Arts and Health

Cairns performers and artists will feature prominently throughout the Conference program. Performances during plenary sessions promise exciting glimpses of the creativity alive in the Cairns community and there will be plenty of interest in the arts and health the concurrent sessions with their focus on close collaboration between arts and health practitioners as a key element in building wellbeing and health for all Australians.

Biddigal Performing Arts

Biddigal Performing Arts encourages and creates opportunity for Cairns Indigenous Australian youth to create, choreograph and perform their Australian Indigenous heritage through theatre-based performances. Biddigal’s two-year certificate program which allows young performers a unique opportunity to advance their craft while obtaining live performance skills. Students enhance their performance ability in music, acting, dance, Indigenous cultural performance protocols or any other performance-related area. Original choreography is entirely based on true stories that capture Australian Indigenous history. Biddigal performers feel honoured by presenting Indigenous elders’ story via theatrical performances.  (Photo: Mimi Tannaka)

ARC Disability Services

ARC Disability Services is a Cairns based, not for profit organisation, which for over 40 years have been supporting people who have disabilities and their support networks in Far North Queensland.

The ARC Arts Program covers performing and visual arts at all stages of learning and engagement.  ARC supports artists with a disability to develop their skills and creative talents fulfilling their passions and dreams, creating, where possible, pathways into the arts, employment, volunteering and leadership opportunities.  The artists have a community presence at many levels broadening the knowledge and acceptance of the talents and abilities of individuals and an inspirational model of community engagement.

Owen Allen and rEvolve

Owen Allen comes to the movement sciences through a 35 year career in physiotherapy. Dance provided Owen with the answer to two different questions he was asking: How, as a physiotherapist, could he insert novel processes into movement training for the older person?; and: How could the performing arts contribute directly to exploring community issues? His practice has been supported by the New Move Dance collective, Cairns, through training programs and specialized workshops.

Owen is a frequent delegate to National Rural Health Conferences. In 2015 he collaborated in the dance presentation by The Grey Panthers.  For this Conference, he presents Dance Games a morning warm up for the body mind and heart every morning just before the plenary session.  (See program for details.)

rEvolve is an inclusive dance group from the Atherton Tablelands, facilitated by Owen Allen.  rEvolve dancers who are mostly beginners from 30 to 60 years will join the specially choreographed collaborative work featured in the opening plenary with the ARC drummers and Biddigal Dancers.  They include men from the 'Forging of Men' project, Virginia George who is visually impaired, and others.

Arone Meeks

Arone Meeks is a Kuku Midigi man, currently living in Cairns. Arone’s indigenous links are with the Kokomidiji of Cape York, around Laura, which is his birth place and the site of renowned rock art galleries filled with graceful drawings of quinkans. Laura is known as a place of Aboriginal magic and sorcery.

In addition to his deep connection with his traditional culture Arone has a wide experience of contemporary urban arts practice.  He has studied in Paris and exhibited in Europe and North and South America.  Arone produces paintings, sculpture and prints that express a passion for country, spirituality, sexuality and politics.

Over the past six years Arone has been working with the 2 Spirits Indigenous Sexual Health in Cairns, Northern Peninsula Area and the Torres Straits, creating educational resources within these communities.

As artist in residence at the Conference, Arone will develop and produce a collaborative banner on a healthcare theme.

Sassy Catz

Dance performance troupe based in Cairns performing a variety of mediums including Can Can, burlesque, circus skills, street theatre and exciting interactive roving characters. "The Esthers" will create a piece (10 minutes) that combines dance, circus skills, acrobalance, comedy and the spoken word to create a journey through some of the stages in a women’s life.  The performance will talk about the many health issues that affect us as women in today’s society, what is a healthy body image and how do we relate to what is portrayed in the media.  A flexible, fun and vibrant performance group that will enliven the venue and engage delegates

The Soldier’s Wife

The Soldiers Wife initiative saw a group of female Queensland songwriters spend time with the widows and wives of Australian servicemen, listening to the stories from those whose partners served their country in conflicts from WW2 until the present day, including deployments through Asia, the Pacific and The Middle East. Those stories were then turned into songs, creating a uniquely Australian historical record which is now being taken to the world both through recordings and the live arena.

The overall aim of the project is simple: to give women of war in Australia an opportunity to share their own stories of personal sacrifice and commitment and to raise community awareness of the issues faced by those who struggle with war from a different point of view, long after the public discussion fades and the TV coverage ends.

