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15 January 2007

Art Therapy

At Milpera High School in Brisbane, students are taking part in a program that uses art and music to help students overcome grief and trauma.

CAROLYN JONES, MUSIC THERAPIST: In this school, where we have over 30 different nationalities represented, we're always working in multi-ethnic groups, and one of the big focuses is bridging gaps in culture and language through the creative arts.

We're just going to have some fun today with the drums, and I want you to listen to each other. So, Osmond, you listen to William and listen to.
I'm a registered music therapist here at the school, and I work in the HEAL program, the Home of Expressive Arts Learning.
The program aims to address needs such as building self-esteem, dealing with trauma and grief.

You can make it hard or easy, doesn't matter.

Building literacy skills sometimes we focus on that. Quite often it's also about them just having some fun and some time out because it's so much hard work for them to adjust to being in school and to learning the English language.

They can participate successfully on any level, and many of our students come with strengths in music, being that many of them are African, they've got a lot of drumming skills, very good rhythmic skills, to begin with, so we can draw on these strengths in the music sessions. If I'm working with students who have not been here long, their English skills are low; we don't need to do any talking. You can build bridges; build relationships through music, just by playing instruments.

JANE GRIFFIN, CREATIVE ARTS THERAPIST: The kids at Milpera come from varied backgrounds. Two-thirds of them are refugees and many of those are from Africa. Many of the kids have one or both parents missing, and we have a number of unaccompanied minors here, which means they've come here without their parents. Often the children who come to me are traumatised from their past or they're suffering from losses within their family, or they're feeling sad because they're so far from their original homes, and so we'll use art materials to help us talk about the way that they're feeling. We'll draw about how they're feeling and draw what they've been through and draw possible futures as well.

We use drawing and painting, plasticine, clay, and we also use sand play where we use the small figures to represent people in their family or to represent their homes or their countries, so that if they don't have much language to talk about what they've been through, they can still show it to me and we can still share the story.

Does she dance with her friends?


JANE GRIFFIN: And what about this one, the big brother, what's he going to do?

STUDENT: Cooking.

JANE GRIFFIN: We better put him in the house then.


JANE GRIFFIN: to do some cooking. And who else is going in the house to do the cooking?

STUDENT: Me. All the boys.

JANE GRIFFIN: One of the difficulties that they face when they first get here is that they have to learn how to sit in a seat in a classroom, because if they've never had school or they've only had school under the trees before, that's very difficult. And then they have to start to learn about living in a different country where perhaps your skin is a different colour and your culture is very different. And on top of that, they have to deal with grief and loss, leaving behind people they love or not knowing where their parents are. And even further, their adolescence, so they're dealing with that, too. They have a lot to deal with. And in the HEAL project, we feel like we're helping them a lot with all that they have to deal with.

story notes

A nation is a country or a group of people who live in a place and share culture and traditions. So the phrase different nationalities means students from different countries, and have different traditions.

 multi-ethnic groups
Multi-ethnic groups are groups of people from many different countries and cultures.

Focus refers to the central or main point of interest.

Bridging means linking or connecting.

To address means to give attention to, to deal with.

Self-esteem is the belief and confidence in yourself, in your own ability and value.

Trauma is shock and pain caused by an upsetting experience.

Grief is very great sadness, especially at the death of someone.

Here, strengths are good features or characteristics.

 draw on
To draw on means to make use of. They can make use of the things they are good at.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb draw on, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: draw on