Partnerships through the arts for improved literacy and wellbeing 

Linguists from Numbulwar and project leader, Anja Tait (fourth from left), enjoy ArtStories display at MAGNT Discovery Centre

Linguists from Numbulwar dancing at launch of ArtStories at MAGNT on 13 September

ArtStories, an exciting initiative in Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) Learning Research Group, was officially launched on 13 September at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT).

ArtStories is a school-based educational research initiative which will evaluate the impacts of arts participation on wellbeing and literacy. Students, school staff and families are participating in a range of arts activities to create and tell stories of self, family, community and dreams at five schools: Wagaman, Wulagi, Howard Springs, Humpty Doo, and Numbulwar Community Education Centre.

Artworks created during the first three months of ArtStories activities were on display during September at MAGNT’s Discovery Centre, with artwork displayed and activities for school groups conducted on the lawns.

“A key component of ArtStories is partnerships… built over time through trust and respect,” said project leader Anja Tait at the launch.

ArtStories is funded for three years chiefly by the Australia Council for the Arts and the Westpac Foundation. The rich diversity of partnerships that have been established through ArtStories includes federal funding bodies, Territory government agencies, community musicians and school communities.

Professor Carole Kayrooz, dean of education, health and science at CDU, described ArtStories as an innovative approach to education research, strengthened by partnerships and participatory approaches.

NT Department of Employment, Education and Training (NTDEET) is a major partner in ArtStories with two school well-being officer positions defined as ‘Arts-based SWBO’ and allocated to ArtStories. Susan Bowden, general manager of student services division of NTDEET, congratulated Edel Musco and Catherine Threlfal, for their success in these new and innovative positions. Ms Bowden also outlined how ArtStories aligns with major goals of SSD ultimately “contributing to safety and wellbeing in school communities”.

Although ArtStories is in the initial phase there are positive outcomes already. Erin Evans, a parent of an eight year old boy participating in ArtStories at Howard Springs, has noticed improvements in her son’s reading and social interactions. There are also more opportunities to develop better relationships within the school community and at home through ArtStories activities.

At the Numbulwar Community Education Centre, ArtStories has facilitated partnerships between linguists who teach the traditional Wubuy language in the school and members of the Yilila Band to write songs and chants for the younger students. Barbara McCarthy, MLA, representing Paul Henderson, NT Minister for Education, described how ArtStories “links people across generations” and “creates pride in identity and culture”. Musicians and linguists from Numbulwar expressed their happiness with this interaction and sang a song from their ArtStories collection.

Messages at the launch from Senator Rod Kemp, Federal Minister for the Arts and Sport, and the Australia Council for the Arts were congratulatory and expressed “confidence that the project’s legacy will advance sustainable cultural development of the participating communities”.

For more information go to

Contacts: Dr Bronwyn Myers: or Linda Cuttriss, Coordinator Community Engagement: 08 8946 6336 or

* Small image: Gathering drum - children around the gathering drum participating in ArtStories activities at MAGNT

All photos by Kara Burns