Creative engagement by wounded, injured or ill Australian defence force personnel : a study of the impacts, benefits, challenges, and outputs of the ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills program

  • Geoff Grey

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In Australia and elsewhere, there is an increased public awareness of the mental health issues facing wounded, injured and ill armed forces and emergency services personnel. Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs data show that, as of March 2019, some 7950 Afghanistan war veterans had been accepted by the Department as having a disability (Veterans’ Affairs, 2019). The 2010 Australian Defence Force (ADF) Mental Health and Wellbeing Study report shows that the rate of suicidality in the ADF for those who had transitioned from Defence was more than double that of the general Australian community (McFarlane et al., 2011).
    While there has long been an extensive range of medical, psychological, physiological, spiritual and physical programs available to ADF personnel, allied health practices, particularly creative arts interventions, are still relatively new in this context. Furthermore, research is warranted on their effectiveness, and on the ways in which such modalities may act to offer improved outcomes for military personnel and veterans.
    Since 2015 – funded by the Department of Defence – hundreds of wounded, injured and ill ADF personnel have attended the month-long, immersive ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills (ADF ARRTS) Program held biannually at the University of Canberra. From 2018 the program has also been available for Australian Federal Police and Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services Officers, and from 2019 to select personnel recently transitioned from Defence who are nominated through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
    Through examining a case study, of the first three years of ADF ARRTS Program cohorts, incorporating a responsive evaluation framework and thematic analysis, this thesis addresses the question of how creative arts programs can function to improve outcomes for serving and transitioning military personnel. Reflecting upon experiences through creative engagement and enunciating them from very personal perspectives is far-removed from the ‘learned responses’ of the military environment. The research findings show that feeling comfortable with reflecting on life’s challenges, and sharing those with others, can quite rapidly provide an awakening for ADF personnel to see themselves as alternative identities to the ones they have in uniform. Findings also suggest that the ADF ARRTS Program enhances confidence and trust in others, leading to longer-term wellbeing benefits, whether career transitioning from the uniform or remaining in service.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJordan Williams (Supervisor) & Kate Holland (Supervisor)

    Cite this