Big Trauma, Big Change


Project Introduction

Project Overview

What if we radically transformed our approach to mental health?

The current mental health system is failing. Outside the privileged metropolitan areas, there is little or no support for those dealing with trauma, suicidality and ongoing distress. Unprocessed trauma costs the nation around $25 billion a year.

The WHO, the UN and the Australian Productivity Commission all agree that we need to do things differently. It’s time to look beyond the medical model of ‘mental health’.

The Big Anxiety team works closely with communities to reimagine support for mental health and trauma – and to develop the resources we need to make big change, in ourselves and in the world.

In one day, we can bring a community together.

In ten minutes we can be transformed by a powerful immersive experience.

The future of mental health depends on empowering people and communities. Rather than treating people for disorders, it will offer inspiration, discovery and validation, using experiential media like virtual reality to engage with the senses and emotions – and to explore the questions that enable growth and transformation:

  • How do we change the way we feel inside when we are broken and disconnected?
  • How do we connect to ourselves, to community, to culture and to Country?
  • How do we build a viable alternative to “the system” – a culture that is supportive and sustaining, that fills us with awe, hope and wonder, and offers genuine practical help?

We know that our tools and community programs work in a remarkably short time frame:

  • “It’s like doing ten years of therapy in one morning” (participant, Brisbane)
  • “It’s maybe ten years of growth in a very short time” (participant, Warwick)

Through Massive Action Sydney we are developing the means to scale up and scale deep - Be part of visionary change.

Key highlights

  • World's first VR for suicide prevention
  • Award-Winning AI/AR/VR for trauma support as well as large-scale festivals
  • Transformative Community programs across Australia

Project Team

Jill Bennett is Scientia Professor and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. She is Founding Director of the Big Anxiety Research Centre [BARC] ; and is part of the leadership team of the Ageing Futures Institute.

In 2017, she founded The Big Anxiety – festival of people + art + science, a research-driven, mental health festival, which won ‘Best New Event’ at the Australian Event Awards in its inaugural year, 2017

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Dr Gail Kenning is a researcher and artist working with socially engaged practices, participatory engagement and co-design approaches to understand and support psychosocial wellbeing. With a focus on older people, intergenerational practice and mental health she works with the Art Gallery of New South Wales co-developing the Art and Dementia program and PAUSE a program for carers in Palliative Care.

Kenning is currently using EmbodiMap – a VR psychosocial engagement tool – working with War Memorial Hospital and developing VR nature and wellbeing experiences for communities in the Woollahra Municipal Council area. 

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Katherine Bond is an Education Focused Associate Lecturer in the School of Art and Design, ADA, UNSW, Sydney and practising exhibition and experience designer.

She holds a M.Arts Curatorship from The University of Melbourne and B.Des (Interior Design)(Hons) from RMIT.

Prior research (for her masters degree) explored the intersection of contemporary dance and visual art, in particular spatial activation and choreographic thinking by 'amateur' (non-dance trained) bodies. This research and her experience designing engaging museum environments consolidated an interest in design strategies for playful engagement of adult audiences. Recent projects with the Big Anxiety Research Centre (BARC) coalesce play with health for transformative, pro-social experiences.

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Design Strategist

Chloe Cassidy is an Education Forcussed lecturer in the School of Art and Design, teaching in integrated and collaborative design programs across Bachelor, Honours, and Masters degrees. Chloe's particular interest lies in fostering a transdisciplinary approach to integrate somaesthetic and imaginal sensitivities to advance the field of trauma-integrated design. Her profound understanding of the vital role of protective and compensatory experiences and how these may be cultivated in empathetic, creative, and meaning-making experiences underscores her commitment to socially engaged design and the way she approaches design education. Chloe's pedagogical approach is deeply rooted in fostering enriching learning environments and adopting a strengths-based approach to empower students to thrive in the dynamic design industry. 

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Volker Kuchelmeister is an expert in presence, embodiment and place representation for immersive applications and has worked extensively in cinematography, interactive narrative, experimental imaging, spatial mapping, interactive systems, immersive visualisation and in the performing arts while exploring and exploding the boundaries of the cinematic image.

He has established and directed leading media-art research labs (ZKM Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe Germany - Multimedia Studio; UNSW iCinema Centre Media Lab and the UNSW National Institute for Experimental Art - Immersive Media Lab, UNSW Felt Experience and Empathy Lab) and his immersive experiences, interactive installations and experimental video projects are exhibited in museums, galleries and festivals around the world. He is currently working as lead immersive designer and research fellow at the UNSW felt Experience and Empathy Lab (feel).

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Project Manager

Jenni Tyler works in the Big Anxiety Research Centre and is project managing the initiative "Big Trauma, Big Change." With a multifaceted educational background in psychology and a fine arts, Jenni is engaged in the intersection where creativity meets health. With a keen interest in accessible preventative health, Jenni and the team develop programs that are strength-based and rooted in experience. Her work with the Big Anxiety Research Centre and volunteer commitment to headspace reflects Jenni's dedication to the effectiveness of lived-experience-led health programs. Jenni strives to contribute to transformative initiatives that not only address mental health challenges but also empower individuals and communities to connect and cultivate resilience.

Art & Design Student Collaborator and Strategic Designer

Alina Wirtz is a Strategic Designer and final-year Bachelor of Design Student at UNSW, specialising in Service Design, Graphic Design, and Textile Design.

She is a recipient of the prestigious UNSW International Scientia Coursework Scholarship, former AGDA State Councillor, and 2021 Dean’s List Prize Winner.

Positioned at the nexus of health, culture, and environmental sustainability, Alina is passionate about creating system-level change through radical transdisciplinary collaboration and life-centred design thinking.

Drawing upon a wealth of lived experience and diverse perspectives gained through working in different countries, Alina’s expertise is strongly informed by her career background in team management within the service industry.

Committed to addressing social and environmental issues, Alina participated in the 2022 MAS Design Sprint Student Team. She is now contributing her unique skill set to building trauma-resilient communities and transforming the narrative of mental health.

Massive Change Network LLC.