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Making Time – Artist Self Care Retreat

Earlier this year, CAN, alongside Creative Recovery Network held – Making Time – Artist Self Care Retreat.

This retreat held in Fairbridge, WA, was a weekend of conversations, reflections and learning about the development of self-care strategies. Together facilitators and participants built a toolkit of relevant resources, collegial connections and plans for ongoing peer support.

Throughout the retreat, participants developed self-care strategies to manage experiences of stress, burn out, mental health issues and fatigue – particularly where communities and participants have or are experiencing trauma. The retreat explored practical actions and sector advocacy that built the capacity of artists, arts workers, and organisations to ensure sustainable and safe community arts and cultural development practices.

The retreat was a great success with participants developing a broad range of wellness and self care skills.



Dr. Erika Jacobson

Erika is an educator, a community development and social theatre practitioner and a curious and passionate adventurer. She has a BA in writing, a MA in community and international development and a PhD on the role of the practitioner in transformative practices and learning.

Erika’s interest in social justice and community development led her to form Act Out in 2007 through which she facilitates community and organisational development & training with government, non-government and private sector organisations. Her interest in nature and walking led her to form Edgewalkers in 2016, a company through which she runs walking tours and retreats helping people reconnect with their creativity and self-expression in stunning natural environments in Australia and overseas.

Part of the year Erika lectures at Murdoch University on creativity and innovation. Part of the year she travels and writes. Sometimes she speaks about it all. All year around she walks. Erika’s strength lies in harnessing the collective creativity of a group to give all participants access to useful and individual insights.

Ron Bradfield Jnr 

Ron is a saltwater man of the Bardi peoples from One Arm Point, near Cape Leveque – but grew up in Geraldton, Western Australia. He has been a number of things throughout his life; ranging from an electrician, a soldier, a sailor, a youth-worker, the Indigenous Development and Membership Manager for Artsource and the Operations Manager for Urban Indigenous.

He was selected to take part in the inaugural Wesfarmers Indigenous Leadership program in 2010 and won a position to travel to the UK in 2013 as part of the British Council Australia’s Indigenous Leadership program – ACCELERATE.

Ron is currently the founding director of Yarns R Us; where he is a cultural consultant, a storyteller, a motivational speaker and, a maker of wooden things – who now calls Whadjuk Boodjah (Perth), his home.

Ricky Arnold 

Ricky is a consultant with 25 years experience in the Western Australian arts and cultural sector. Skilled in nonprofit organizations, local and state government relations, cultural and strategic planning, business planning for arts organisations, event management, and fundraising, Ricky is a strong community, arts and social services professional with a post graduate certificate of education focused in art and design from Middlesex University and a degree in animation and film-making.



Prof Helen Milroy

Consultant Psychiatrist Department of Health Aboriginal Mental Health Service, Winthrop Professor and Director Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health UWA

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. She studied Medicine at the University of Western Australia, worked as a General Practitioner and Consultant in Childhood Sexual Abuse at Princess Margaret Hospital for children for several years before completing specialist training in Child and Adolescent psychiatry.

Helen has been on State, National and College policy committees, Reference and Advisory groups. Helen is a current member of the NHMRC Australian Human Ethics Committee; the NHMRC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Advisory Committee; DoHA Health and Wellbeing Check for Three Year Olds Expert Group; NHMRC Indigenous Mental Health Advisory Group; and NHMRC ADHD Expert Working Group. She has most recently been appointed to the Board of Closing the Gap Clearinghouse with the Department of Indigenous Affairs. She has been a Board member of Headspace – the National Youth Mental Health initiative; the Western Australian Indigenous Implementation Board; and was Past President of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA). Helen is conjoint award recipient of the World Council for Psychotherapy’s Sigmund Freud Award 2011 for contributions to the field of psychotherapy. She was also 2011 Yachad Scholar.

Helen’s work and research interests include holistic medicine, child mental health, recovery from trauma and grief, application of Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous health curriculum development, implementation and evaluation, Aboriginal health and mental health, and developing and supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce.


The Self-Kindness Project

Catherine and Willow Francis

The Self-Kindness Project offers training for staff in not-for-profit and government organisations in learning essential strategies for developing self-kindness, self-care and self-compassion. The Self-Kindness Project believes that care, kindness and compassion towards the self are the foundation for positive global change.

Catherine and Willow believe that the employees in care-focused organisations need to develop MORE capacity for self-care than others.

Employees drawn to care work, therapy, support work and volunteering tend to be more empathetic, self-sacrificing and emotionally sensitive than other people – this makes them perfect for the job, but it also makes them more prone to burn-out, compassion fatigue and self-criticism for not “doing better”.

Willow Francis (emergency room nursing) and Catherine Francis (paediatric disability physiotherapy), the creators of The Self-Kindness Project, are driven to train and educate these highly valued employees to develop the skills of self-kindness, self-care and self-compassion so they can continue their work in a way that is more fulfilling and sustainable long-term. The Self-Kindness Project is a work in progress. Catherine and Willow have a clear vision and are offering the most up-to-date and empirically validated techniques and education in a way that is human and adaptable.


CAN is pleased to be working in partnership with Creative Recovery Network to present the WA Making Time – Artist Self-care Retreat.

Creative Recovery Network

Creative Recovery Network is a network of artists working with communities as we prepare respond and recovery from disaster

Scotia Monkivitch, Executive Officer, has over 28 years of experience in the community arts and cultural development sector along with national and international experience in facilitation, education, research, performance and advocacy. She has specialised in working with disability and disadvantage, mental health, seniors, children and young people.

