Youth Arts Project
The Refugee Youth Arts project was developed as a pilot to explore the need for a youth focus in future programs. The project employed an experienced Youth Arts Worker to provide an 8 week program, targeted at up to 15 young people aged 12-16 years who were attending the Chester Hill Intensive English Centre. Westwood Spice Consulting was invited to conduct an evaluation of the pilot.
The major activity of the project was the development, recording and performance of two group songs and associated video-clips. The program included an excursion to the Powerhouse Museum to access technical video and recording production facilities.
The key aims of the project were to:
- Develop skills in literacy and oral presentation;
- Build confidence and self-esteem; and
- Provide opportunities for the young people to participate in activities they would not ordinarily access.
There were a total of 14 students who participated in the project and between them they represented 7 different countries and 7 different languages. All were recent arrivals in Australia (ranging from 1-9 months) and all had a refugee background. Ages ranged from 12 to 18 years. A key indicator of the enthusiasm of participants for the project was that all 14 students completed the whole project.
At the beginning of the project, there were only 2 students who indicated that they had some confidence in spoken English with the remainder indicating that they were not at all confident. By the end of the project, most students agreed that the program had helped their English skills a great deal. This was corroborated by the feedback from the Youth Arts Worker, the Head Teacher and informal teacher feedback.
“They are so confident now and they were so shy. I still can’t believe it.” Farsi Teacher’s Aide
Key benefits for the Intensive English Centre (IEC) were:
- Access to the music skills of the Youth Arts Worker;
- Access to the associated specialised music and video recording equipment;
- Stimulating and engaging for the students;
- Strongly grounded in the use of visual materials e.g. photos and video;
- Creating opportunities for more individualised attention to students;
- Giving students a voice and joy in their lives when many come from families facing major issues; and
- Clear educational focus in comparison to other mentoring projects which are grounded in welfare.
Overall, the project fills a very important gap. It targets entry-level students with low levels of literacy who, by virtue of these literacy levels do not have access to other programs. It has a strong educational focus, whereas many other mentoring programs are grounded in welfare.
Impact on learning English
The Youth Arts Worker reported that the project had played a role in the transition of students to their new environment. There had been one particularly shy boy who when given the opportunity to sing in his native language showed that he was not shy in his native language and indeed had a real gift for singing which had been hitherto unrecognised.
Another student who was the only person from his country in the current IEC cohort had been socially isolated, but the project had given him a group with which he had bonded well. This had translated into support in the school playground where he now had a group of friends.
The participants have been invited to perform at the annual multi-cultural Flag day.
St Anthony’s Service Support & Development Manager reported that she had been pleased with the project. In reflecting on its success she highlighted the following key features:
- The facilitation skills of the Youth Arts Worker;
- The strength of the partnership with the IEC. This was reflected in aspects such as the alignment of the project with the goals of the IEC and the flexibility of the school in accommodating the project. This included access to the school staff room and flexibility in working around the video recording demands; and
- Level of engagement. All participants remained engaged with the project for its duration with no-one dropping out.
The findings of the evaluation of the Refugee Youth Arts project, (which became known as the Music Video project) demonstrates that the project has been a success. This view is shared universally across all of the stakeholders involved: the participants, the Chester Hill Intensive English Centre, the Youth Arts Worker and St Anthony’s staff.
Using the medium of “music as the universal language” the project was able to deliver a range of beneficial outcomes for the target group. These included:
- Increased competency in English;
- Increased confidence in speaking and writing English;
- Increased group cohesion and support;
- Acquisition of new skills in video production and performance; and
- Experience of a sense of achievement, joy and fun in life in an Australian context.
Implications for St Anthony’s in embarking upon such an undertaking would include:
1. Identification of a robust source of funding;
2. Careful attention to the skills and experience required of any staff to be appointed to the role of Youth Arts Worker;
3. Clear partnership arrangements with host IEC’s to cover aspects such as physical accommodation of the project on site and linkages of the project to the IEC curriculum and structures including minimum duration of one school term per project and opportunities to link with school English classes; and
4. Identification of any specialist music and recording equipment needed and whether arrangements should be made for hire or purchase of these.
If you would like a copy of the full report please click here.
A new life in Australia – Chester Hill IEC
Good Things In Life – Chester Hill IEC
We Have Fun In The Class – Miller IEC
We all need good friends – Miller IEC
What we all hope to be – Cabramatta IEC
We are the class ‘S1’ – Fairfield IEC
We are all from the IEC – Chester Hill IEC
Everyone is beautiful – Chester Hill IEC
Digital story telling
Suliaman from Sierra Leone – Evans IEC
Riviera from Iraq – Evans IEC
Gamane from Ethiopia – Evans IEC
Mehrdad from Iran – Evans IEC
Angusan from Sri Lanka – Evans IEC
Ramatu from Sierra Leone – Evans IEC