Friday 1 July 2022

Media Release

As part of NAIDOC Week celebrations, SBS will feature a film sharing the wide-ranging and essential role of art centres in supporting older people — many of whom are Elders — to keep culture, Country, language, and kin strong for their communities.

The film, Art Centres Keep our Elders Connected, explores the significant role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled art centres play in nurturing the health and wellbeing of older people and people living with dementia in remote communities across Australia.

“This film is an invitation to listen to Elders, artists, and staff from three Aboriginal community-controlled art centres as they share their stories. It celebrates the vital role of Elders who are the backbone of these art centres,” NARI Research Fellow, Paulene Mackell, said.

There are approximately 90 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled art centres across Australia, with the majority in geographically remote locations.

While each of the centres are diverse and responsive to the communities in which they are situated, they all provide a place to maintain connection to Country, and to share histories and culture with younger people – a priority identified by the older artists, directors, and staff.

The film was developed as part of a research collaboration initiated by the National Ageing Research Institute. The research shows art centres are important and safe places for older artists to fulfil their roles as Elders, and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and culture to younger generations within their communities.

Roslyn Malay, from The University of Western Australia, said: “You can see the difference it makes when they come to Mangkaja. It’s something that’s part of them. They come to share their stories, tell their histories, share their culture, and language, to the younger generations – which is brilliant. Where else could you get something like this in a cultural way?”

The research also learnt that many centres are delivering direct care for older artists including helping them with errands, prompting them to take their medication, providing meals and mobility assistance, and supporting them to access and navigate services.

Dr Maree Meredith, Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at Flinders University, said: “It’s a very special model as it has the cultural, the social, as well as the economic, that come together in a holistic way.”

The film and research emphasise calls from art centres for greater resourcing and formal recognition of their role.

“We need creative policy, funding and knowledge making approaches to keep older people well and generations connected. Art centres are grounded in their communities, and as the film shows, there is so much to learn from their expertise and leadership in this space,” Ms Mackell said.

Art Centres Keep our Elders Connected will air on SBS on Wednesday 6 July 2022 at 3:10pm as part of NAIDOC Week, and will be available on SBS On Demand.

Media enquiries:

Olivia Joyce (NARI) – 0448 129 595

Further information about the model is available on the NARI website

The research, conducted between 2018 and 2021, was funded by an Australian Government Department of Health’s Dementia and Aged Care Innovation Grant. It was coordinated by NARI in partnership with three Aboriginal community-controlled art centres: Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency in Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia; Ikuntji Artists in Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory; and Tjanpi Desert Weavers of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (Aboriginal Corporation), working across the tri-state border region of Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. The collaboration also included Tjungu Aged and Disability Service of NPY Women’s Council; Kimberley Aged and Community Services of WA Country Health Services; The University of Western Australia, and Flinders University.