Circus Active

Last updated on July 10th, 2023 at 03:25 pm

Circus Active was a partnership program between Regional Arts Victoria and the Department of Education and Training designed to evaluate the efficacy of circus-based arts programs to increase physical activity amongst adolescents, especially those who do not engage in mainstream sporting activities.  

Two small teams of artists commenced a 6-month residency in two schools and engaged students in a circus arts program, taking place before, during or after school as a timetabled or recreational activity.  

Program Goals 

The goals of the Circus Active program were: 

  • Evaluate the efficacy of circus-based activities in increasing physical activity in secondary school students. 
  • Better understand student attitudes to physical activity.
  • Support ongoing arts-based physical activity in the school after the conclusion of the artist residency. 

Partnered Schools and Artists 

Mount Rowan Secondary College – Christy Flaws and Luke O’Connor (Asking for Trouble) 

About the School – Mount Rowan Secondary College 

Mount Rowan Campus was established in 2017 to provide a high quality 7-12 education for students in the Wendouree, Creswick, Miners Rest and surrounding areas including Ballarat North and outlying communities to the north of Ballarat. 

Launching in 2017 with its new Name, Mission and Values of Pride, Respect and Excellence, the school offers a broad curriculum in years 7 to 10 and an exciting range of VCE subjects taught in small classes in a safe and friendly learning environment. 

The school is structured around four vertical houses that focus on student resilience, social development and wellbeing and academic progress and achievement to build in all students those skills and attributes that will support their successful learning and future pathways. 

About the Artists – Asking for Trouble 

Founded by Christy Flaws and Luke O’Connor, Asking for Trouble inspires people to laugh, ask questions and put themselves at the centre of their creation. A multi-award winning theatre company using circus, physical theatre and clown to make ambitious, high quality, touring work for young people and their families. Based in Clunes, Asking for Trouble have strong relationships in regional Victoria and have performed seasons in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, regional Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand and the UK. Over the last 12 years Christy and Luke have facilitated workshops and directed community shows using Circus and Physical theatre independently and for a variety of organisations including Circus Oz, Westside Circus, The Womens Circus and Footscray Community Arts Centre and the Fairfax festival. 

Melton Specialist School – Tara Gooding, Joh Fairly and Erick Mitsak 

About the School – Melton Specialist School 

With an enrolment of 335 in 2022, Melton Specialist School provides quality educational programs for students with disabilities at both primary and secondary levels in a positive, caring and safe environment. It is a dual mode setting, catering for students with mild through to severe intellectual disabilities. Students are transported to the school via bus or family transport. The school is closely located to other schools as well as a variety of community retail spaces, leisure and recreational facilities. 

About the Artists 

Joh Fairley (aka Joh Nyx) is a dancer, social circus teacher and community development worker from Melbourne. She completed a masters of Community Cultural Development at the VCA in 2013. Joh is a founding member of One Trick Pony, a green room award winning circus/physical theatre company. One Trick Pony’s second full-length show ‘Til’ premiered in November 2019 at the Abbotsford Convent. Joh is also one half of Glitter and Snatch, a dance/physical theatre duet that perform regularly in night clubs and cabaret venues around Melbourne and rural Victoria, most recently as part of ‘F*ck Fabulous’ at the Arts Centre Melbourne (2021) and Sydney Mardi Gras (2020) and the family version ‘Fart Fabulous’ for Rising (June 2022). Joh was the project manager of ‘Love letters to Loss’, which was commissioned by the Melbourne Writers Festival 2018 and the follow up ‘Letters to my broken heart’, in September 2019 both events were nominated as highlights of the festival by the Writers Festival board. 

Erick Mitsak has been acting in the theatre since he was a child; directed his first play at 16 (Billy Liar) and transitioned into TV & film acting. As he matured, he began directing, writing, collaborating, improvising with musicians/actors/artists on cabaret/theatre/music shows, voice over work, film/video projects and writing pantomimes. He is an experienced workshop facilitator, designing and delivering workshops in a range of disciplines, including clowning and puppetry. He has guest lectured at VCA/Centre for ideas on collaboration/improvisation, taught animation at RMIT and taught drama at Little Yarra Steiner School. 

Tara Gooding is a passionate circus trainer with 33 years’ experience in the industry. She began as an 11 year old, attending weekly classes at Cirkidz in Adelaide. By the time she had completed year 12 she was offered a job teaching, directing shows and soon after, became Training Coordinator at Cirkidz.      

As well as teaching, Tara took up opportunities to perform freelance, and join other companies such as Kneehigh Puppeteers, Restless Dance and Slack Taxi, that saw her perform across South Australia, Auckland (NZ) and Dalian (China). A performance career highlight was performing a Duo Trapeze act suspended 100ft in the air crane.                              

In 2006 Tara took up a position to support the Training Coordinator at Circus Oz along with teaching work there and other places around Melbourne. In time she stepped into the Training Coordinator position managing all the regular classes. Tara took a few years off to raise her young daughter, before returning to teaching. Now she teaches around parenting, focusing on programs that challenge and fulfil her like Artists in Schools residencies, Indigenous engagement and Special Needs. 


Circus Active will be evaluated to provide an evidence base to inform future policy and program design. The program concluded in Term 3, 2022. 

Circus Active was a behavioural intervention trial funded by the Department of Education and Training which aimed to get secondary students more active.   

The trial was part of the Active Schools initiative which was developed to ensure all Victorian Students have the skills, confidence and motivation to be active in life.