To continue addressing the far-reaching impacts of the 2019–20 bushfire season, Regional Arts Victoria secured funding from the Victorian Department of Health for the Step Up program. The Step Up program supported the social recovery of disaster impacted communities through arts and cultural activation.
Led by our Community Engagement Manager, we presented community-based initiatives that promoted health and wellbeing, community inclusion, social connectedness and community resilience training to help develop the capabilities of local practitioners to deliver these services in their own communities.
These workshops are so important to get women to leave their homes to circulate in the community. We lost our home and our entire farm in the Bushfires. I know how important it is for our mental health. Thank you again.Workshop participant comment on RAV Facebook page April 2023
The Step Up initiatives addressed the essential principles of community rebuilding in disaster recovery. These included:
- Demonstrating good understanding of the local context
- Ensuring a co-ordinated and collaborative response
- Providing reliable on-the-ground support and advice
The Step Up program was successful in reaching its goals. Community-based art programs were rolled out across the impacted areas of the North East and East Gippsland that promoted health and wellbeing, community inclusion, social connectedness and rebuilt social capital.
These in-community programs were scaffolded by sought after on-the-ground advice and sector expertise provided by our Community Engagement Manager, as well as future-proofing preparedness programs via the upskilling of the local creative workforce in Creative Recovery Network training, and the establishment and distribution of the North East Creative Recovery Practitioner database.
Key Outcome 1 – Community Connectivity
Over the period of the program, we saw enthusiastic engagement with participatory arts projects and workshops.
These spaces were found to offer a unique source of enjoyment and an informal space for relationship building. Interactive workshops that encourage sharing of ideas and individual expression has allowed participants to form meaningful relationships and build a stronger sense of belonging.
As a catalyst for storytelling and a launch point for sharing experiences of disaster, the Step Up Creative Recovery programs have strengthened bonds within the community, mended feelings of loneliness and enhanced connectivity and community resilience.
Key Outcome 2 – Health and Wellbeing Promotion
Creative Recovery programming has transformed perceptions of local health and wellbeing agencies, renewing the image of these services as a part of community life.
Participants demonstrated wellbeing literacy, appreciation of the liberating powers of creative arts participation and gratitude for the opportunity made by Creative Recovery programming to facilitate post-traumatic growth.
Key Outcome 3 – Local Creative Network Legacy
Emboldening of the local creative sector workers with practical and long term skills through professional development and training programs.
Connected professional network of practitioners across the North East, with a deepened commitment to recovery work.
Provision of future employment opportunities and forged pathways for future activation of the local creative sector workers through connecting directly to recovery sector agencies via the North East Creative Recovery Practitioner Database.
Key Outcome 4 – Leadership Confidence
Increased trust and confidence in the administrative leadership of Regional Arts Victoria from both recovery sector and creative sector professionals through delivery of meaningful creative programming interventions and robust support, advocacy and advice.
Increased confidence in the Victorian Department of Health for enacting the Bushfire Recovery Victoria State-wide Action Plan.