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Telling the story of arts and health in South Australia

Arts Arts citizen participation Health promotion Public health South Australia

This report details the history of arts and health in South Australia, exploring how local work came to national prominence and inspired the National Arts and Health Framework. While resisting a single definition, arts and health is broadly defined as using arts practice to deliver health outcomes, be they specifically targeted interventions or general wellbeing benefits. The authors conducted interviews with 47 arts and health stakeholders who have contributed to the development of this field in South Australia.

The report finds that South Australia has a long, internationally significant history of arts and health work. Arts and health work can be traced back to the community arts movement of the 1970s, and the health promotion agenda of the 1980s. Today, each of South Australia's three major hospitals has an established arts and health program. South Australia was also the driver of two key arts and health policies. The first was the 2008 partnership commitment between Arts SA and SA Health, which directly influenced the integration of art and design into the New Royal Adelaide Hospital. The second was the National Arts and Health Framework. Led by a team that included Flinders Medical Centre's Sally Francis and the Honourable John Hill, the framework was a statement of purpose that declared the Australian federal, state and territory governments’ recognition of and support for arts and health. The framework's creation was the result of lengthy collaboration across the country and its endorsement received bipartisan political support.

This report concludes that there is a strong platform to build future South Australian arts and health success stories upon. However, this will require continuing engagement between on-the-ground arts and health workers, and the recognition and support of those in key leadership positions. There are a number of challenges and government priorities that are perfect for arts and interventions. These include community wellbeing, ageing well, Indigenous health, and the continuing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. To maximise  the arts and health field's ability to intervene in these challenges, interviewees offered a number of recommendations, such as reviewing and updating the National Arts and Health Framework; developing educational pathways for potential arts and health workers; raising public awareness of the proven benefits of arts and health; engaging key political leaders to witness arts and health work first-hand; and organising regular state and national networking opportunities for arts and health stakeholders.

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