Colouring for change in Cooma, lead by local teens

Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell
Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell

High school students from Cooma have combined with a locally based, online fashion house in a colourful approach to tackling family violence.

The idea of a workplace ‘Colourathon’ is being trialed at Birdsnest in Cooma, with female students from Monaro High School preparing to launch the idea nationally in November.

New ‘Colourathon for Corporates’ kits come packed with everything a business will need to host their own event, broadening the community response to family violence.

Artistic change maker, Big hART is leading the collaboration under the banner of ‘Project O‘.

“Project O is a national program we run with young women aged 12 to 15, assisting them to build new skills and capacity and to learn how to be change makers,” says Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director.

Project O started in the ‘family violence hotspot’ of North West Tasmania and has since been rolled out to Cooma, Roebourne WA, and Canberra.

“A colourathon is a colouring-in arts marathon,” Genevieve explains.

“An arts endurance event, where every hour of colouring-in is sponsored and raises money for trauma therapy services for young children fleeing violence and needing crises care.”

Jane Cay, 'big bird' at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell
Jane Cay, ‘big bird’ at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell

A colourathon at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on November 30 will help launch the corporates kits being developed at Birdsnest by the twenty young women from Monaro High School.

The Project O crew are hoping businesses will buy a kit as a team building or social responsibility exercise while raising money for the Australian Childhood Foundation.

“They roll out a play based therapy program in women’s shelters,” Genevieve says.

“The average age of a child fleeing violence is two and a half years old, through the fundraising we provide training in play based therapy which helps children who can’t talk or express their feelings like adults.”

The add on to Big hART’s Project O initiative for the Monaro girls is the opportunity to be mentored by the innovators and entrepreneurs that make up Birdsnest – winner of the ‘Best Online Customer Service Award’ at the Online Retail Industry Awards in 2015 and 2016 and BRW Australia’s 8th ‘Best Place to Work’ for companies with 100 employees or less in 2015.

Former IBM e-business consultant, Jane Cay is ‘head bird’.

“It’s such a great opportunity for them to realise that they can create change even when they are young and at school,” Jane says.

Students have been embedded in Jane’s company for a ten week period, mentored by staff in event management, product development, publicity, design, logistics, and a range of other business skills.

“It’s a massive company and it’s amazing that we are able to have workshops here,” says Brooke, one of the Project O students.

‘We are so lucky that we have this experience, to meet all of the staff and learn new things from them,” Brooke’s friend Georgia adds.

Both students say they have also been surprised to learn about the issue of family violence.

“It does happen in Cooma, I didn’t think it would happen in Cooma, it’s been a shock to me,” Georgia says.

“I hope this [The Colourathon] will show people that it is happening and it needs to stop,” Brooke says.

“Hopefully we raise money to help them [children] get through it and find more support through play based therapy,” Georgia adds.

Aside from the benefit to the community through programs like Project O and the Colourathon, Jane Cay believes it makes good business sense for corporates to get involved.

“People need to come to work feeling nurtured, and they need to look after themselves in order to be of service to anyone – whether that’s in the workplace or to their families,” Jane says.

“If the family environment is not a safe and nurturing place it’s very difficult to then come into a work place without that very basic foundation that humans need to operate.”

 

Thanks to About Regional members, Jeanette Westmore, Claire Blewett, Fay Deveril, and Fiona Cullen for supporting local story telling.