also seems to
have got people participating a
little more in public meetings,
mostly to fi nd out about council
nances and the future of the
region. Shortly after this, one local
Aboriginal person nominated to
participate in the Coolgardie Day
Committee. This is the fi rst time
that an Aboriginal person has
been on this committee. It also
zapped the creativity out of you,
something that is very important
in this kind of work.’ (evaluation
records 2009)
However, there were a number
of positive consequences borne
out of the necessity of seeking
funding from a range of sources.
For example, it resulted in the
needs and struggles of the
community becoming known
to a range of government
departments and funding groups.
It also allowed the project some
exibility in responding to social
needs that might cross a range
of bureaucratic portfolio areas.
In other words, it allowed the
project to carry out its work
without some of the ‘fi xed’
demands of only one body with
its particular foci on one element
of the community’s challenge.
For example, drawing upon arts
funding allowed for more creative
solutions than may sometimes
emerge in projects with a welfare
or community services focus.
The growing expenses associated
with the economic boom as a
result of mining and the global
demands on fossil fuel had a
signifi cant impact on the project.
A shortage of accommodation in
Coolgardie resulted in signifi cant
travel between Kalgoorlie and
Coolgardie (Artists’ report). This
or services committed to the
communities of Coolgardie and
Kambalda. In addition, due to long
standing problems associated
with chronic labour shortages,
skills defi cits and relatively poor
employment conditions in the
industry, many local governments
and community organisations fi nd
it diffi cult retaining the services
of their staff for long periods. As a
consequence of this pattern CAN
WA staff were forced to commit
considerable time maintaining
relationships with people in need
of social and personal support.
As one CAN WA worker put it,
‘it would have been preferable
to refer on people with personal
problems and other needs, but
often there was nothing or no-
one to get the support from’
(evaluation records 2008).
Yet another challenge confronting
the project was that funding for
the work came from a range
of sources. This magnifi ed the
demands of reporting to a number
of different groups, all with
slightly different requirements
and expectations. As one person
said, ‘this meant that we felt like
we were constantly reporting to
different groups about the same
process, this takes considerable
time and takes us away from
the work itself. At times this
As is the case with any production
work, during the main public
performance a number of minor
‘hitches’ or problems occurred. At
times isolation and a lack of easily
available resources accentuated
the diffi culties. For example, the
task of transporting students from
Kambalda to Coolgardie for the
nal performance became a major
logistical problem because of a
combination of local limitations
associated with changing staff at
the Shire, perceptions about the
likelihood of damage to property,
diffi culties associated with CAN
WA being able to pay a high bond
for a vehicle and a lack of available
options for a bus.
The project team was able to deal
with this challenge by:
1) Drawing upon a vast network of
contacts, largely gained through
the Project Manager and Artistic
Director’s longstanding work
history in the region
2) Keeping regular communication
(through daily meetings) between
members of the production team
3) Asking local community partners
to assist at short notice.
Another diffi culty confronting
CAN WA staff refl ects the lack,
and degree of transience in,
community services. During
the course of the project there
were very few community or
welfare organisations with staff
given that the conditions of
their social decline were long-
term and structural in nature.
For example, when one teacher
was asked whether she had
seen evidence of an impact on
the broader community, she
concluded that this would be
unreasonable to expect given
that this project’s focus was upon
the creation of one community
performance. However, she did
have the view that the community
would likely enjoy the fruits of
community change were there
more extended time involved
in similar work. She said, ‘I
think if you repeated the event
then you might start to see
sustained community contact.
It gave them (the community)
an exposure to what is possible
but it needs to be sustained.
This person’s observations are
certainly consistent with what has
been found to be the case in the
international literature. Research
tends to indicate that for a project
to be of infl uence to community
change, (in contrast to individual
change), an organisation would
need to plan to carry out their
work over a period of at least
three to fi ve years (see Mills
and Brown 2004, Adams and
Goldbard 2001, Bates and Rankin
1996, Wright and Palmer 2007,
Palmer 2009).
positions for Trainee Producers
to work with older and more
established Creative Producers.
During the early stages of
project development of this
kind, (for example when the
proposal is being developed and
funding sought), organisations
should carry out an exercise of
identifying local assets, local
organisations and key initiatives
already being undertaken by the
community. This intelligence
gathering exercise should include
the identifi cation of any potential
‘competition’ for resources
between local organisations and
visiting arts organisations.
The practice of employing a
mix of local and visiting artists
in projects of this kind will
maximise opportunities for local
development of artists as well as
an exchange of work between
artists across regions.
When employing key staff,
organisations undertaking this
work should select people who
have a proven track record
in production work using a
community cultural development
approach. Given the shortage
of people with long-standing
experience in this regard, it
is useful to consider creating
Preparations for Rock Hole Long Pipe PHOTO Poppy van Oorde-Grainger
taken up and helped shape
the substantial successes that
followed. As a consequence these
observations will be framed as
‘lessons learnt’ from the project.
