A national arts company has been giving the most vulnerable people in rural and regional Australia a powerful voice and fresh hope for 25 years.

Story Amanda Burdon   Photo Heath Holden

It’s not surprising to learn that one of Australia’s most successful arts companies – Big hART – was founded in the ailing Tasmanian timber town of Burnie. It was 1992 and the paper and pulp mill that sustained the local economy was threatening closure. Young people were on the back foot, crime was on the rise, and the entire region was in the doldrums. It was just the kind of challenge the Big hART team relishes.

For while art takes centre stage in each one of Big hART’s groundbreaking projects, it is the social change that the national company inspires that draws applause long after the curtain falls. Since those humble origins 25 years ago, with a project to support Burnie’s young offenders, the company has left an indelible mark on 50 communities throughout rural and regional Australia, producing performance pieces, films, videos and music programs that are equal parts arts and community-development productions. As a result it was named the 2017 Telstra Tasmanian Business of the Year.

“We mostly engage with marginalised people to tell the kinds of stories that no-one else wants to tell,” says Big hART co-founder Scott Rankin, a playwright and director. “Art is so much more than bread and circuses; creativity and imagination are the pathways to a meaningful life. We work with communities to provide opportunities for creative expression, to awaken their hidden talents and drive generational change.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #116

Outback Magazine: December/January 2018