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Creative Communities
A Creative Communities team has been established in Ipswich through Purga Music.
Venue:  Purga Community Cultural Centre, 68 Purga School Road, Purga.
Please contact us to register your interest or visit the Purga Music Museum.
Read more
Creative Music Occupations
Music occupations can make a difference to people's lives. We can ask what we are 'doing, being and becoming' to understand our music-making better.:

People: Who is involved? What relationships support the music-making? What are the social dynamics? Socio-cultural and political factors may influence who is able to participate.

How does the environment support the music-making? Are there barriers?

Occupation: What role do people have in music-making? How is it done? How sustained? Is it inclusive? How can we remove some of the barriers to permit physical access and social inclusion?

We can support music-making through encouraging a better fit between the person-environment-music occupation factors. This is a way of self-managing our own occupations. The Person-Environment Model can be applied to our music-making occupations and performance.

The Person-Environment-Occupation Model was developed by occupational therapists to support and enable people with disabilities to improve their occupational performance at home, work, school, community. Therapists collaborate with people who want to improve their functional ability, helping to build capacity to self-manage their occupations and to remove barriers to participation, and other personal goals. This may involve desigining suitable environments for music-making, adapting musical instruments, enhancing performance.and building musical skills. The approach is collaborative--working across borders.

  • Ideas: Early Childhood Musical Development
  • Is it all about listening, or performing, or learning an instrument, or singing or dancing?
  • Or is it about finding meaning in everyday musical experiences? Cooperation?
  • Early childhood musical development can be about active learning with everyday materials and sharing experiences with other people.
  • It can involve creating things that appeal to the child / children.
  • Surprising ourselves with the sounds that emerge.
  • Endless possibilities
  • New technologies...and ways of making music with home made or found materials.
Creative Music Workshops provide opportunites for exploratory, action learning and achievement.
The Art and Science of Music in Space (Dec, 2012)
Thanks to the Canadian Space Agency, new information is available online about musicians playing, composing and recording music in space.
Read more about some of the issues and adaptations that are necessary...
AEROSPACE MUSICAL ADVENTURES began through Music Health Australia observations of news reports about music-making in space, website/literature reviews, and blog narratives in 7 July, 2012. The aim is to consider the future of aerospace music as technologies allow more inclusive participation, and to stimulate creative collaboration of people in Australia or globally, and even through social networking / sharing findings about aerospace adventures.

Let us know if you would like to be involved with online Aerospace Music discussions.

It is timely to consider how the advances in aerospace health research impact on people's culturally engaged musicking. Ethnomusicologists have been involved with aerospace research from at least 1977, according to Nelson and Polansky (1993). After four decades, there are bound to be more advances and discoveries that impact on the health of musicians and communities as they become more adventurous in aerospace journeys.

I am interested to imagine how music could function in other times and places, and to create scenarios of people's musical roles and music occupations away from their homes and in new frontiers. At present there is scope for investigating music that has been created and performed on the aerospace theme. The International Space-Time Concerto Competition 2012 explored connectivity with simultaneous performances staged in five different locations--Australia (University of Newcastle), Austria, Singapore, China and New Zealand.

Hopefully in the future it will be possible to investige aerospace musicking more directly. People are already living on the International space station and have posted You Tube videos of their February 2013 collaborative music performances between
Chris Hadfield (commander of International space station) and Bare Naked Ladies (choir). Any new venture such as this requires extensive study and planning to explore how to support musicking in new environments--considering the social, cultural, technological, health and political ramifications (just to name a few areas). There is room for extensive cross-disciplinary creative collaboration in aerospace musicking.

Theoretical Foundations / Frameworks for Aerospace Musical Development

It seems that scientific technological development has paved the way for advancement of human aerospace travel, but less attention has been directed toward supporting musical expression which may affect human health and have powerful socio-cultural impacts. Ethnomusicologists study how people's capacity for musicking plays out and changes over time in order to understand the music traditions and cultural changes that occur with new technological innovations. The research literature on aerospace musicology is very scant so reflection on state-of-the-art practice and consultation with participants is vital. Research on Arts Health and Musical participation  may be important for identifying occupations that are meaningful as work, recreation and daily occupations in aerospace journeys.

