Art Remedy For Regional Community Health And Wellbeing

Flinders University’s partnership with the Pinnaroo community has found art can have a measurable impact on a community’s physical and mental health, with an official report released this week.

Initiated to address the regional town’s limited access to health services, The Pinnaroo Project saw a series of workshops and events across 3 years, designed to foster community participation in the arts and to strengthen the connection between creative art and health in the town of Pinnaroo, South Australia.

Workshops included welding poppies for ANZAC Day

A collaborative effort between the Pinnaroo community and residents, together with the Mallee Arts Group, the Project then invited researchers from Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute, led by Professor Robyn Clark, to evaluate the impact of the project and develop a model that could be used globally – with their official report released this week.

“Over three years we conducted 563 health screenings and collected 616 feedback forms from participants in order to understand the Project’s influence,” says Professor Clark.

“The results were overwhelmingly positive, with our findings showing that for those who added art into their lives there was a reduction in depression, lower smoking rates, more healthy eating, and better overall reported health.

“The community really took a proactive approach to bettering their health with nearly a quarter of the population taking part in yearly health checks including blood pressure, blood glucose, height, and weight, while we also emphasised mental wellness, in a community with limited access to medical services.

“Our results showed the overall health of the whole Pinnaroo community improved during the evaluation period.”

A range of art workshops were conducted over the three years including lantern making, leather work, pottery and Indigenous weaving, with experts coming from far and wide.

Deb Colwill, Co-chair of the Pinnaroo Project, highlighted the significant role of both large and small workshops in the project.

“Each type provided distinct value, with small workshops creating a more personal and intimate communication space, and larger ones drawing in a diverse community cohort. The activities effectively bridged generations, uniting individuals from various walks of life.”

Pinnaroo resident Julie Wallis, also Co-chair of the Project, reflected on her experience and the impact on her community.

“The project activities created a platform for people to meet and connect outside the traditional rural past times of local sport or the pub. We have seen the engagement of isolated individuals, some of whom have been local residents for years, yet our paths had not crossed before.”

Julie declared her favourite quote from a workshop participant was ‘I was able to try new things and forget about my worries for a while.’

Members of the Pinnaroo Project team including Professor Robyn Young (front row, right) with Julie Wallis and Deb Colwill (back row, right).

The evaluation also looked at the arts programs themselves, finding the project was successful in developing a range of artistic and cultural activities, with very high levels of participant satisfaction (90%).

“The legacy of the Pinnaroo Project is the development and testing of an evaluation model, co-developed with the community and health experts, that is now available for any community to adapt to measure the success of art in health,” says Professor Clark.

“Finally, it is important to emphasise that this project was inspired and lead by a volunteer team from a rural community whose strength and commitment and incredible hard work drove the project to success over approximately five years, we are proud and honoured to have supported them on this journey.”

The full project report is available at

To see more on the project visit ABC Landline or tune in on Sunday June 9 on ABC TV at 12.30pm.

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