Art Centres – Supporting our Elders is a study exploring the ways in which three Aboriginal controlled art centres are supporting older people and those living with dementia in remote communities. The centres are:

  • Ikuntji Artists located in Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory
  • Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency in Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia
  • Tjanpi Desert Weavers located in the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Lands of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

We have learnt that art centres are critical to their communities. They are valued by older and younger people, as well as arts and aged care workers. They are often described as safe places that facilitate social connection, cultural maintenance and intergenerational exchange.

We have also learnt that the centres provide:

  • Advocacy
  • Social, emotional and physical care
  • A valuable source of income for artists and their families.

Importantly the study highlights the vital role that Elders play in ensuring their art centres not only survive but thrive.

Many art centres are already working with their local aged care providers and our partners have been considering ways these collaborations could be enhanced to sustain the wellbeing of Elders and younger generations alike.

We are also developing several short films to share the story of how the art centres support their Elders. We anticipate these resources will be available in 2021 and will showcase the importance of centralising the cultural determinants of health when working with older Aboriginal peoples.

Margaret Smith and Julie Anderson; Tjanpi Desert Weavers