Rehabilitation results through creativity

This article has photo gallery Published on CMDR Chloe Griggs (author)

Location(s): Canberra

Topic(s): Health, Fitness and Wellbeing, Training

Sixteen Defence personnel have unleashed their creativity as part of a program designed to support the recovery from health and wellbeing issues. (photo: Unknown)
Sixteen Defence personnel have unleashed their creativity as part of a program designed to support the recovery from health and wellbeing issues.

Sixteen Defence personnel have unleashed their creativity as part of a program designed to support the recovery from health and wellbeing issues.
 
The Australian Defence Force Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills Program runs a four week activity twice a year that turns the tables on traditional therapy.
 
Held at the University of Canberra, participants build their self-confidence through acting and performance, music and rhythm, creative writing and visual arts.
 
Four Navy members joined Air Force and Army colleagues to deliver impressive sculptures, death metal compositions, alliterative poetry and stand-up comedy routines.
 
Able Seaman Marine Technician Amy Cooley had never considered herself an artist, but the program has certainly turned her into one, with multiple pieces the result of the intensive workshop.
 
She had her father on hand at the program’s ‘showcase’ evening which allows friends, families and dignitaries to celebrate the achievements of the participants.
 
An Army veteran of 47 years, Richard Cooley looked on proudly as the visitors talked to his daughter about her work.
 
“When Amy’s been given tasks outside her trade role, she has proven she can excel,” Mr Cooley said.
 
“What I like about this is she has been able to pour out what she wanted to into the whole process.”
 
His favourite piece was one she did on only day four of the program, a life-size self-portrait incorporating tattoo script and oriental waveforms.
 
“I see it as a really healing thing… I can see a total difference to when she has been home on leave, it means a lot,” he said.
 
Able Seaman Cooley said she was encouraged to participate by her divisional staff and commanding officer as part of her recovery from a combination of mental and physical ailments.
 
“Day one, I wanted to leave, I was daunted and shocked, as I had put a lot of effort into disassociating myself from it all to deal with everything,” she said.
 
Music was her first choice, but she said the creative arts program had really worked for her, in all its forms as it had forced her to let go, and know that not everything is perfect the first time.
 
“I could not sew the day before I got here, but with the help of my mentor I was doing embroidery, and I made an outfit for my dachshund,” she said.
 
She didn’t finish one piece, a stone carving, also of a dachshund, but she agreed that the program was just the start of her creative journey.
 
“I am going to continue to draw, I find it quite calming,” she said.
 
“To learn to let it go, to have that freedom in only four weeks, with the supportive team, I think that’s really worked for me.
 
“Learning that it’s ok to make mistakes has opened my eyes to bigger and better things.”
 
Leading Seaman Communication and Information Systems Rebecca Lally was one of the three Navy members that took on writing and is well on her way to an impressive collection of short stories. 
 
Titled A Mariner’s Guide for Girls, she took to the stage and spoke of experiences in the Middle East.

Mentored by professional artists, actors and creative staff, participants are supported by psychologists in activities that assist their movement, speech and attention span.

Head of the program, Brigadier Wayne Goodman, said the fifth iteration was a result of the success of previous programs.
 
“Participants have various injuries ranging from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to physical injuries and illnesses and they benefit from improvements in health, increased self-esteem and motivation,” Brigader Goodman said.
 
“The program assists those suffering from workplace and life stress. No prior experience or training in the arts is required.”
 
Serving Australian Defence Force members can apply to participate through their chains of command, and the program is one of a number of rehabilitation activities offered within service.