International Women's Day - Students Empowered Through Creativity – 96five Family Radio

International Women’s Day – Students Empowered Through Creativity

Many of the students at the all-girls special assistance school in Sunnybank have faced personal trauma or anxiety or have struggled succeeding in larger mainstream schools.

By 96five Contributors Monday 8 Mar 2021

A new book is demonstrating the therapeutic power of creativity to young women.

A Place of Stillness features artwork, poetry and prose from students from a unique Brisbane school which provides opportunities to young women facing barriers to education.

The 88-page full-colour coffee table book compiles around 180 drawings, paintings, prints, photography, sculptural artworks and poetry pieces created by Carinity Education Southside students over the past four years.

Many of the students at the all-girls special assistance school in Sunnybank have faced personal trauma or anxiety or have struggled succeeding in larger mainstream schools.

A Carinity Education Southside student doing a painting.

Art teacher Rebecca Mennen, who oversaw the A Place of Stillness project, says creating artwork and poetry for the book was a cathartic experience for many contributing students.

Artworks and poems such as ‘New Beginnings’, ‘Her Story’, ‘I Am Enough’, ‘In My Feelings’ and ‘Change in the Air’ reflect the emotions and aspirations of the creators.

“Many of our young people suffer with anxiety, depression and trauma- related concerns. Using their creativity to express their feelings, emotions and concerns has helped some to address and resolve these issues,” Rebecca explains.

“The students engaged more with exploring themes of the self and their path through life, both painful and joyful.”

“A favourite quote I often said to these girls is, ‘The scars of the past may show where you have come from, but they do not have to dictate where you are going’.”

Artwork: ‘Tulips in the Sunlight’ painting by Adah, 2016.

One of Rebecca’s past students, Stevie O’Chin, has gone on to exhibit paintings inspired by her Indigenous identity and heritage in galleries in Sydney and Brisbane.

“I have been painting for five years and have had two exhibitions; sold 40 pieces and have been fortunate to be commissioned by various organisations and individuals,” Stevie says.

“The teachers at Carinity Education have encouraged and helped me achieve so many things I never thought I could do. They guided my passion and talent for painting.”

A Place of Stillness also features personal reflections from past students whose lives were positively impacted by attending Carinity Education Southside, which includes an on-site children’s Early Learning Centre for students who are young mothers.

“Southside wasn’t just a school; it was a safe haven for so many of us, in so many more ways than one,” says past student Emily, who fell pregnant at 15 and now has a young daughter and a nursing career.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the lessons, love and support I was given from every single teacher and youth worker that walked with me, along my path, steering me in the right direction.”

Carinity Education Southside Principal Leann Faint holds a copy of the new book A Place of Stillness, a collection of student poetry and art. Photo by Tayla Sudall Photography.

Principal Leann Faint says Carinity Education Southside has supported young women to succeed in their schooling for more than 20 years.

She says Southside, one of four special assistance schools in Queensland run by not-for-profit Carinity, is “a safe-haven, a place of healing, a place of encouragement and a place of growth”.

“Some of our young people come to us broken, anxious, angry, rejected and desperate for a place of acceptance, a place where they can be nurtured, and receive an education,” Leann says.

“Every day these young women rise and strive for a better life, a better existence for themselves … and we are here for them, in this place of emotional stillness.”

Copies of A Place of Stillness are available for $20 per copy (plus postage) with money raised to support student projects at Carinity Education Southside.

To purchase a book phone (07) 3423 7499 or for more information visit Carinity Education Southside’s website.

Artwork: ‘New Beginning’ painting by Queen, 2016.