Comment: Community Engagement WA ‘Road Trip’ with Annette Carmichael

Comment: ‘Road Trip’ with Annette Carmichael

With a focus on community engagement, Annette Carmichael traveled around our great state earlier this year as part of a Circuit West Project, funded as part of the Department of Culture and the Arts Creative Regions initiative. Having previously worked in most of the towns she visited as either an artist or creative producer, Annette said she was keen to approach each new community with a fresh set of eyes and ears.

“I wanted to fully appreciate each town and understand what each presenter was hoping to achieve for the people of their community.  My main mission was to be useful and provide some space for reflection for these hard working theatre managers,” she said. “I also wanted to provide tools and encouragement for the design of exceptional community engagement programs.  I believe Circuitwest can be a national leader in this field.”

On her travels, it became evident to Annette that most presenters are looking for simple, effective and time-efficient ways of deepening their community’s connection with the performing arts.  “As I finalise community engagement tools and plans for these venues, I understand that simplicity is the key,” she said.

“Presenters also need an easy way of measuring and reflecting on the relative success of each community engagement activity, so I’m including simple measures into each plan.”

Social isolation also stood out as a key issue. “Healthy communities are those where information and opportunities travel easily through informal networks within the community.  Social isolation remains a serious issue for many people living in regional communities, especially those with a history of fly in fly out work patterns.  This social isolation can slow down a venue’s reach into a community which will necessitate longer lead times and determined persistence,” Annette said.

Being on the road for many weeks and seeing a vast majority of our state, the highlight for Annette was returning to South Hedland, the town she grew up in.

“I have just finished a large performance project with skateboarders in the Great Southern, so I was particularly impressed by Hedland’s shiny, new skate park with a smooth earth red finish,” she said.

“Another highlight was standing on the site of Karratha’s new cultural precinct dreaming up wild ideas for how the City of Karratha can inspire a sense of community ownership over the space. Hearing from young people in Bunbury and Kalgoorlie about their commitment to enhance the lives of other young people in their towns was also high on the list.”