Ethnomusicologists, occupational therapists, musicians, cultural advisers and other professionals have an important role to play in collaborative planning to support and enable creative aerospace cultural developments. Cooperation across professional borders is essential. One of the key questions is: "Are the traditional methods of ethnomusicology/health care adequate for application to aerospace developments, or are new innovative models and frameworks needed?"  Another important consideration is "What methods could ethnomusicologists and health professionals use to observe and record people's musical practices as they develop in aerospace communities?" The frameworks for culturally engaged community music practice that were developed for rural Ipswich, Australia may have some relevance, but further inter-professional cooperation across borders is necessary. 

Pioneering Aerospace Musical journeys of discovery is of interest to many people and be supported by ethnographic study and understanding of people's musical occupations. The information communicated by astronauts through Twitter, YouTube and reports from space agencies informs the continually evolving theoretical perspectives and practice frameworks for aerospace health and ethnomusicology. Music Health Australia continues to promote creative exploration of musical participation in a range of music occupations in the context of real or imagined aerospace adventures.

Recommended reading:
S. Nelson, L. Polansky 1993 "The Music of the Voyager Interstellar Record" Journal of Applied Communication Research, November, pp. 358-375

Read more on the
Music Outreach and  Aerospace Music Adventures blog
Create, Curate, Collaborate....What does it mean?

How do we create, curate and collaborate when we are spread around the world or beyond? 
Collaborate means to work together in a joint effort to achieve shared goals.  
Curate means to organise and/or oversee. I think of it in terms of communities or individuals self-organising and managing their own music heritage and culture.
It's about getting into gear and making the wheels turn in a productive way, which brings benefits to all.
Create means to give rise to; to produce through artistic or imaginative effort. 
All this relates to Creating and Performing Music stories, drawing on our own resources and the network of people interested in music health. How is this possible? That is what we are exploring through creative storytelling.

Purga Music Story is one example of a music story that was created from 2003- 2005 about the music history of our neighbourhood which once contained the Purga Aboriginal Mission.

Turn of the Century: The Ipswich Thistle Pipe Band 1909-2009  is a collection of people's memories and photographs that was created into a book by the band for their centennial.


Buoyancy of communities

Communities can be powerful for the support they provide to individuals living in particular neighbourhoods and/or regions. In January to June 2011, I documented an action research project -- exploring how music, song, dance and other creative activities may be useful for expressing grief and loss and finding inspiration after trauma from the recent flood disasters in Queensland. The BIG FLOOD SONG community recovery sing-a-long seemed to instill buoyancy in communities by enabling people to share their flood experience in a fun way with others who are empathetic to their needs. Findings of research on "Community Recovery: Musical Inspirations, Creative Collaborations and Health Reform" were presented at the 2011 Public Health Research Conference in Brisbane, 13-15 July. Read more...

 Diagram from Wikipedia entry on buoyancy

Big flood song 2011

The BIG FLOOD SONG community recovery sing-a-long occurred on Monday 7th March, 2011 at Leichhardt Community Centre. The song creators are courageous to share their experiences in public. "Music speaks when we are lost for words."

The floods in Queensland, have affected many peoples. Music activities have also been affected through the loss of musical instruments in floods and social upheaval and economic consequences. Community halls and auditoriums that were once places for choir and band practices, have been devastated in many areas. Apart from these crises, some people have simply given up singing, dancing and creative arts due to other distractions and the busyness of life. That is perhaps why there is a need to support communities in helping them to respond collaboratively through creative arts -- when the time is right.

When considering how to respond to the loss of music activities and effects of the recent natural disasters, on communities, some questions were raised.

Questions for discussion
What kind of music experiences are people interested in?
When is the right time to recommence musical participation after trauma or natural disaster?
What services are required to support musicking and creative arts expression?
contact us with your ideas and suggestions.
Research is underway on the creative processes of community recovery in response to crisis.



Do you have to be really good to play that drum? 29 Feb, 2011
On the weekend, we were part of a gathering that was commemorating the third anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. While we were sitting under a huge fig tree playing around with drums and untuned percussion, an elder remarked "You have to be really good to play this drum, don't you?"