Community Arts Network

CAN is WA’s leading community arts and cultural development organisation. CAN’s vision is for a just, diverse and resilient society fuelled by imagination and creativity. CAN exists to produce inspiring art with all communities; to build connections and broker opportunities for artists and to build capacity within the community arts sector.

Jill Brown, Artist Development Manager, has over 15 years experience in the arts and cultural sector. Jill grew up in the Goldfields, travelled extensively overseas and began her career as an Arts Officer in the South West of WA. Since then she has worked in various roles across several arts organisations, including Artsource, Propel Youth Arts WA and CAN, where she has worked since 2008. Jill has managed grants programs and other projects while at CAN, and currently manages CAN’s new Capacity Building program, which this retreat is part of. Jill has a degree in Literature and Film from Curtin University and a passion for stories.

Championing wellness in the arts: Personal reflections on my time at the recent ‘Making Time’ Self-Care Retreat for Artists

By Fiona Sinclair 

An incredibly pertinent (and for me, a deeply resonant) question was posed to the 20+ facilitators and participants attending the recent ‘Self Care for Artists’ retreat organised by CAN and the Creative Recovery Network at Fairbridge (Pinjarra):

How can we champion the transformative power of the arts to generate wellbeing in communities if we don’t champion wellness in our own personal arts practice and within the CACD sector itself?

That question really hit home.

Am I role-modeling wellness? Or am I embodying a CCD arts stereotype where I run myself ragged, giving and giving from one project to the next, depleting my energy reserves until I burn out?

Whose job is it to care for me anyway, if not myself? And collectively speaking, whose responsibility is it to care for the needs of artists and artsworkers if not the arts sector itself?

While most of us are familiar with trying to increase the sustainability of ours arts organisations and the communities in which we live and work, how often do we practice sustainability in our own arts practice?

How do we safeguard our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health when working (often intimately) with communities (particularly those that are traumatized, marginalized and disenfranchised)?

How can we be supported to do this better?

A self-care retreat for artists, it turns out, is actually an excellent place to ask these questions… and find some answers.

Now, let me be honest. When I first heard of the idea of a self-retreat for artists I didn’t find it particularly inviting. The term ‘retreat’ made me uncomfortable right from the get-go as it sounded so self-indulgent. However, I’m a curious cat, and wanted to see what it was all about and so I enlisted, but fess up to telling others (and myself) ‘it’s a workshop thing’…. ‘I’m doing some research’… I felt embarrassed when I whispered it was a retreat.

Squaring away enough time in my diary to attend a two day conference is hard enough… but you should have seen me suffer conniptions about ‘making time’ for two days of retreat! By the time I arrived I was a bit of a wreck.

Over the course of the next few days I came to realise that self-care is not self-indulgence fluff and fairy tales, but a daily practice requiring rigour, reflection and dedication. It must be self-motivated but not self-inflicted. And it can truly flourish when supported by others.

Kudos to the team of organisers who assembled the holistic program that presented multifaceted approaches to self-care moving between challenge and nurture, discomfort and ease, humour to pathos, catering for the needs of heart, mind, body and spirit.

There was evidence of a meticulous attention to the detail of ‘cultivating care’: fresh flowers, welcoming signs, goody bags, AMAZING food, the facilitators housed along with the participants, (dissolving the separation between the us and the them, the supposedly knowing and the unknowing. All on the road together.) These small things (often overlooked in forums and conferences) and the inclusion of ritual – such as the smoking and cacao ceremonies – brought a reverence to the weekend that allowed it to transcend the ordinary, and embue it with a sense of intimacy, reciprocity, tenderness and potency.

Some fleeting fragments from memory include:

  • The sharing of personal stories from Indigenous leaders, Koodah, Susan and Jerome Cornwell, and insights into the ancient wisdom of their culture;
  • Stimulation for the mind through a presentation about the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Response to Child Sexual Abuse, including strategies to deal with stress in the workplace and examples of how the health and other sectors support their workers to maintain wellness when working with traumatized communities;
  • Erica’s physical theatre activities that connected us with the emotions trapped within our bodies (I had some real ‘a-ha’ moments with those);
  • A mix of quietly contemplative individual work juxtaposed with group sessions;
  • The sensory wonderland of Willow and Catherine’s Cacao meditation interwoven with recent scientific inquiry into the properties of the heart and its function in our lives;
  • Opportunities to meet and connect with kindred creative spirits who share some of my passions (and some of my weaknesses).

Kudos to the CAN team for not only identifying the need for this kind of retreat but helping to shape the weekend and subsidise costs. This is visionary sector leadership.

Big respect to Scotia for bringing her national perspective and considerable expertise to the imperative conversation of how to embolden the arts to care for those at the interface of creativity and community.

Warm thanks to Ricky and Ron, for the way in which they (seemed to) effortlessly weave together the weekend’s narrative.

After twenty years of professional practice devoted to the arts, I had my first experience of the arts industry REALLY caring about my wellbeing (heart, body, mind and spirit) as a person, not just as an artist/artsworker. This is a profound shift. It has opened my eyes to the possibility of how this kind of self-care message can be translated to other key players and events across the sector.

From personal experience I can encourage anyone experiencing trepidation about signing up for any future ‘retreats’ to step boldly forward and carve out space in your calendar to question what inspires, ignites and informs you, grounds, connects, restores and ultimately uplifts you.

If we as artists and artsworkers are to bear fruit for the benefit of our communities we must be self-nurturing individually and collectively. To truly champion community wellness we must begin by championing our own.

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