Melton Festival for Healthy Living – Evaluation Project

28 September 2015 By Sandy Guest, LV GreatConnections Volunteer

As a client of Leadership Victoria (LV), the Melton Festival of Healthy Living (MFHL) evaluation sub-committee asked for assistance in producing a summary of their program’s progress and journey to date, in order to provide insight into achievements and learnings.

Currently two LV GreatConnections volunteers, Tracey Jarvis-Ball and Sandy Guest, are working with the sub-committee to complete a comprehensive mid-term evaluation report.

The Melton Festival of Healthy Living plans to use the report to attract further investment and ensure learnings are incorporated into the remaining time of the program.

What is the Festival for Healthy Living (FHL)?

The Festival for Healthy Living (FHL) is an innovative and creative program initiated by RCH (Royal Children’s Hospital), but managed locally in each participating community.  The FHL’s aim is to build capacity of schools and communities to promote the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and their families through the performing and visual arts.

With a history spanning more than 16 years the program has provided a creative opportunity for 117 schools in over 35 communities across Victoria to promote a whole school approach to wellbeing. It is now a complex and in-depth program, structured over a three year model, where teams of professional performing and visual artists work in projects across metropolitan and regional Victoria.

A fundamental aspect of the FHL program is strengthening the sense of community partnership. The partnerships that develop between key stakeholder agencies, organisations and schools at leadership and practitioner levels are critical. Key implementers of a FHL program include teachers, performing and visual artists, health professionals and community development workers, all working with children and young people and their families in schools and community settings. By working in local communities the program focuses on building bridges between parts of a community that are often disconnected.

Image: Performers at the Festival for Healthy Living

Why Melton?

Over the past two years the Royal Children’s Hospital has worked with a number of local Melton health and education providers to develop and deliver a specifically targeted Festival for Healthy Living (FHL) program. The program was deliberately targeted to the Melton South community which is increasingly becoming a diverse multi-cultural community, growing fast but with significantly lower than average; income levels, educational attainment, employment and skills base, resulting in significant social and economic disadvantage.  It has a significantly higher proportion of young families, with increasing numbers of African and Pacific Island families recently moving into the area, and is facing a range of issues including racism.

What was the Dream Big Festival?

Tracey and Sandy were invited to attend the Dream Big Festival, held in Melton South on 16 September 2015, which was the culmination of the past two years of work involving over 700 students from seven local schools. Under a big top they enjoyed the performances and artwork of students developed in partnership with professional artists, their teachers and health workers. The performances and artwork exhibited all had underlying themes that promoted well-being and a sense of optimism that life’s challenges can be tackled positively.  It was a privilege to observe the enthusiasm and talents of the students, their families and the wider Melton South Community in action.

What is Mental Health Promotion and why is it important for children and young people?

Mental Health Promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over their own mental health, and to improve their state of well-being.  It  is seen as a positive resource for everyday life. Working in the school context provides a significant opportunity to provide mental health promotion for children and adolescents. Mental Health Promotion in schools is a great investment in the present and future mental health of the whole community.

It was great to observe a community working with the experts from the Royal Children’s Hospital using the arts to make a positive impact on a community.  It was a great example of Leadership Victoria supporting a multi-faceted project which is having a significant positive impact on its community - community leadership in action!

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