That started me thinking about our expectations, and wondering whether people feel they can not meet societal expections to be as good as contestants on Australian Idol or other TV shows. Why do some people give up musicking in later life? On the other hand, what motivates people to keep playing music into their later years?

What happened to everyday sing-a-longs around the piano,  or 'tribal' music where everyone gets involved? The older folk used to help the young ones by showing them how to sing, dance and play at social gatherings; or even singing while they did things around the house, and at work.


Someone at the gathering said, "How old do you reckon this fig tree is?" No one could remember. Also thinking, how old are our music traditions? Does anyone remember them; particularly traditional Indigenous song, dance and languages? There has been such a loss of cultural traditions through colonisation.

When is it safe to go back into musicking?

The traumatic loss of Indigenous heritage and culture has had direct and indirect consequences for people across many generations and even into the future. The
Orchestrating Reconciliation project takes up this discussion and explores how we can create new musical traditions through composing tributes to members of the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. We still have much to learn about the timing of our response and ways to promote healing and recovery at the personal and community level.

Frameworks for culturally engaged community music practice in rural Ipswich, Australia. (2009)
by Sandra Kirkwood is available online. This is a music health perspective of community music.



Music Council of Australia: Music Forum article on 
Music Health by Sandra Kirkwood.

The United Nations compedium outlines examples of music health projects that are occurring worldwide for community cultural development. It reveals that health professionals, music teachers, and cultural leaders are starting to address social health concerns through implementing  tailor-made programs with communities and people with unmet needs.



Piano Stairs

The U-Tube video, "Piano Stairs" demonstrates the potential of active participation in musicking to increase levels of people's physical activity. There seems to be more social interaction and physical activity when music is introduced to the environment. Interesting to see people's playful musical expression and spontaneous improvisations.

Public music making occurs in most, if not all human societies (Blacking 1973). Within tribal societies, people's involvement in music usually occurs throughout the lifespan and involves all members of society. Christopher Small (1998) coined the term 'musicking' to describe people's active participation in music events, and music as it is actually practiced by the human race. He argues that the verb musicking is needed to separate the action from commodities such as music scores or recordings. At the core of his philosophy is the belief that "to music  is to take part, in any capacity, in a musical performance, whether by performing, by listening, by rehearsing or practising, and by providing material for performance (what is called composing), or by dancing."

In 1926, Joseph Erb defined community music in this way; "Community Music properly includes all forms and phases of music which serve the Community and grow out of it" Reading his article raises issues that sound strangely familiar to our contemporary situation. Erb states "the aim of a community music campaign shoud, in brief, be to create so widespread an interest in such a diversity of musical activities that every individual in the community may find an outlet and may be stimulated into musical expression" (p. 446). Erb recommends that musicians 'look about them' and adjust their actions to the spirit of the times. This implies a form of social action by musicians. It is interesting that Erb formulated this concept of community music directly after the first world war, when some freedom of musical expression was suppressed. The emphasis is perhaps on the importance of local leadership and freedom of expression in music.

In community music, musicians take an important public role in cultural leadership that can extend beyond musical activities, to supporting the health and well-being of the whole community (Vaillancourt 2007, Stige 2002, Laycock 2005).

The place-based approach is a way of considering the music history, culture, specific needs and aspirations of people in a particular location and allocating resources to conduct programs that are tailor-made for local communities. The planning and distribution of resources is facilitated by cultural leaders who may be insiders or outsiders to communities in a particular place. The Queensland Government Department of Communities defines the place-based approach as "services and solutions that match the exact needs of the community (bottom-up) with the government coming  up with funds or designing a service in response." Community musicians can participate in the strategic planning for delivery of government and private services to communities. There is potential for health and music professionals to contribute to health and social needs analysis, and to evaluate the possible impacts of proposed initiatives on people, communities and environments. Business corporations are now expected to support local communities and to act in socially responsible ways, as would be expected of individual citizens.

There is such a diversity of approaches to community music, that each community can define the term in their own way.

Blacking, J. (1973). How musical is man? Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Erb, J. (1926). Music for a better community. The Music Quarterly, 12(3), 441-448.

