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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 16 August 2018) . . Page.. 3113 ..

ACT’s arts policy vision to be a diverse and dynamic arts ecology valued locally, nationally, and globally.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.43): It is certainly the case that arts deliver many positive outcomes for both artists and observers. For example, it has been shown that music, especially the playing of musical instruments, is the only discipline, not only artistic discipline but any endeavour, that engages the entire brain in processing information and converting it to sound.

Research shows that music is a very powerful therapeutic tool. Who would think that a person suffering Parkinson’s disease, displaying a severely stuttering gait when walking, can walk and dance smoothly and fluently when music is played. Who would think that a person suffering severe dementia, even unable to recognise their closest relatives, let alone remember anything else in their lives, can remember words to songs when music is played or can hold a lucid conversation after hearing a favourite piece of music. And who would think that a stroke sufferer, who has lost their speech, can learn to speak, and sound perfectly normal by training that part of their brain where singing is based. Did you know, Madam Speaker, that learning a musical instrument, even late in life, can help to delay the onset of dementia because it exercises the brain and can help with arthritis therapy by promoting new motor skills and movement?

Arts give us a great leveller. The arts speak all languages. The arts promote different cultures in an engaging, non-confrontational manner. The arts are a great calmer. And speaking of engagement, anyone can engage in the arts. It does not matter how proficient you are at your chosen artistic field, you can still be involved. There are people in choirs who cannot read music. There are people who are colourblind who can paint.

The arts cross all kinds of boundaries. They provide the link between cultures, between young people and old people, between people who are well and those who are sick. They give vulnerable people confidence. Take, for example, the Choir of Hard Knocks, set up to give homeless people and drug addicts an outlet, or Canberra’s own Alchemy Chorus, a choir for people with dementia and their carers.

All this brings me to a state of bewilderment as to why the ACT government defunded a long-term, successful initiative called the music engagement program which runs out of the ANU School of Music. Thankfully, there is still some information available online about this program, which I will share with the Assembly. Its still existing website tell us:

Established in 1984, the MEP is built around a simple, practical way of making music, the practical result of a philosophy, not a method.

The philosophy assumes that music-making is a normal human activity that has an important social function.

By prioritising the social function of music, we can develop an alternative model for music in education as it is usually practised in modern Western society, which has lost much of the basic, social enculturation processes for music that might exist in other societies.

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