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Lizard Tales for Mental Health Week

Posted by Hiromi Tango

It is the beginning of mental health week in Australia, and after two years, FIVE Derby is the final stop for the pilot project to promote mental health. So, I would like to talk about mental health awareness in this blog.

Detail from the Lizard Tail, to which more than 1,000 participants from Derby contributed.Detail from the Lizard Tail, to which more than 1,000 participants from Derby contributed.

It is so wonderful that mental health awareness is now openly talked about it. It is a great start to taking the fear away. Recently there has been progress in this area, for example through the efforts of Pat McGorry AO, 2010 Australian of the Year. But we need to ensure the conversation continues. In an interview with ABC radio with Thomas Oriti earlier this year, it was revealed that The Youth Mental Health Report – released by Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute – found that one in five Australians aged between 15 and 19 are likely to be experiencing mental illness. The survey of about 15,000 young people across the country also found that less than 40 per cent are comfortable asking for help. (See

The Western Australian Mental Health Commission Report, Mental Health 2020: Making it personal and everybody’s business, states that: “Artwork from Western Australian artist David Giles is used throughout Mental Health 2020. David says he ‘came out’ about his mental illness in 2005 as a community service to  show that people with mental health issues can still be happy and successful. For many people with a lived experience of mental illness, self-expression through art can be an important part of their recovery.”

How can arts engagement play a role in keeping the conversation going around mental health in your community? How can we support each other in building community networks and healthy activity that can contribute to mental wellbeing for all of us? Throughout my experience with FIVE and other community arts projects, I have seen that it can provide both an important emotional outlet through self-expression, as well as many health through encouraging healthy social interaction and physical activity.

The community in Derby has been amazingly responsive and open in talking about issues around mental illness, and I warmly encourage you to consider how you can continue to use arts engagement as an important part of building a stronger community for everyone. Please continue to share your stories and come together for creative outlets.

At the Junior School Holiday program at the Youth Centre last week, we had more than 50 – and up to 100 – participants every day. A workshop at the Kimberley Regional Prison included 12 female prisoners who contributed their energetic participation to helping build the giant Lizard Tail for MarshArt. The last day of the formal workshop at Derby was held at the CWA Market with support from Jo Shiosaki, from Rio Tinto's Regional Communities team, with approximately 50 participants.

Special thanks goes to Youth Centre team, Derby council team, School, Hospital, nursing home and Playgroup. I cannot acknowledge everyone on this blog, but I would particularly thank Rowena, Sian, Fay, Alis, Alysia and Midge for their roles as part of the core production team. Youth Center team Paul, Anthony, Lee, Juliana and great children for allowing me to visit regularly; Jordan, Ben, Kris, Jason, Alis, and great Joeys, Cubs and the Scouts team; Daniel, Caroline, Kris and Nicky from The Kimberley Regional Prison team, and the many artists and friends who have leant their warm support to the project. Whilst I may have not listed your names here, each and every one of you has made an important contribution.

Thank-you for the wonderful opportunity to work together, and thank-you for the Derby community for demonstrating your trust in community engagement and arts. I look forward to seeing how your Lizard Tails/Tales continue to grow strong and healthy!


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Dadaa Principal partnerRio Tinto Arts partner Australia Council