Kirkwood, S. (2009) Frameworks of culturally engaged community music practice for rural Ipswich. M.Phil. thesis Griffith University. Retrieved from 


Laycock (2005). A changing role for the composer in society. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Small, C. (1998). Musicking: The meanings of performing and listening. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

Stige, B. (2002). Culture-centered music therapy. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.

Vaillancourt, G. (2007). Multicultural music therapy as an instrument for leadership: Listening, vision, process. Voices, 7, 1-13, Retrieved 18 October, 2007 from 




Over the 20-30 years since large residential institutions for people with a disability have closed, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of community arts and music for peoples' health and well-being, community development, education and social harmony. Research and developments are listed in order of currency, with the most recent findings appearing at the top.

ORGANISATIONS that support Arts and Health have a role in advocacy for policy development, training and education:


Arts and Health Australia

Arts Health Foundation

Community Cultural Development in Australia

Music Health Australia supports music and health, whereas the other organisations focus on arts in general.

All of these organisations have contributed to consultation on the
National Cultural Policy which is under development by the Australian Government (2011).


National Action Plan to build on social cohesion, harmony and security includes community arts projects. There is potential for funding of community music programs through this project.


Arts-Health Demonstration Project (2007) was led by Dr David Sudmalis with input from the Brain Mind Research Institute (University of Sydney), Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (Monash University), Arts Access Australia, ArtsHealth: Research and Practice Centre (University of Newcastle), Alexandria Park Community School, and a Darlinghurst based
Homeless Persons Support Service. Report available on Music, Social Health and Cohesion.

The activity appears to be primarily driven through Universities. The obvious stakeholders from peak health organisations and consumer groups have not yet been involved. While this is very worthwhile researach, there is the need for more national consultation and systematic mapping of Arts-Health initiatives in Australia.


Arts-Health stream
This conference demonstrated the importance of community arts to health and well-being through performances and presentations. This resulted in Priority Recommendation 6, which states:

There is substantial evidence that arts activities are valuable both as a means of communication of health messages, as health promoting and community development activities, and as therapy. Commonwealth and State health authorities should therefore have substantial budget line-items for arts-in-health programs, including those that are already established and shown to be effective. In addition, the Australia Council should create a new program specifically for arts-in-health (
Some progress has been made in advocacy for arts health. In 2013 the Standing Council on Health and meeting of the Cultural Ministers endorsed the
National Arts and Health Framework

In 2006, Ann Dunn was commissioned to complete an Australia-wide scoping study of community arts. Her findings validated the importance of the arts for health and well-being. The fourth recommendation of this study recommends that:
"The Australia Council should adopt national leadership initiatives in the three priority areas - health and well-being, education and the arts, and community harmony - as part of its Creative Communities Strategy."

Dunn also outlined national values for community arts practice:
* Arts and cultural practices are valued as an integral part of everyday life;
* Communties are valued as creators and active participants (not just consumers);
* Cultural diversity is valued as a foundation of innovation, creativity and artistic excellence; and
* Creativity and innovation are valued as means of engaging communities, building capacities, responding to issues and generating change.


Report available

ISMM sponsored the First International Music in Medicine conference to be held in the Pacific region at the University of Melbourne in 1998.

Papers presented at the first national arts in health conference: Darling Downs Health Services foundation, Toowoomba. This publication is available through the University of Southern Queensland library in Toowoomba. 

The musical Lillian (1990), was perfomed by service users, staff and support workers within the mental health sector in Toowoomba.



Chooky dancers, Elcho Island, Arnhem Land (Northern Territory, Australia)
Zorba the Greek dance of the 

Chooky dancers became internationally renowned through the video clip that appeared on YouTube in 2007.



Traditional Greek dance version  of Zorba

It must be community music because everyone's doing the Zorba the Greek dance, even 

Andre Rieu!


Mum, Dad and the kids are doing Zorba at home too.

Guiness World Record attempt for Zorba the Greek dance on the beach


Michael Card's song "
Listen," is a new approach to christian community service internationally.


Article written & resources collated by Sandra Kirkwood on November 12, 2008; updated 6 May, 2017.

© Sandra Kirkwood, 2008
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