Julia Anwar McHenry
Thesis: The Arts and Social Wellbeing in Australian Rural Communities
This project provides an innovative exploration of the relationship between the arts and social wellbeing in Australian rural communities and will make a substantial and original contribution in this area.
Drawing on a range of different social, economic and geographical contexts, the study utilises qualitative and quantitative research and analysis to provide new insights into the nature of creative and receptive participation in the arts at a regional, sub-regional and local level.
This project will not only build on and add to existing research on the social organisation of rural communities, it will provide new insights into social wellbeing (including social capital, resilience and identity) across a diverse set of rural communities and examine the nature and role of the arts within this context.
The study also addresses industry calls for more comprehensive research in this area and will provide a basis for more effective policy in the arts and regional development.
Why my research is important
The social wellbeing of Australia’s rural communities is of ongoing concern and importance to governments, communities and businesses - particularly when considering how the social wellbeing of these communities has been affected by social and economic change as a result of economic restructuring and rural reform.
It is held that the arts have the potential to contribute to wellbeing by fostering social connectivity, senses of identity, community cohesion, social inclusion, trust and reciprocity. However, the evidence of the impact of the arts outside of a clinical and therapeutic setting is limited in terms of quantitative data.
There is relatively little research examining the hypothesised link between the arts and social wellbeing outcomes, and this research is often hindered by lack of resources, knowledge and the capacity of community and volunteer-based arts organisations to carry out reliable, quality evaluation.