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Arts and Health

Arts and Health focuses on the ways in which creative practice can contribute to enhancing wellbeing and to recovery from exposure to traumatic experience. Researchers employ a health humanities approach to engage with individuals, communities and health professionals.

We aim to pursue research and publication opportunities around our approach to creative arts and injury/illness where we focus on process, not content. This contrasts with the extensive body of psychological research on, for example, expressive writing where the content of the writing is prescribed and necessarily involves participants recounting traumatic experiences. Participants with whom we work may choose to creatively work with past trauma or may choose to work with seemingly neutral content—the value is in imagining themselves as a person practicing new skills and thereby seeing themselves as more than an injured or ill person.We

In other words, we use creative arts in ways which seek to overcome the 'deficit' focus on people with injury or illness, particularly in how individuals see themselves. We seek to build quantitative and qualitative evidence of the efficacy of that approach for transition—transition out of organisations, transition to new roles within organisations, back into working life after trauma, prevention of trauma and so on.

"As many as 30 per cent of veterans returning from active service develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental health disorders are the leading medical condition correlated with disengagement from military service after deployment. One of the major impediments to effective treatment is reluctance of those with symptoms to seek assistance. The use of creative arts therapy shows significant promise in reducing immediate symptoms of intrusive thoughts and hyper arousal and helping to overcome avoidance and emotional numbing."
Ian Drayton, 2016, 'Returning the service: the healing use of creative arts', in Trauma-related stress in Australia: Essays by leading Australian thinkers and researchers, Australia 21 LTD)

Research leaders


Regeneration is a collaborative response to complex traumas experienced by Australia’s rural communities from drought and bushfires to COVID-19. This project is funded by The Hospital Research Foundation with funds raised by the Magwill Foundation – the charitable entity of Magda Szubanski and Will Connolly.

Follow Regeneration on Facebook

Defence ARRTS (Arts for Recovery Resilience Teamwork and Skills)

The Faculty of Arts and Design, through the Centre for Creative & Cultural Research, has been contracted by the Department of Defence to mentor serving military personnel with illness or injury. We work with military men and women to assist them in building skills in creative writing and in visual arts as a way of telling their stories. The Defence ARRTS participants produce a public performance and exhibition night which is the culmination of their four-week program. This is attended by their families and by a wide range of local and national dignitaries ranging from the Assistant Minister for Defence, to the chiefs of the various Services, and local and national politicians. Evaluations so far have shown significant psychological and psychosocial benefits from engaging in the four-week program.

See the e-Gallery website showcasing some of the outcomes of participants creative engagement, along with the personal story behind each work.

Project team:

Mr Ian Drayton is an ex-serving member of the Royal Australian Army and remains deeply interested in military history and culture. He holds a Bachelor of Business and a Master of Tertiary Education Management and through his position as a Faculty General Manager at the University of Canberra and has been able to implement what has become a formal five-year creative arts project with the Department of Defence.

Associate Professor Tony Eaton is an Associate Professor in Writing and Literary Studies. He has been writing professionally for children, young adults, and adults since the late-1990s, to date he has published eleven novels. He is the Vice President of the Australasian Children's Literature Association for Research (ACLAR).

Associate Professor Paul Magee is a poet and researcher in poetics at the University of Canberra. He is author of Stone Postcard (John Leonard Press 2014), Cube Root of Book (John Leonard Press 2006) and the ethnographic monograph From Here to Tierra del Fuego (University of Illinois Press 2000).

Dr Sam Hinton has more than 20 years experience in digital and internet-related media. Sam is the co-author of "Understanding Social Media" (2013) and is an active researcher in technical and social aspects of computational and digital technologies.

Dr Vahri McKenzie is is an educator, artist and scholar whose work frames creative engagement as a model of, and practice for, ways of being together in a complex world. Vahri is Research Fellow in Arts and Health at the University of Canberra’s Centre for Creative and Cultural Research.

Dr Owen Bullock holds a PhD in Creative Writing. His research interests include poetry and process; creative arts and wellbeing; semiotics and poetry; prose poetry; collaboration; and haikai literature.

Creative Arts and Rural Health Initiative (CARHI)

Two faculties joined hands to provide holistic mental health support for drought-affected rural communities, with a team of researchers leading a pilot initiative in Condobolin in November. Faculty of Arts & Design (FAD), and Faculty of Health staff and students travelled to the rural NSW town in the University’s Mobile Health Clinic. The big white-and-blue health hub served as an easily-recognisable nerve centre for the week-long program activities, which ran from 19 to 23 November. Funded by the National Farmers' Federation, the program has at its heart a series of creative arts workshops. These will be informed by the ARRTS creative arts recovery program that the University has run for Department of Defence veterans suffering from trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Churchill Fellowship

Ian Drayton was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study the application of creative arts in the rehabilitation and recovery of wounded, injured & ill Defence personnel suffering combat-related PTSD. The project aimed to benchmark similar programs in the UK and USA to further existing recovery strategies of the Australian Defence Force. You can download Ian's final report for the Churchill Fellowship here.

Expanding Health Humanities: Links and limits for creative public health

Thursday, 21 April 2022, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm AEST
Ann Harding Conference Centre, University of Canberra

Health Humanities Network Roundtable

Thursday 29 July, 2021 2-5pm (UC staff and HDRs only)
Ann Harding Conference Centre, Building 24
University of Canberra

Empathy and Creativity Symposium

Friday 15 June, 2018
University of Canberra 
Enquiries: Kylie Fitzpatrick,

Turning Point: Creative Arts and Trauma Stakeholder Symposium

7 June 2017, 9:30–17:00
Ann Harding Conference Centre, Building 24
University of Canberra

In the media


Bullock, O & Williams, J 2021, 'Reading and trauma: how the openness of contemporary poetry and haiku facilitates engagement', New Writing.

Bullock, 2021, 'Poetry and trauma: exercises for creating metaphors and using sensory detail', New Writing, pp. 12.

Magee, P 2021, 'The links between creative writing and traumatic thought', New Writing, pp. 1-11.

Ian Drayton, with Jessica Abramovic and Samuel Byrnand, 'Harnessing creative arts to treat trauma', Axon: Creative Explorations,

Trauma-related stress in Australia contains 27 short essays by leading Australian and US clinicians, researchers, administrators and observers of the stress that often follows exposure to, or involvement in, violence and brutality. It includes essays contributed from UC's Mr Ian Drayton and Dr Dominic Upton.

Exploring the Use of Creative Arts to manage and promote recovery from Combat-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Final Report by Churchill Fellow, Mr Ian Drayton.


Download Bibliography (PDF 520Kb)
This bibliography has been compiled for researchers and practitioners interested in Creative Arts Therapies and combat-related PTSD. It is in five sections:

  • Creative Arts Therapies and PTSD;
  • Creativity and wellbeing;
  • PTSD and Moral Injury;
  • Posttraumatic Growth; and
  • eHealth and PTSD.

At a later date, it may be expanded to include PTSD in the emergency services, domestic violence, civilian victims of war, refugees and natural disasters.

Related research

Body Mapping: A Personal and Professional Artful Inquiry Process,The International Journal of Professional Management Special Edition, Volume 12, Issue 3, 2017

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