Peer-led learning

Upcoming SAMAG Panel - Youth arts: why we should care what young people think

Strikers! Youth leading change change panel, Conversation Starters 2019: Temperature Rising, MCA Australia, 2 June 2019. Photo: Jodie Barker, Image courtesy: MCA Australia

Since getting back from my Churchill Fellowship, I’ve been working with the Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group (SAMAG) to co-produce the upcoming panel conversation Youth Arts: why we should care what young people think.

I’m going to be sharing some of my Churchill findings, as well as insights from the MCA GENEXT impact report before a panel of brilliant young people offer their insights and experiences working with six different Sydney arts organisations across the theatre, visual arts, music and heritage sectors.

Wednesday 11 September at MCA

5pm - MCA Young Guides tour of Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow

6pm - Panel conversation with Q&A to follow

Tickets available here.

This quick style insight conversation will focus on the developing role and growth of youth committees and young people’s advisory groups within our arts and cultural organisations. What kinds of expertise do young people bring – as creative producers or advisors? What is their impact and how is the practice of our arts organisations responding to their contribution? How are young people being reached, communicated with and included in the arts beyond being sought as audience members? What does the arts sector look like to newcomers and what are some of the barriers to their involvement?

Join us if you can for a MCA Young Guide-led tour of Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow at 5pm, and then hear from a panel of young people and youth arts workers about their experiences and advice on where organisations should start if they haven’t already.

MCA Australia
• Lucy Achhorner (MCA Youth Committee and Young Guide)
• Em Lienert (MCA Youth Committee and Young Guide)

Australian Theatre for Young People
• Emily Buxton
• Daisy Millpark

Casula Powerhouse Art Centre
• Madelaine De Leon (CPAC Youth)
• Stephanie Nguy (Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Youth)

Shopfront Arts Co-Op
• Carlee Heise (Young Leader)
• Daniel Potter (Executive Director/CEO, Shopfront Arts Co-Op)

Information Cultural Exchange
• Liliana Occhiuto (New Age Noise Collective)
• Jessica Paraha (New Age Noise Collective)

Sydney Living Museums
• Hayden Walsh (Producer of Indigenous Programs)

Presenter & Co-Producer
Jo Higgins (Young Creatives Coordinator, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2018 Churchill Fellow)

Sophie Harrington, SAMAG Committee Member and Public Program Manager, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

This seminar is a partnership between SAMAG and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.



Announcement of Churchill Fellowship 2018

NSW Churchill Fellow recipients at Government House, 26 October, 2018.

I am so proud to have been named as one of 112 Australians to receive a prestigious Churchill Fellowship this year. This annual award recognises Australian experts who seek to make a positive impact across their professional fields and was established in 1965, the year in which Sir Winston Churchill died. Its principal objective is to perpetuate and honour the memory of Sir Winston Churchill by the award of Churchill Fellowships. 

A Churchill Fellowship is the award of an opportunity through the provision of financial support that enables Australian citizens to travel overseas to undertake research, analysis or investigation of a project or an issue that cannot be readily undertaken in Australia. 

The fellowship offers the opportunity to visit other countries and investigate inspiring practices that will benefit Australian communities. In 2019, I will be travelling across the US and Canada for eight weeks, visiting institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis; MCA Denver; and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

Young people lining up for GENEXT, April 2012, the MCA’s flagship event for young people aged 12-18. The program is developed and run by the Museum’s Youth Committee. Image courtesy: MCA Australia.

I’m going to be investigating different models of youth-led engagement and informal & peer-to-peer learning programs for young people 12–25 years. These kinds of art- and museum-based programs, which are similar to the ones I run at the MCA, put the ideas and experiences of young people at their centre.

I’m so excited to learn more about these programs because they’ve been proven to have significant long-term impacts on participants, including improved mental health, increased empathy and creative and critical thinking skills, as well as developing lifelong connections to the arts. But these learnings are not just for the benefit of young people – they benefit the arts sector too; it’s vital we find ways to support and engage this audience because they’re our future makers, designers, artists, curators and ambassadors.

The research and travel is obviously a huge part of the Churchill Fellowship but working towards making an impact with your findings on return to Australia is the long-term aim and for me, that means supporting the growth of peer-led youth programming within Australian institutions. As part of my application, I undertook a lot of research here in Australia and affirmed that a lot of the youth programming that takes place in cultural organisations here is currently delivered by adults (that is, it’s not peer-led). This is slowly changing but there is little longitudinal experience or institutional knowledge on a national level in this area, outside the MCA, which is why the Churchill Fellowship is so exciting. My research across the arts sector here reveals a huge desire to work with young people in meaningful and sustainable ways, but there’s a lot of uncertainty about how to begin – and how to sustain it, once you do!

Obligatory Churchill selfie, London, September 2018.

Some of the programs in the US and Canada have been running some phenomenal youth-led programs for more than 15 years nows. I’m really looking forward to meeting with educators, public programmers and participants and to observe these programs first-hand; to find out what makes them so successful and why they’re so important – to the museums that support them, but also to those young people who participate in them.

It’s going to be a life-changing experience.


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