Beyond Empathy (BE) uses the arts to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in regional Australia. BE supports artists working in Community, Arts and Cultural Development (CACD) to create new opportunities for marginalised people to tell their stories and craft new futures. BE focuses on a range of art forms including film, digital media, music, dance, theatre, public art installation and small and large-scale visual arts.
BE uses multiple interventions over many years to break cycles of disadvantage and embed new skills and attitudes to feed into both personal and artistic outcomes. Using art forms that resonate with our participants, they aim to disrupt old ways of thinking and empower marginalised people to re-engage with their communities, create new narratives and shift perceptions. Disparate groups in our communities are drawn together by their exposure to and involvement in the art projects, dissolving entrenched generational and demographic attitudes. At the same time, BE connects people to local, state and national services. Each project leaves an imprint across the cultural and social landscape that cascades into the next.
Empathy is the first step towards creating change in ourselves and others; it acts as a catalyst to signal that change is needed, doing so with a warm heart. Going beyond empathy is a commitment to building skills and capacity for individuals to be in charge of their own change process. It's a translation from feeling into action.
Rites of Passage is a feature length drama made collaboratively with a group of young people who dive below the surface of their often tough exteriors to reveal what's going on inside. Filmed over three years by the community arts organisation Beyond Empathy, six interwoven stories show the risk-taking, disappointment, joys and love that come with growing up. While their stories might be raw and brutal, they are also full of irreverence and humour. The stories are based on their own experiences. They might battle homelessness or addictions. They might live in public housing or come from families that have known hardship. But their performances on the screen and behind the camera prove that disadvantage needn't dictate your future. For these young people, making the film became a rite of passage. The authenticity that these non-actors bring to the screen blurs the line between fact and fiction.
Sea of Bellies: With the support of BE, the first belly casting project – Mubali - began in Moree in 2005 and is now run independently by the Kamilaroi Midwifery Service. "Mubali" means pregnant in the Gamilaroi language of northwest NSW. In the past the young women would only see the midwives when they came to hospital to give birth. Now they get together with the midwives and elders each week during their pregnancies and make plaster casts of the pregnant bellies. During the process the young women receive antenatal care from the midwives. Elders then paint the bellies, connecting the younger and older Aboriginal women. Click here for further information.
Why did we fund this organisation? The Nelson Meers Foundation supported Beyond Empathy with a 3 year capacity building grant between 2012-2015. We funded BE because we strongly believe that art is one of the most effective tools to deal with disadvantage and to re-engage marginalised individuals with the community.