They both come from the insights
of a range of people involved in
the project and are shaped by a
comparison between this project
and similar work carried out
elsewhere. Although not intended
to be prescriptive or defi nitive,
the following discussion
will be framed as general
‘recommendations’. This refl ects
the hope that those attempting
similar work will think about the
kind of action that is needed to
build upon the successes of
this project.
Learning for the future
The evaluation process
highlighted the learning that
resulted from this ambitious
project. Much of that learning
may be useful to others who
undertake similar work.
General approach
Future work of this kind ought be
shaped by an ethos recognising
that even the most depressed
communities have considerable
assets, strengths, success
stories, talents and organisations
capable of taking on leadership.
and the cost of fuel resulted in
a comparatively large amount
of the project’s resources being
committed to transport costs.
This was always going to be
the case given the nature of
the work with participants living
in isolated areas of the state.
However, the timing of the rise of
global fuel prices was particularly
disadvantageous to this project.
The team’s principal means of
responding to this challenge were
to 1) use the rail service as a
means to transport arts workers
to the region, 2) set up a base
in Coolgardie to minimise travel
from Kalgoorlie (the main source
of available accommodation), 3)
wherever possible ‘double up’ the
purposes for which a vehicle was
used (e.g. coordinate staff with
production ‘pick ups’).
Responding to these and other
challenges in the future
Although many of these
challenges were dealt with well,
there are a number of valuable
insights offered and suggestions
worth making about how things
could be done in any future
projects of this kind. It needs
to be noted that these remarks
refl ect the fact that many lessons
learnt during the course of
the project were immediately
1) Cultural advisers
2) At least one professional
partner or mentor
3) Police contacts
4) Department for Child Protection
5) Local artists.
Where possible a range of
events (arts events, workshops,
social gatherings) should be
organised to maximise physical
contact between members
of a ‘community’ who live
in geographic isolation from
one another. In addition,
new forms of technology
(e.g. website production,
Facebook, blogging, Skype,
social networking platforms)
should be used to encourage
‘virtual’ community building
across geographic distance.
An evaluation process should be
built into the earliest possible
stages of projects so that those
involved (evaluators) have
the opportunity to observe
workshops processes, planning
of productions and arts events as
they emerge, as well as shaping
the development of the project
through its various stages.
Where appropriate, ‘stagger in’
a team of visiting artists so
that the community does
not feel threatened by the
sudden emergence of a
team of outsiders.
Practice and project
When working with schools
ample time must be provided
for projects and workshops.
It is important that ‘one-off’
workshops are avoided in favour
of a series of workshops so that:
1) People understand how
community cultural development
contrasts with other forms of arts
2) Teachers are able to work with
Project Managers and artists to
incorporate the work into their term
3) Students are revisited and worked
with over a number of occasions so
that curriculum outcomes fi t with
project objectives.
At the conclusion of each
community visit to a regional or
remote area it is vital that project
staff undergo a debriefi ng and
review process. This should
include members of the team
who visited the area and at least
one other organisational staff
In the early stages of a project in
regional or remote settings the
Project Manager should set out a
plan for seeking out personal and
professional support in the region.
This should include but may not
be restricted to identifying:
1) Local economies are supported
2) The community can see how the
work can be done
3) Local natural resources, places and
themes can shape arts production.
The following qualities,
experiences and skills are critical
for those managing such projects:
• Experienced in working
with groups
• Able to work with
minimal supervision
• Capable of living in regional and
remote environments
• Demonstrated compassion
and respect when dealing with
diffi culties and diffi cult people
• Experienced in both arts and
community development
• Experienced in carrying out
production work.
Organisations should maintain a
policy of ensuring that in projects
of this kind, particularly where
there is signifi cant participation
of Indigenous people, male
and female project workers
are employed to contend with
sensitivities associated with
the gender division of roles in
Indigenous communities.
Organisations should
employ Indigenous staff in
all elements of the production
work but specifi cally in
relation to negotiating local
cultural protocols, language
interpretation and liaising with
the Indigenous community.
Digital photographic recording of
projects of this kind should be
built into the core elements of
the community arts work. This
will allow digital cameras to be
used so that:
1) Community participants are given
the opportunity to build their skills
in photographic work
2) Photography be used as a tool
for development (education,
community narrative and planning)
3) Photographic arts production can
occur and
4) Picture book reports (often known
as ‘photovoice’) and other visual
means can be used as a tool for
the evaluation of the project.
Organisations should seriously
consider only undertaking
projects of this kind in regional
WA when they can secure a
commitment of funding for at
least three years.