Australian Music Prize nominee and vocal powerhouse Jackie Marshall, North Queensland based Roz Pappalardo, and Deb Suckling, who has been a Brisbane music scene fixture for more than a decade and is also the project coordinator will present excerpts of The Soldiers Wife.

Creative Regions

Creative Regions works in a socially-­‐engaged way to deliver projects that have real outcomes for community wellbeing. The Afloat Creative Recovery Project (2012-­‐2014) focused on community recovery post natural disaster. In 2015, the verbatim theatre show It All Begins with Love, an exploration of domestic violence, toured regional Queensland. A publication for children My Big Bear Story, created with Bundaberg‐based service organisations, explored educational and counselling for young people around domestic violence.  Recently, Creative Regions’ first Socially Engaged Theatre Program series, Elephant in the Room, explored many issues through the eyes of young people including social media use, depression and suicide.

Creative Regions principals, Shelley Pisani (Artistic Director) and Di Wills (Creative Producer) will present on their programs in Concurrent Session A9.

There will be an exhibition featuring Creative Regions recent projects and work in the Foyer throughout the Conference.

Songs of Murray Street

Music is a healer, a gatherer, a means of expression, a mode of storytelling, a way to build bridges, a way to preserve and make memories as well as so much more. Since time began, human beings have made rhythms, howled and wailed, sung and made music to celebrate and highlight a plethora of experience – whether by accident or design.

With this in mind, Roz Pappalardo, along with multi–talented Will Kepa conceived and directed “Songs of Murray Street” with the full support of the Community Healing Project team operating out of Red Cross, Cairns. 

“Songs of Murray Street” is a song writing and recording project which supported members of Manoora community to write their stories as songs, thus dealing with trauma of past experiences and vocalising such experiences in a way that brings levity and future understanding.  This gave birth to a raw, rollicking, fun and true documentation of the songs written and recorded live by the kids and adults during each Murray Street Music session.

From Murray Street, Manoora, to the world - enjoy!

Kids Thrive and Cha Cha Sam

Kids Thrive is Melbourne’s leading arts and community development organisation committed to child-led community change.  Kids Thrive co-designs and delivers programs partnering artists with specialists in children’s health, education, welfare and social justice.  It uses the arts to tackle issues that children experience arising from trauma, disadvantage and cultural conflict, and to expand children’s creativity, communication and social skills.

Andrea Rieniets and Ande Lemon as Directors of Kids Thrive bring over 30 years’ experience as respected artists and community cultural development workers.  Ande and Andrea’s work takes a long-term, heart-centred view of children as collaborators in, and creators of community.

Andrea Rieniets is a songwriter, composer, musical director, musician and singer performing at venues such as Womadelaide and the Famous Spiegeltent; and directing community choirs such as Adelaide’s Before You Were Blonde contemporary community choir, and Sing It Up Big Australian Indigenous Choir.

Ande Lemon was Artistic Director of Melbourne’s Women’s Circus (2002-2003) for women who identify as survivors of sexual abuse or assault; Coordinator of the Royal Children’s Hospital Wyndham region Arts and Mental Health programme working with primary and special needs schools, community agencies and mental health professionals.  She has written and directed over 50 community-based and professional scripts and productions.

Cha Cha Sam is the performance arm of Kids Thrive.

Cairns Harp Collective

Three harps, 100+ strings, three creative harpists; playing tunes by Metallica, Sting, Leonard Cohen, plus the harpists own original songs and grooves... ooh heaven is a place on earth!
Joy Zahner, Natalia Mann & Astrid Elika
Curious to see what a harp can do? The Cairns Harp Collective are professional harpists who come together for fun, inspiration and love of music. The vibe is contagious...!


Blackrobats is a (predominantly) Indigenous community youth circus group, that has been operating since 1996 with it’s roots in the outer regions of Kuranda, FNQ.  With up to 40 youth involved at any given time, and a total of over 200 young people involved since inception, Blackrobats’ program is used to support individuals and the communities they live in, using circus/dance/theatre as a tool for engaging youth in the arts.

Blackrobats' philosophy emphasises social inclusion and recognition is essential to the health; feeling connected creates a sense of well being. Blackrobats creates pathways that can affect future choices.

Blackrobats has strong links to the circus traditions developed by the international social circus networks such as The Australian Circus & Physical Theatre Association, CIRCA, Cirque du Soleil, Circus Oz and The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA). Blackrobats alumni Jillibalu is the first Indigenous person in Australia to graduate from NICA.