At an Aboriginal advisory committee meeting to the Lismore Regional Gallery some years ago advice was given on the Northern Coast Primary Health Network’s (NCPHN’s) project called Art on Bundjalung Country which was aimed at linking art, health and wellbeing. This project has now been commissioned by the NCPHN to Arts Northern Rivers.
At the meeting a comment was made by one of the Aboriginal arts advisors that if we really wanted to take art and health seriously we should consider the health and wellbeing of those who are incarcerated. Little thought is given to the plight of this significant group of people in our community.
Our jails are bursting at the seams and there is a significant disproportion of Aboriginal people spending long periods of their lives in corrective services. Recidivism rates are high.
Other countries, including those in Scandinavia, do better at managing their jails and using the window of opportunity whilst incarcerated to rehabilitate their prisoners for life after release. Matters such as housing and future employment are addressed as well as mental health and drug and alcohol problems.
More needs to be done in Australia but there are models such as Balund-a in our region to address matters aimed at reducing re-offending. There are many diverse programs delivered to the residents at that diversionary NSW Corrective Services facility located on a property south of Tabulum.
These include addressing cultural engagement with involvement of Aboriginal Elders. Also there are arts classes from which many great works are created. The problem is there is little opportunity to view or purchase this art.
The Art on Bundjalung project hopes to correct this by being able to see this work on a website similar to a project in Victoria called The Torch .
This is a work in progress but more will be revealed in GPSpeak next year and will include an art market.