CEO and founder of Canberra charity youth services provider, Kulture Break, Francis Owusu has for 17 years seen how his organisation’s dance-based programs have improved the mental health outcomes of its youthful participants.
“I’ve seen kids that have come from broken homes, really challenging situations, and they’ve been able to unlock their future aspirations,” he said.
“I’ve seen them build the self-confidence to be able to connect with people. Kids who were shy and afraid of being around people, who are now able to present, connect and be social.”
Kulture Break has now acquired funding from the Australian Foundation for Mental Health Research (AFFIRM) for a research project to be conducted by Western Sydney University (WSU) on the mental health impact their arts programs have on young people.
Mr Owusu is excited for the opportunity to validate what he’s seen through evidence-based research, and better understand the impact of the dance practices in their program on the lives of participants.
“To have a university, and the foundation of funding to bring this whole thing together really now provides another platform for us to take our message to a broader audience,” Mr Owusu said.
AFFIRM chairman James Service AM said he is impressed by the practicality of Kulture Break’s programs.
“It’s actually something people will be actively involved in, they won’t have to do it with their tablet or their laptop; they’ll actually do it.
“It’s a face-to-face thing; it hopefully gets some of these young people away from social media. The pressure is lessened, and they find different pathways to deal with anxiety and depression,” Mr Service said.
The research will be conducted by Dr Karin Mackay, a lecturer in the School of Education at WSU.
Titled Dance for Life: Expressive Arts for Cultural Wellbeing with Youth, the research will be conducted over eight to 12 months.
“I don’t come in with a hugely fixed idea … it’s a participatory action methodology, so it’s always about including people in the research, working with people,” Dr Mackay said.
There are three aspects of what Kulture Break does that she sees great value in.
“It’s the arts, and using the arts to connect people, but then there’s a third layer which is the acknowledgement of people’s cultural identity.
“To combine that with arts as a form of expression … it can unlock a way of expressing your cultural identity, and your identity as an individual.”