Arts / Colouring marathon challenges family violence

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An Aboriginal girl adds colour to a picture outline.

YOUNG rural women from campaigning arts organisation Big hART’s “Project O” (named after “Hamlet’s” Ophelia) initiative to raise awareness of family violence will help launch the art marathon, “Colourathon”, at the National Gallery of Australia at the end of November.

Canberrans have seen the results of Big hART’s work in high-profile productions at The Playhouse such as “Namatjira”, “Hipbone Sticking Out” and “Ghosts in the Scheme”, but are probably unaware of the company’s ongoing work with young women in Roebourne, WA; Cooma, NSW; Wynyard, Tasmania and Canberra itself to address the all-pervasive question of such violence.

With the motto “We Drive Change”, Big hART typically involves itself in all aspects of the communities in which it works. The “Namatjira” play toured Australia and as far as London, but the underlying purpose was always clear, to set up the Namatjira Legacy Trust and to regain the copyright that, with the help of philanthropist Dick Smith, they were able to do.

Some large media organisations have been quick to claim credit, but Gloria Pannka, granddaughter of Namatjira, makes it clear where credit is due, saying: “A very big thank you on behalf of the Namatjira families to Big hART. Without your help and the help of the lawyers we wouldn’t have got it back”.

“Colourathon” will be a 12-hour, art-making marathon from 9am-9pm on the day involving more than 40 young women, as young as 12, from all over the country.

It will be launched by the 2015 Australian of the Year and domestic-violence campaigner, Rosie Batty, at the NGA. The Colourathon for Corporates Kit will also be launched on the marathon day, offering businesses an opportunity to engage in a response to family violence with staff colouring-in.

Artists are to the forefront in this campaign. George Rose has created murals with the young women of Roebourne, now being developed into an augmented reality, while indigenous textile and fibre artist Elisa Jane Carmichael, from Queensland, has been working with Canberra young women, thanks to the backing of long-time Big hART supporter Canberra Theatre Centre and a residency from Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres.

There will also be weaving, live music and films taking place throughout the event, and from 4pm-7pm the public will also be able to join in and colour for change.

The marathon picks up on the global trend of colouring-in for mindfulness and well-being. Every hour of colouring-in will raise funds for specialist childhood trauma training for staff in women’s shelters, much-needed, as statistics show that one in three women over the age of 15 in Australia have experienced physical violence.

And Big hART’s founder and CEO Scott Rankin has an “O” play in development, too, a reframing of Ophelia’s narrative, driven by young women, where the audience is invited to watch as her father, her brother and her lover, Hamlet, rob her of everything.

The “Colouring in Art” marathon, in the NGA Sculpture Garden, 4pm-7pm, Thursday, November 30. All welcome. A national crowdfunding campaign is at


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Helen Musa
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