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New Grants Unite Communities to Sing With One Voice

13 October 2016 at 11:03 am
Wendy Williams
New grants have been launched to help communities across Australia come together through the power of song.

Wendy Williams | 13 October 2016 at 11:03 am


New Grants Unite Communities to Sing With One Voice
13 October 2016 at 11:03 am

New grants have been launched to help communities across Australia come together through the power of song.

Creativity Australia is calling on local communities to apply for seed funding of up to $12,500 to start their own With One Voice choir and be part of a solution to build stronger communities and tackle loneliness, isolation and disadvantage.

The community-led program, named in Anthill’s SMART 100 social innovations for the past four consecutive years, has been designed to engage all parts of a community and support those in need, while inspiring individuals to find their voice.

According to the not-for-profit organisation, which was founded by social entrepreneur and soprano Tania de Jong to develop sustainable and creative wellbeing programs, neuroscience proved singing made people happier, healthier, smarter and more creative

Creativity Australia program director Ross Maher told Pro Bono Australia News singing was a great way of bringing the community together.

“Singing is really one of the most powerful ways to do a couple of things,” Maher said.

“First of all, to improve our general well being. So singing releases endorphins, oxytocin, and a host of other great things that make you feel better. They connect your head and your heart in a really powerful way… Scientifically these chemicals change our mood.

Woman singing in With One Voice choir“Secondly though, singing has also been proven to break down the barriers between people, so in our programs we specifically work to bring together people who would never normally meet, very, very diverse people.

“We often say from CEOs to the homeless but that it is just a generalisation, it really is everyone in our community, and through singing together they actually learn more about each other and these same chemicals that improve the mood and help someone feel better, they also work to break down the barriers between those people and help them connect so it really is this powerful thing.

“But then thirdly, everyone, almost universally, loves singing, although unfortunately a lot of people have been told they can’t sing… we bring people together through their common love of singing rather than their common disadvantage and through that, friendships are born, people will improve their health, their wellbeing, they get access to all sorts of things, in life that they would otherwise not get access to.”

According to research from the Swinburne University, 98 per cent of With One Voice choir participants experienced less stress, 91 cent improved social bonds, 66 per cent felt less depressed, 70 per cent gained new skills for work life and 70 per cent gained increased understanding and appreciation of diversity.

Maher said it was clear governments could no longer address the multitude of challenges society faces, and it was up to empowered communities to take action.

“We really hope we can get communities taking this up and delivering the transformation and the life-changing benefits everywhere,” Maher said.

“We talk a lot about loneliness, and loneliness is something that impacts absolutely everyone at some stage of their life. But if you go further and look at things like mental health and depression and anxiety, and you look at people who are struggling at more simple levels, they can’t find jobs, they’re trying to do something but they don’t have those skills or you look at that next level where people are experiencing quite extreme disadvantage around poverty and stuff like that, all of those things can be improved most efficiently and most effectively at a local community level.”

Maher said the With One Voice program was about bringing communities together.

“It comes down to the power of the network,” he said.

“If you think about a job for example. I’ve only ever applied for one job in my life, the rest of them have all come through my network, and they say something like 75 per cent of jobs are not advertised. So if you are connecting people at a local level in their communities and through that people who wouldn’t normally meet and the power of that network starts to say well we can help you maybe find a job.

People hand in the air singing“If you think about mental health, depression and anxiety… if you know someone at a local community level where you do something, where each week you engage with people, that act of engaging, that act of someone taking an interest in you, makes you feel like you are needed which is a really significant part of addressing the issue of depression, the ‘I contribute, I’m part of something’.

“So for us we see communities as a really powerful way, but unfortunately the ways that our communities actually connect they’re not what they used to be, and so our program is about how do you help communities connect and bring them together. And we go a little bit further, rather than just bringing people together to sing, we also in our programs share supper and we also have a wish list and that wish list is one of the key ways that we activate the network, so if you are looking for a job for example, or whatever it might be, you can ask and the community can then help you find and actually achieve whatever you want and grant your wish.”

Maher said they were looking for 10 new communities to use the seed funding to join the program over the next 12 months.

He said they would be looking for communities that were committed to making the program work and leveraging their existing networks to support and build their community.

“What we learned is that to really make these programs work you need to have a committed local community, actively taking on and owning,” he said.

“So the communities that apply and are successful with these grants, they are going to really be able to demonstrate that they will take this bull by the horns and really own and make the most of their community networks and their community connections.

“And I guess going a step further than that what we really want is for the successful applicants to really empower and inspire their communities… to really be a presence in that community, perform regularly, welcome everyone and reach out and make sure everyone is part of it as well.”

The latest grants of up to $12,500 will cover initial costs while the program establishes itself in the community.

Communities will also receive support and mentoring from Creativity Australia to ensure the program becomes sustainable.

“So there is kind of three components, the mentoring, the tools and the resources, and then the actual money,” Maher said.

“And the money is important because one of the main costs of the program is the conductor.

“Our conductors really are very special, very highly skilled people that combine both music and conducting skills but social work and community development, administration, and have this massive empathy and understanding of people and dynamics.

“So we make sure that all of our conductors are paid, so what this grant does is it means that you can actually start the program, make sure your conductor is paid, there is a few other kinds of licenses and resources there that we need to pay for as well but it means you can get the ball rolling.

“Once the ball is rolling the ongoing requirement is that you will keep the program going and you will fundraise to actually make sure the program can work in the second year, and third year and hopefully be a longstanding part of the community.”

Applications for seed funding close on 23 November 2016. To apply click here.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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