Drummer Evan Yako
24 February 2017

Artists including a slam poet, a troupe of drummers and a Spanish speaking choir will perform at this week’s International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) Exchange, to help delegates connect to personal experiences of mental distress and recovery.

The IIMHL Exchange conference brings together mental health leaders from eight countries to share innovations and solve problems in mental health care. The event is being co-hosted by the NSW Mental Health Commission and NSW Ministry of Health.

The Commission has included artists in the event program to highlight not only the therapeutic benefit of the creative arts, but also how art can help the most vulnerable and misunderstood members of our community connect with others around them.

The artists who will be featured are:

  • Philip Wilcox, a two time NSW Poetry Slam Champion and organiser of regular spoken word event Three Poets Speak.
  • Evan Yako (pictured), a drummer and former Iraqi refugee who now teaches drumming to refugee students from Cabramatta, Miller, St Johns Park and Prairewood high schools. Two of Evan’s groups, the Cabramatta Multibeats and the Cabramatta Groovies, will perform at IIMHL.
  • The Spanish Speaking Choir, which is made up largely of immigrants from South and Central American countries. The choir was created in 2011 by Fairfield Multicultural Health, NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and Opera Australia based on research that indicated music can help people manage their emotions and cope with bad memories. 
  • Lily Hibberd, Bonney Djuric, Volker Kuchelmeister & Alex Davies, who together are the lead creators of ‘A Women’s Place’, a 3D immersive experience about Parramatta Girls’ Home. The artwork enables viewers to experience the Home through the vision of those who were committed to the now defunct child welfare institution as teenagers. ‘Parra Girl’ Bonnie Durack will also attend IIMHL to share her stories.
  • George Khut, an electronic and interactive artist who will present two works from his Mobile MoodLab, an immersive artwork that creates visuals and sounds in response to participants’ heart rates and brain waves.

‘A Women’s Place’ and the Mobile MoodLab are two of 30 artworks that will be showcased during The Big Anxiety, an interactive arts festival to be held across Sydney in late 2017.

Since its creation in 2012, the Commission has recognised art’s role in helping people ‘express the inexpressible’, including helping them cope with past traumas, to process complex feelings and achieve a sense of healing. The Commission also recognises art’s ability to increase mental health literacy in the community, including by demystifying the experiences of those with severe and persistent mental illness.

To learn more about the Commission’s support for the creative arts, read our submission to the Taskforce on Health and the Arts.

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Last updated: 24 June 2017