Art Centres, supporting our elders supports everyone to live a good life

Paulene Mackell (NARI & RMIT) attended the Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference in Darwin to present about research currently being undertaken to explore the ways in which Indigenous controlled art centres are supporting older people and those living with dementia in remote Australian communities.

She delivered the presentation with members of the study’s team from UWA, Flinders University and Tjanpi Desert Weavers from the NPY Lands.

Over the past year, the team have been listening to and learning from artists, staff from the art centres, and aged care providers, interviewing 100 people who have willingly shared their story about how art centres play a very important role in supporting elders to live a good life.

This includes providing opportunities to tell their story, maintaining connections to country and community, earning an income for them and their families, and responding to their daily needs as they arise.

According to Paulene Mackell, many art centres are already working closely with their local aged care providers and our research partners are considering and some are already trialling opportunities to enhance these existing arrangements.

One of the main findings is that we have found that the nature of support provided by the art centres is based on Indigenous ways of reciprocity, with many older artists playing key roles in helping their art centre to survive and thrive. This includes working hard, being board members, and teaching the next generation,” she said.

“Understanding ‘support’ as ‘reciprocity’ means that everyone has an important role, we can all learn from each other, and that investing in art centres can support all community members to live a good life.” Ms Mackell said.