Arts and Health Research Group

The Arts and Health Research Group build capacity in arts and health research, publications, collaborations, and knowledge exchange opportunities, connecting and intersecting with strategic areas within the university and beyond through local, national, and international networks.

picture of group tickets

Arts and Health

The field of Arts in Health recognises and emphasises the vital connections between the arts and health. It advocates for using arts participation and creativity in healthcare and community settings to improve health and wellness.

Research Group

The Arts and Health Research Group was established as a catalyst for connecting intersecting research areas across the School of the Arts and Media, University and externally.

The Arts and Health Research Group aim to build on and develop capacity in arts and health research projects, publications, collaborations and knowledge exchange opportunities. While the group is situated within the School, the aim is to connect and intersect with strategic areas both within the university and externally through local, national and international networks. The hub also draws postgraduate interest, both in terms of current and future students.

Group members have been actively developing projects and engaging with partners in a number of areas, including arts, young people and mental health, in partnership with Prof Jill Bennett (ARC Laureate Fellow, Art and Design), Black Dog Institute, input into art spaces in the new Medical Precinct, Ageing Futures Institute, cinema and ageing. The hub endeavours to create greater visibility for arts and health through:

  • Commissioning and conducting reports
  • Participating in and hosting workshops, symposia, exhibitions, performances and seminars
  • Working with visiting scholars, practitioners, and administrators
  • Working with local, state and national government, NGOs, individual artists/research and corporate bodies
  • Developing research, education and administration
  • Providing support for interested students and staff
  • Seeking and supporting links across all boundaries to enhance progress in the field

We aim to develop momentum and a profile for SAM/UNSW as an organisation of excellence in the field.


  • Music can comfort and heal without requiring visual attention.  The Empirical Musicology Laboratory (EML) at UNSW was established in 2004 and has produced mounting evidence of when and where music can be used to enhance people’s lives.  The philosophy which draws the members of EML together is that to understand music (1) it must be studied with the idea that it is listened to via the mind rather than an object that can be understood in isolation from mental processing and (2) a variety of methods should be embraced, rather than the contemplations of the lone expert.  Methods adopted by EML often gather data from listeners, performers or composers using experimental designs and surveys and using statistical techniques of analysis.  EML has made important contributions to understanding the role of music in dementia, sleep, depression and anxiety.

  • The long-running Sleep Through series, commissioned by the ABC, was developed by composer Arts and Health Research Group member Dr. Adam Hulbert to support sleep for infants, and is broadcast nightly on ABC Kids Listen. Honours student Lucy Weng (EML), investigated the reception and application of this series. The group continues to explore both onsite and online applications of sound design for health, currently working with the Sydney Children’s Hospital to develop sensory spaces and, using the UNSW studios and expertise, to facilitate the patient-led Youth and Transition podcast to encourage peer support through co-design.

  • Popular cinema’s interest in dementia as subject matter has not been accompanied by a similar level of interest in creating a screen culture accessible to people living with dementia. Australia lags behind other countries in creating a dementia-friendly screen culture. Building a Dementia Friendly Screen Culture in Australia is a collaborative project led by Arts & Health member Dr Jodi Brooks with Dr Fincina Hopgood (University of New England), and Karina Libbey, the Public Engagement Manager at the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra. As a film-based intervention in dementia care and an accessibility-based intervention in Australian screen culture, this project explores how Australian screen culture can better embrace the value of cinema-going and cinema-like experiences as familiar and sensory-rich forms of social experience for people living with dementia. In October 2022, they organised the ACT’s first dementia friendly screening event at the NFSA’s Arc Cinema, developed in collaboration with stakeholders and with funding support from the ACT Government. By creating and sharing resources for dementia friendly screenings in Australian cinemas and non-theatrical settings, this project aims to support communities, dementia advocates, and local cinemas and other venues looking to offer dementia friendly film events.

    © UNSW 2023

    Image of audience feedback from a dementia friendly screening.

  • Youth arts are often overlooked as driving innovators of experimental arts practices in the country. COVID-19 saw rapid transformation but little attention paid to the unique role of youth arts in both serving communities of young people and developing digital and hybrid arts practices that have ongoing leverage and impact. Beyond the Digital Pivot: Imagined Futures in Digital Youth Arts Practices builds on the findings of a 2021-2022 pilot partnership between Australian Theatre for Young People, Shopfront Arts, Q Theatre and Theatre Network NSW, to investigate ongoing innovations in form, bespoke digital delivery knowledges, increased and diversified access, and interregional and international collaborations in art-making with and for young people.

    © UNSW 2023

    ARC Discovery Project: Future Stories is a new arts and health initiative that explores the use of co-designed virtual reality (VR) experiences with young people (12-21) undergoing hospital treatment in oncology and palliative care in a Children’s Hospital setting. The project involves a bespoke, patient-centred and creative approach facilitated by two artists-in-residence that works bedside with young people to co-design their own VR worlds.


  • Arts-based recovery or well-being therapies have often been used for patient care; this project seeks to establish ways to embed arts-based care for staff in health facilities in a long-term and sustainable way. The project collaborates with South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) to enhance the well-being of staff in the health facilities across three campuses: St George, Sutherland, and Randwick.

  • The Research Group are part of a community of practice with The Big Anxiety Research Centre (BARC), a unique transdisciplinary enterprise dedicated to transforming thinking and practice in mental health through creative collaboration and cultural innovation. BARC research lived experience through a distinctive combination of trauma-informed, psychosocial research and creative practice, developing the rich communications and engagement practices we need to understand, connect with, and support everyday experiences of mental health, trauma and suicidality.