Wherever possible (and culturally
relevant) local Indigenous words
and conceptual ideas should
be used during the process of
naming projects, developing
creative productions, building
scripts for productions.
Training, employment and arts
Organisations should encourage
artists to draw upon local
materials, products, resources
and facilities so that:
As Leena, one of the characters
in the performance, points out,
people learn about others by
listening and watching others
stories. When you share your
story with others, when you tell
it, when you listen to it, you start
to move outwardly, you start
to move from isolation towards
social connections.
As the community arts
organisation Big hART so
eloquently put it: ‘It is harder to
hurt someone if you know their
story’ (cited in Palmer 2009). Or
as one person involved in this
project put it:
when you listen to each other’s
stories you are more likely to treat
each other well.
From the evidence available
during this evaluation, those
participating in this project have
been involved in something
that is not only beautiful, it has
helped provide practical ways
for people to treat each other
well. This represents perhaps
the core ingredient to help keep
community and country alive.
has occurred with participants
joining talented arts workers and
nationally acclaimed artists and
performers in the production of
Rock Hole Long Pipe.
At the beginning of her foreword
to the book, Captain Cool Gudia,
the Monster and the Girl: the
story of the Rock Hole Long
Pipe Project, the Hon. Jenny
Macklin, Minister for Families,
Housing, Community Services
and Indigenous Affairs reminds us
that, ‘stories and storytelling are
at the core of our identity – they
defi ne and strengthen our sense
of who we are and where we fi t
in the world.
The literature confi rms that this
is right (see Shaw 2007, Perlstein
1998–99). However storytelling,
particularly storytelling of the
kind that involves people in
using a multitude of forms
including dance, art and
public performance, can help
communities in other important
ways (Mulligan 2007, Mills 2007
and Conquergood 2007).
with considerable numbers of
children, young people and others
in the community, promoted
the program well and, together
with the community, carried
out some high quality arts
workshops, produced a beautiful,
well attended and important
community performance and
created a visually stunning,
poetically written and useful book
that has helped the people of
Coolgardie and Kambalda tell an
important story about their lives.
Without exception, all who were
present and/or involved in the
community performance took the
view that Rock Hole Long Pipe
was one of the most successful
community events staged in
recent Coolgardie history.
Early indications are that CAN
WAs work stands as a solid
example of community-based
cultural development, with a
number of impressive examples
of participants and community
members taking on important
roles in planning and carrying
out the work. The team routinely
worked closely with other local
organisations and key individuals.
They used an assortment of art
forms that had the duel effect
of helping create a dynamic
performance and offering
participants choice. All of this
Designing and carrying out
social programmes that seek to
improve the lives of communities
is one of public policy’s greatest
challenges. It is also frequently
very diffi cult to know when
success has been achieved.
Nowhere is this more so than in
work that is:
• carried out in regional areas
• designed to encourage long
term changes in community
• involves creating improved
conditions for Indigenous
• testing out novel approaches such
as the use of arts, performance and
cultural development.
The fact is that assessing this
work is as artful as the work itself.
Notwithstanding these
challenges, in this case there is
good early evidence that CAN
WA has managed to achieve
some important things in its work
with the people of Coolgardie
and Kambalda. CAN WA has
achieved well, in relation to
the key objectives as outlined
in project plans. In addition,
a number of other important
and positive outcomes have
been achieved. In particular the
CAN WA team has established
contact and worked intimately
An evaluation of study
Written by Christopher Sonn
LEFT Voices of the Wheatbelt PHOTO Georgianna Crane
Data Gathering
This report documents some of
the processes and outcomes of
the project from the perspectives
of participants, facilitators
and other key stakeholders.
A collaborative framework
guided the two-phase process
for information gathering.
This included consulting with
key project staff to develop
an evaluation plan, visits to
two sites and interviews with
participants and other relevant
stakeholders including teachers,
community members, and
local government offi cials. Data
sources also included feedback
sheets (individual and group
feedback) that were completed
by those who participated in the
feedback workshops that were
held in Merredin, Kellerberrin,
Quairading, and Tammin. The data
was compiled and analysed for
recurring and unique themes with
a view to assess processes and
outcomes in relation to the key
objectives as well as new and
unanticipated outcomes of the
Findings suggest that the
various activities, processes
and phases of the project all
contributed to positive outcomes
for participants. In particular, the
opportunities to participate in
the photography workshops and
related activities had benefi ts for
individuals and their communities.
These benefi ts included:
• Acquisition of technical skills and
knowledge about photography
• Personal sense of achievement and
• Improved and strengthened social
relations amongst participants
• Establishment of new relationships
between Indigenous and non-
Indigenous people
• The creation of community-based
photography clubs.
The opportunity to create art
through photography enabled
people to recognise their own
creative potential and the ability
to express themselves. The
photographs, and the process
of eliciting the photogr