Benefits of performance holistic in nature

Research has revealed the benefits of Wakakirri to span nurturing an appreciation of the arts through to using skills learned at school, developing life skills, personal development, and promotion of overall wellbeing.
Students from NSW's St John the Baptist PS' Story-Dance

Anecdotally, teachers, parents and students are always telling the team at Wakakirri about the positive outcomes they observe and experience from participating in Wakakirri.  For 29 years, Wakakirri has provided this education program which develops student engagement and wellbeing through participation in the performing arts, to thousands of schools and their students.

Wakakirri Festival Director, Adam Loxley felt it was time to invest in some independent research to uncover what teachers and students really think of the Wakakirri experience.  So, in late 2020 Wakakirri engaged TKP, an independent research company, to explore the benefits of participating in Wakakirri.  Using qualitative methodology, a series of focus groups with teachers and students were run.

The research revealed the benefits of Wakakirri to be “holistic in nature; they span myriad areas from nurturing an appreciation of the arts through to using skills learned at school, developing life skills, personal development, and promotion of overall wellbeing.”

Throughout the focus group sessions, teachers and students repeatedly stated how Wakakirri was particularly invaluable for students who experience some kind of disadvantage including no access to dance/drama outside of school, never having stepped foot into a theatre, not being academically engaged, living in a regional area or experiencing disciplinary issues or poor attendance.

One teacher reflected, “I had a boy who was on the cusp of expulsion in 2008.  His mum was an alcoholic and he had trouble getting to school, so I used to pick him up.  He did Wakakirri and we gave him a specific part, a main role [in the story].  I saw him again last year and he literally stopped me and said if it wasn’t for Wakakirri and you bringing me to school, I wouldn’t be studying law.  He said it kept him in school, gave him a purpose to come because other kids relied on him.”

In summary, the research demonstrated that the most valuable outcomes of Wakakirri can be grouped into four themes:

  • Inclusivity and providing opportunities for students from all walks of life and abilities;
  • A gateway to the Arts which encourages involvement and appreciation and/or passion;
  • Development of life skills;
  • Supporting personal development and wellbeing.

The unique process of creating and sharing a Story-Dance develops student confidence, resilience and teamwork while having the best FUN ever!  Students experience the feeling of achievement from performing the stories that matter to them with the wider community in a professional theatre setting.  One teacher noted “Memories last throughout high school and beyond. People talk about it for years.”

There was a time when Commonwealth Government funding meant that Wakakirri was free for all students. Currently students pay $35 each to enter, as well as contributing to bus travel and costumes.  Some schools share this cost with families and some do not. Despite the above mentioned benefits of participation which schools freely acknowledge, Wakakirri understands that rising costs are making it harder for all schools to experience Wakakirri.  The Inspiration Fund supports disadvantaged school communities by subsidising their Wakakirri participation, but demand for these limited funds is at an all-time high with increased need expected next year.

The aim of the Wakakirri Story-Dance Association is for all students to be able to experience Wakakirri at least once throughout their school years regardless of their socio-economic situation or location.  To ensure equity for all students and keep the participation fee as it is or potentially reduce it, Wakakirri will continue to seek financial assistance from governments, philanthropic and corporate organisations.  If you would like to support Wakakirri, please contact Mignon Green at [email protected] or visit the Wakakirri website.