Case studies

Our impact

For a Big hART project to be successful it has to make an impact in five linked domains - Individuals, Communities, Arts, Policy, and Knowledge Transfer. These case studies are intended as snapshots - taken from projects to illustrate one of these domains in action.

Ngapartji NgapartjiArts

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Ngapartji Ngapartji

The Arts can be invaluable for attracting attention to hidden social issues.

We produce a wide range of art – theatre, documentary, exhibitions, events, games, apps, animations, concerts, installations, radio, podcasts and more. Our projects are always searching for authentic, intimate narratives and the unique voice of each community, so we can make art that speaks powerfully from high-profile platforms, such as festivals.

Big hART designed the Ngapartji Ngapartji project to raise awareness of Indigenous language loss, and the lack of an national Indigenous languages policy. In order to create visibility around these issues, we launched a language and culture teaching portal, offered audiences the chance to learn Pitjantjatjara through a small teaching show, created short teaching films, as well as music and CDs with a Pitjantjatjara choir. We made a high profile documentary, and finally, a large award winning touring show for national festivals. By creating this range of art products, we attracted exceptional media and gained high level political interest in the issue. This assisted in driving a new Indigenous language policy and increased funding to help prevent language loss.

The Arts are a critical domain in Big hART’s championing of vital social issues.


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Community development is a critical domain in Big hART’s methodology.

Communities are never static, they are continually changing, both positively and negatively. If an individual shifts their social trajectory, overcoming disadvantage, their community’s positive response is critical to helping to sustain change.

Big hART has worked in Wynyard for over 10 years – a small town on the North West Coast of Tasmania with a population of 5000. It is in the poorest electorate, in the poorest state in Australia. Big hART partners with community organisations to develop and deliver transformative project designs tackling issues ranging from: young people and democracy, farming and isolation, re-engagement in education, creative industry career pathways, intergenerational exchange, long term unemployment, and family violence prevention.

Big hART funds these projects nationally and internationally, delivers them locally and evaluates the results for both trajectories of individuals, and attitudinal shifts in the local community.

Big hART’s work with communities helps drive generational change.

Yijala YalaPolicy

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Yijala Yala

Influencing policy and the national discourse is central to Big hART’s projects.

 Big hART’s layered approach emphasises the importance of evaluation and research. We actively try to make the evidence available to Government and other forums. Our projects create powerful art, and raise the issue to the general public. We build personal relationships with Government Ministers and advisers, then use the media in positive ways to draw attention to our evidence, impact and innovative approaches. Through this approach we promote generational change.

During a recent Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, Big hART presented a panel discussion at the Wheeler’s Centre examining incarceration rates and justice reinvestment – as an illustration of impact. The panel involved the business sector, Indigenous elders, young people, and Big hART workers.

This public forum was part of a strategy involving: MURRU Concert (songs written with prisoners in Roebourne Prison), which opened the festival in Federation Square, and Hipbone Sticking Out (the story of John Pat, whose death in a Roebourne police cell was a catalyst for the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody). Big hART’s multiple festival presentations featured prominently in the media and added to the public discourse around these issues, assisting the campaign and lobbying.

 The policy domain of Big hART projects is vital to driving long term change.


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The progress of individuals on projects is fundamental to Big hART’s work.

 Big hART’s focuses on ‘the gift’ of their personal story –  illuminating it, valuing it, and sharing it. Participants, if well supported, make use of these opportunities – understanding themselves, learning new skills, building new community networks, and developing agency. As a result, they make positive choices about their social trajectory. It takes time, and requires a sophisticated and layered non-welfare approach.

Angus started using at age 9. Disengaged from education, and coping with anger management problems, he was in and out of the juvenile justice system. To stay out of prison, Angus was finally sentenced by a judge to spend time with Big hART – working alongside a team of professionals, touring a theatre show about his community.

He was required to stay on task, document his achievements and return to court months later to present his video as ‘evidence of progress’ – or go to prison. Angus excelled, starring in the show and learning many skills. He successfully returned to court, impressed the judge and ceased offending. Angus repeated this commitment across a number of projects, and Big hART remained committed to him for 3 years. He is now excelling in a top boarding school in a capital city, seizing opportunities, and changing his social trajectory.

Providing individual support to participants through these changes is crucial to Big hART’s success.


Tasmanian Premier’s DeptKnowledge

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Tasmanian Premier’s Dept

Successful approaches need to be shared to avoid reinventing the wheel.

 Big hART’s projects begin with research and development. We then trial new approaches, deliver the project, evaluate, and then seek to transfer the knowledge of what works.

Corporate memory in government, funding bodies, and teaching institutions runs in short cycles and works in silos. In response, Big hART now seeks to share findings with other organisations, Government departments, PHD students, academics, communities and other forums. Our resources are made available through placements, masterclasses, mentoring, publications, essays and occasionally through events and evocative interventions.

 During the multi-year Lucky project, single young mothers from Tasmania’s North West Coast were invited to visit the Premier Department and meet with the Premier and his cabinet to discuss the success of their project. A cacophony of toddlers and strollers greeted the Premier, his team and the media. In the midst of an exhibition of their hand made prints, they made an eloquent speech and then presented the Premier and Cabinet with hand-cast sterling silver jewellery, modelled on simple pre-school pasta craft and made by the mothers with a professional jeweller.

The intervention was to emphasise in a tactile way, as the politicians wore the cufflinks or necklaces, that the policy they create affects the most vulnerable in the community – young mothers and their young babies on the poverty line. It was a moving reminder.

