A national network which focuses on the links between the arts, creativity and wellbeing will be launched in Wellington today.
Te Ora Auaha Creative Wellbeing Alliance Aotearoa includes individuals, groups and organisations across the art, health, youth, social and education sectors that use arts to address mental health, youth at risk, social inclusion, ageing and social and cultural inequalities.
Peter O'Connor, professor in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland, says representatives have spent the last two years establishing the alliance which will be launched by Carmel Sepuloni, Minister of Social Development and Associate Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage.
It started with discussions in Auckland, where more than 100 individuals, groups and organisations have been identified as using the arts in various sectors, and is now nationwide.
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"There are excellent examples of the arts being used to promote health and wellbeing in New Zealand hospitals, schools, community-based creative spaces, communities and prisons," says O'Connor. "However, we don't have the level of research, policy and investment that our international peers have."
He hopes Te Ora Auaha will bring individuals and groups together to make "a compelling case" for arts and creativity to be recognised as an innovative and cost-effective way to enhance wellbeing throughout New Zealand. Its work will focus on four areas: research and evidence, sector development, government policy and investment and leadership.
"We want to establish guidelines for best practice, to know where the opportunities lie so, for example, if you're a musician who wants to work in a dementia ward you know where your services are required," he says. "We need these initiatives and programmes not to be 'hit and miss' dependent on what local DHBs are doing but part of a national and cohesive strategy."
In the United Kingdom, the National Alliance for Arts, Health & Wellbeing (now the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance) was launched in 2012, funded by Arts Council England, while the Australian Centre for Arts and Health started a decade ago.
Te Ora Auaha is funded through Auckland University's Creative Thinking Project and the Working Together More Fund with support from Creative New Zealand and Arts Access Aotearoa but O'Connor says one of its aims will be to identify how the alliance can be funded in a consistent manner.
"It's a long game – research clearly says there's a link between the arts and creativity and better health and wellbeing so, ultimately, if we can have a healthier New Zealander, that's the gain. If we want a happier and healthier New Zealand, then we need to recognise the arts have a significant role to play in that."