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Thursday, 18 September 2008
Page: 8028

Ms PARKE (12:55 PM) —I would like to talk today about the organisation Disability in the Arts, Disadvantage in the Arts Australia, otherwise known as DADAA. DADAA is a not-for-profit organisation based in my electorate of Fremantle, which has projects running in urban and regional centres around Western Australia. Across Western Australia, from the Kimberley region to the south-west, there are around 4,000 people who directly access DADAA’s services. Most of the organisation’s clients have a physical or intellectual disability and about one-third have mental health issues. DADAA’s strength lies in the partnerships it builds with organisations such as local councils, universities, federal government bodies like the Australia Council for the Arts and the Disability Services Commission; businesses such as Rio Tinto, Alcoa and Optima Press; and state government bodies, including Healthway and the Department of Education and Training.

In early August I attended a meeting at DADAA’s central office in Fremantle with the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten. Bill and I were impressed with the scope of the organisation’s activities and projects throughout the state and the professional production levels of their clients’ artworks and stories. On another occasion the Deputy Prime Minister visited DADAA along with my colleague the member for Hasluck, in whose electorate DADAA’s Lost Generation Project is based.

DADAA is the largest organisation of its kind in Australia, even though Western Australia has proportionally the smallest population of people with disabilities. The regionally based projects have been some of the most successful. In regional centres such as Bunbury and Albany in the south of Western Australia, and isolated areas in the Kimberley, DADAA has taken a whole-town approach to the projects. In Albany, DADAA’s five-year Unhiding project was aimed at addressing the invisibility of people with disabilities living in the country. Free art workshops resulted in many art exhibitions around the town, and there were musical and dance performances and community arts events. Participants enjoyed enriched relationships with their local community, and parents and carers were provided some regular relief from their daily care routine, which can often be hard to come by, especially in regional areas.

From the success of Unhiding, which came to a close in 2006, DADAA moved on to the Lost Generation Project. Its goal was to uncover the life stories of people with intellectual disabilities who have been institutionalised for a large period of their lives. The Lost Generation Project aims to provide the mostly older participants with a means of introducing themselves to their local community through the medium of film. The project has been based in the City of Swan, in the electorate of Hasluck, since 2007 and, with the assistance of talented, professional filmmakers, composers, producers and artists, DADAA has produced almost 50 short films about people with disabilities living around the north-eastern outer suburbs of Perth.

One of the short films that Bill and I saw on our visit to DADAA’s office was the story of Malcolm Harrold, a 45-year-old man with autism. Malcolm lives with a carer but often goes on picnics and outings with his mother, who described their communication barrier as a ‘glass box’ which allows actions and emotions to be conveyed but muffles the verbal communication, which is usually such an important part of any relationship. However, the affection between Malcolm and his mum is obvious.

Another film, entitled Sandscapes, centred on David Broderick and his passion for moulding and manipulating sand. Sixty-two-year-old David is blind and loves nothing more than to sit in his sandpit or on the riverbank and slowly mould the sand around him into hills and valleys, smooth crevices and bumpy hollows. The filmmakers managed to convey a sense of meditation in David’s tactile connection with the sand and gave the audience an understanding of what it would be like to have to replace your eyesight with just the sense of touch.

The Lost Generation Project films have been screened in exhibitions at the local cinema and local art galleries with support and funding of over $50,000 from local businesses and organisations. As a result of these community displays, instead of being ‘people with disabilities’, they are now ‘storytellers’ who make interesting contributors to the local community. The participants own the rights to the short films and for many it is a personal advocacy tool to introduce a new side of themselves—their passions, their history and their personalities—to other people.

DADAA also has a three-year research project called Disseminate, which aims to develop a framework for evaluating arts and health programs and to map the best current arts and health practices in Western Australia and Australia in order to provide much-needed evidence to support claims about the contribution of arts in addressing disability and mental illness in a community setting. DADAA is a vital part of Western Australia’s community arts network, bringing people with disabilities and communities together through art.

Question agreed to.