On behalf of all members of the Arts Health Network NSW ACT, I would like to wish you all a safe and enjoyable holiday period. May it be filled with rest, recreation, and relaxation. Thank you for sharing the hopes and dreams and work of AHNNA and the many many people who bring arts and cultural practice into intersection with health, well being, and care.

The best part of our annual general meeting for 2023 was the open conversation. Members talked with excitement about their predictions for what our field can do into the future, as our work is increasingly understood and taken up in every aspect of health policy and health care. And members also shared their fatigue. Their frustrations with the hoops we have to jump to obtain short term, insecure funding. How little our strong evidence base includes information about what is most impactful in our practice. It was really good to connect with each other.

So that is what we want to do in 2024, and we hope that you will join us. We want to reconnect with our community, at the grassroots level. We want to be true to our participatory commitments and roots. We want to be playful and creative and to draw from this, the joy an inspiration that can fuel our practices.

Anyone can become a member of the network, and it only costs $20. We are only too delighted to have like minded people get involved. Those who don’t want to become members are still welcome at our events, are invited to write for this blog, and to follow our socials. If you want to get involved, please do contact any of the committee members.

Our work of providing access to arts, creative practice and culture for anyone who needs it, of advocacy to support our field, of sharing knowledge about research and practice, and celebrating the work that we all do, is more important than ever.


The first part of 2024 has a lot of opportunities to bring us together. Our first meeting of the year will be IN PERSON on Tuesday 5 March at 4pm at Black Dog Institute. This is because we need to reconnect, to create together, to be actively participatory.

March 21-23 sees two connected conferences in Sydney: the Big Anxiety Research Centre conference, exploring trauma-informed care, and the CREATE Centre conference, on the intersections of arts, education and wellbeing. Watch for some fairly spectacular events associated with each conference!

CAWRI (Creativity, Arts and Wellbeing Research Institute) will host a conference in Melbourne on April 18-20 on Creativity and Health. The CAWRI 2023 conference was really wonderful as you can see from the 2023 program on their website.

Our Annual General Meeting

The Arts Health Network NSW ACT, or AHNNA, had its genesis seven years ago, when a leading non-government organisation (now defunct), the Institute for Creative Health, sent out emails far and wide inviting those interested to join a newly formed “arts and health leadership group” in each state. Exactly what those leadership groups could or should do was entirely unclear, but they at least offered a meeting place, a starting point in the field in Australia. (Exactly what was meant by “the field” was also unclear – but it certainly included many practitioners, some from what used to be termed community cultural development and others who were artists working in communities and sometimes in hospitals or other healthcare settings. Their dedicated, passionate, often far in front of their times work, paved the way for the recent successes of our sector.)

Thanks to a suite of extraordinary artists, practitioners and academics, the leadership group for New South Wales and the ACT shared ideas, concerns, responsibilities, and flights of fancy until we were able to formally incorporate and become who we are today. We have a values, vision, and mission statement that still captures our aspirations – who we want to be, what we want to do and why.

Our mission carried us through our 2023 annual general meeting. We are required by our constitution to hold an annual general meeting every year, and at it, to table reports of our activities and finances, and elect our governing committee. This year the following committee members were elected:

President: Claire Hooker

Vice President: Katherine Boydell

Secretary: Gail Kenning

Treasurer: Alice McAuliffe

Ordinary Committee members: Michelle Jersky, Barbara Doran and Jamee Newland

I cannot thank enough the Committee members and the people who faithfully come to our meetings in shared vision of what we can offer each other into the future. This volunteer work, as always, is the magic that makes everything happen. The biggest thanks are due to our amazing Treasurer and Media Officer Ian Thomson, who has stepped down this year after being the backbone of AHNNA all through COVID-19, and our amazing intern Jessie Zhou, without whom you would not be reading this post.

Here’s to us in 2024!

Claire Hooker
President, 2024


Feature image: Javon Swaby
Posted by Jessie Zhou