 The domain of knowledge transfer adds important value to Big hART’s work.

Hipbone Sticking OutArts

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Hipbone Sticking Out

The Arts assist communities to discover the gift of their narrative for the nation.

We produce a wide range of art – theatre, documentary, exhibitions, events, games, apps, animations, concerts, installations, radio, podcasts, and more. Our projects are always searching for authentic, intimate narratives and the unique voice of each community, so we can make art that speaks powerfully from high-profile platforms, such as festivals.

Communities often hold within their past a hidden narrative gift, which can speak loudly when mentored. Roebourne, in Western Australia, is one such iconic community. Together we created a large powerful theatre piece Hipbone Sticking Out, which tells the story of how global trade swept through history from 1602 to the present, and changed the Pilbara forever. Hipbone combined internationally renowned actors with local performers on a lavish set. From the opening scene European theatrical artifice crumbles, and by the end it is the local story, told with great simplicity by local voices, which touched the audiences deeply. Through fierce comedy, exquisite visuals, and ensemble generosity, a great sadness sitting unresolved in the heart of Roebourne spoke powerfully to the country about intercultural forgiveness. The guts of the story came from the narrator – John Pat – a young man who died in custody in Roebourne in 1983. His family were part of the performance every night, and even though the story of his passing is full of tragedy and sadness, in the nightly re-telling, it became a gift from the community to audiences around the country, as well as part of the local healing process.

 The Arts are a critical domain in Big hART’s work – transmitting the hidden story of many oppressed communities in the country’s narrative.


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Every individual has the right to a voice in society. This is their cultural right.

As well as focusing on ‘the gift’ of an individual’s personal story –  Big hART projects champion the right of each person to have an input into shaping the narrative of the place where they live, by voicing their story. Mentoring participants on projects, teaching new skills, and building community support for individuals as they make positive choices about their social trajectory, is key to our work.

More than 8000 participants have been involved in Big hART projects, and many individuals stand out for the way they have seized the opportunities placed in front of them. Often these person journeys, are as much about shifting aspects of identity  – ‘who am I’ – as shifting a person’s circumstances.

Jill – one of the first young people involved in Big hART’s first project – came from a very dysfunctional home, locked up indoors, abused, she was a very angry young woman. It would take squad cars of police to contain her when she was angry. She remains the only woman to escape from prison in Tasmania. Jill came into the project and her story became central to GIRL – a show being created with at risk young people. After a number of projects, she transitioned to employment, independent living, marriage. Once, years later, she phoned a friend in Big hART late at night from a nursing home where she was employed to say “Guess what, they’ve put me in charge of the drugs cabinet!”. 25 years on she hasn’t reoffended, and her community embrace her.

 Big hART works from the premise, “It’s harder to hurt someone if you know their story.” This is how cultural rights work – providing protection to the individual to assist them to thrive.


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Social policy is another form of narrative.

Each Big hART project has a burning issue at its centre. Our projects are designed to create powerful art, raise the issue in the public’s mind, build strategic relationships that can champion generational change, and use the media in positive ways to draw attention to produce more impact in the policy domain.

 Big hART’s Namatjira project is iconic, and has the capacity to speak to important national policy issues. Working with the Namatjira family we built strong strategic approaches, including: discussions with Ministers for Indigenous Affairs and opposition Ministers – public service staff, panel discussions in Parliament House – promoting support for remote Aboriginal art centres, Q&As after theatre performances in each town or city, publishing of scripts and papers, talks at high schools, teachers notes, launches at national museums, conferences, short films and a feature documentary – all canvasing iconic issues of justice.

This policy work is always tied in with the hidden issue each project is working to bring to public attention. For example, Yijala Yala addressed incarceration rates of Indigenous young people, Acoustic Life of Sheds addressed rural decline, Ngapartji Ngapartji addressed Indigenous language policy, and Blue Angel – slavery at sea.

 This policy audience is central to impact and long term outcomes on Big hART’s most successful projects.

CTC ResidencyKnowledge

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CTC Residency

When resources are scarce, it’s easy for organisations to become territorial and not share knowledge.

The Community Cultural Development sector is a secret that is too well kept. Its time has come. Well-designed transformative projects provide many of the tools necessary to unite divided communities. Yet we are not good at sharing our knowledge, impact or success stories.

Compounding this, corporate memory in government, funding bodies, and teaching institutions runs in short cycles and works in silos. They can be late in keeping up with progressive approaches. In response, Big hART actively seeks to share evaluated evidence and best practice models as widely as possible.

Big hART is a company without walls. We partner with other institutions to bring knowledge, skills and projects in exchange for space to work, or programming in theatre seasons or screenings. As part of Big hART’s Company in Residence at the Canberra Theatre Centre, we have staged Namatjira, Hipbone Sticking Out, Ngapartji Ngapartji and Musuem of the Long Weekend in the subscription seasons. Alongside this programing Big hART has presented masterclasses, Q & As and panels with local artists and arts workers, as part of our interest in exchanging knowledge across the sector – in particular, our approach to designing and creating large scale, long term projects of consequence. Big hART and Canberra Theatre Centre are currently partnering on a capsule program of Project O, run from the CTC building, involving young women from Canberra. Collaborating on project design and outreach, not just outputs, provides both organisations with the opportunity to share knowledge and expertise to benefit the participants and wider community.

Successful approaches need to be shared to avoid reinventing the wheel, and to expand the knowledge base of the Community Cultural Development sector.