Webinar #6: Me – we – us: looking after creatives 

The latest webinar in the Creative Exchange series is now available to view online.
A purple blue background, with headshots of a young woman and middle aged man on the right, with text on the left describing an upcoming webinar.

The latest free webinar in the Creative Exchange program, co-produced by ArtsHub and Creative Victoria is now available to view online.

As the first webinar of the year in this series, ‘Me – We – Us: looking after creatives’ was aimed at viewing 2024 in a positive light. Led by two team members from Victoria’s Arts Wellbeing Collective, the session asked the question: how can positive psychology transform the creative industries?

As presenter Jim Rimmer frames it, ‘Some gigs we thrive at, and some we don’t. But instead of internalising the results of bad workplace practices and “getting on with the show”, we can ask another question: what is it that the supportive workplaces are doing differently?’

The Arts Wellbeing Collective has promoted the mental health of artists at work since launching in 2017. In this webinar, the team shared the positive psychology frameworks that guide the Collective’s programs and resources. Attendees learned about the psychosocial hazards and protective factors that may exist in your workplace and discovered resources developed to improve our sector for all.


Jim Rimmer. Photo: Supplied.

Jim Rimmer, Head of Program, Arts Wellbeing Collective

Jim is a detail-oriented program manager who thinks at a big picture level. After originally training as a graphic designer, he has since worked in venue and company management, cultural diplomacy programs, the education and health sectors, and managing public sector investment programs focusing on arts and mental health, as well as serving on a variety of boards, advisory committees and assessment panels.

He has a strong commitment to inclusion and social justice and is a passionate advocate for the transformative power of the arts and culture in everyday lives. For a short while he held the record as the world’s youngest human.

Claire Pearson. Photo: Supplied.

Claire Pearson, Learning and Engagement Manager, Arts Wellbeing Collective

Claire is a Melbourne-based creative and educator with extensive experience as an arts practitioner (performer, writer, producer) across theatre, film, voice and workshop facilitation with a BFA (Acting) gained at QUT in 2008. Since, she has amassed over 15 years’ experience working and performing in the arts.

She has been part of arts education for 10 years and has taught for youth and adults across drama, acting, Shakespeare, improvisation and screen acting for Centre for Adult Education (CAE), Acting Performance Studio Australia, Western Edge Youth Arts, Australian Academy of Dramatic Art and Hot House Theatre.

Claire has always been passionate about greater balance in our industry, especially around self-care, boundaries and dismantling truisms like ‘the show must go on’. Between 2018 and 2023, Claire gained interest and experience in health, supporting GPs on education projects for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Her current role at the Arts Wellbeing Collective mixes both her passion for arts and health in one. She holds a Postgraduate certificate in Arts Management, Certificate IV Training and Assessment and Mental Health First Aid Certificate.

Video of webinar


Arts Wellbeing Collective Resources

Navigate Well – The Arts Wellbeing Collective guide

… to read:
Spotlight magazine
The Well Series
Pocket Guide

... to listen to:
House Lights Up Podcast
Meditations for performing arts practitioners

… to watch:
Mental Health Matinees
Digital Shorts

Other resources


Claire Febey:

Hi everyone, on behalf of Creative Victoria and ArtsHub, welcome to today’s Creative Exchange webinar, ‘Me – We – Us: Looking After Creatives’. We’re all joining from different places today, but I’d like to start by acknowledging that I’m joining from Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country. I want to pay my respects to Elders past and present of this land, acknowledge all of the lands that you’re joining from today, and also welcome and acknowledge any First Peoples who are on the call with us. If we haven’t met before, I’m Claire Febey, the CEO of Creative Victoria, I use the pronouns she and her, I’m a cis white woman, I have short brown hair. Today, I’m wearing tortoiseshell glasses, and also a black top and a black blazer. Before we jump in, a bit of quick housekeeping. The webinar is being live captioned, and if you’d like to access the captioning, just select ‘Show captions’ from your Zoom menu. Or if that doesn’t work, you can click the link that’s in the chat. We’re also recording the session today, so any questions that you ask will be part of the recording. The recorded webinar will be available through the Creative Exchange page on the Creative Victoria website, and also on ArtsHub. We’ll also send out a survey following the webinar. Please fill that in and let us know how we’ve gone and what you’d like to hear about in the future. The hashtags that we’re using for today’s event are #CreativeVic, and #CreativeXchange. As always, we’re thrilled to be partnering with ArtsHub to bring you this Creative Exchange webinar.

Wellbeing is on the forefront of everyone’s thinking at the moment, and that’s especially the case within the creative industries. How can we work towards a future where all creative workers have the tools that they need to foster good mental health outcomes, to feel valued, to feel safe in their work, and also to achieve work/life balance? Today, our expert guests will share their insights into protective factors that we can all use to strengthen our own mental health and wellbeing and to better look out for one another. Leading this important conversation today are Jim Rimmer and Claire Pearson both from The Arts Wellbeing Collective. Jim is a Head of Programs. He has a wealth of expertise in the education and health sectors, and in working on programs that focus on arts and mental health outcomes. Claire is Learning Engagement Manager. Claire is an educator and a creative with extensive experience as a performer, a writer and a producer. Before we jump in, I’d like to remind you to have a listen to The Creative Exchange Podcast series. The podcast delves deeper into some of the themes explored in our webinars. There are currently three podcasts available, and there’s more coming soon, so please check them out. But now it’s my pleasure to get us started and to hand over to Jim to kick start today’s discussion. Thank you so much, Jim. And over to you.

Jim Rimmer

Thank you, Claire. I’m Jim Rimmer. I’m a he/him. I’m wearing a check shirt, grey hair and glasses and I’m sitting in front of a rather natty background. Thank you for joining us everybody. Claire and I have been looking forward to this session and we hope you have as well. We would also like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands that we’re all respectively meeting from today. The best place for us to start no doubt is a very, very short summary of The Arts Wellbeing Collective. So we are an initiative of Art Centre Melbourne, we were established in 2017. We bring together more than 500 arts and cultural organisations, individuals – and individuals, sorry – to promote mental health and wellbeing across the performing arts industry. Much of what we advocate for is applicable across the creative industries more broadly. In the absence of other resources, we encourage you to peruse ours, take what you need, and leave what you don’t. If you haven’t heard of The Arts Wellbeing Collective previously, our website addresses on the screen. Do come and visit, drop us a line. I was asked to do a very short summary. So that was it.

So starting the conversation today, we really need to explore what mental health is. Having open and frank conversations about mental health and its impact on the community and us – our sector in particular plays a really important role in destigmatising, mental health and mental wellbeing. And I’d really like to thank Creative Victoria and ArtsHub for initiating this conversation today. If we consider mental health is really part of a continuum, we tend to go up and down this continuum, this spectrum on a daily basis. We’ve just put up a definition of mental health in the stream that comes from the World Health Organisation, state of mental wellbeing that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well, work well and contribute to their community. Mental health is a little bit more than just the ups and downs that we experience in everyday life. We have this expectation that we can shift across the continuum from time to time. In some instances that might be through stressful situations like moving house or changing jobs. But when those situations resolve, those feelings also resolve themselves.

Mental health challenges are about a much deeper, longer time and debilitating experience. Arts Wellbeing Collective focuses our work on the creative industries, and, through that, creating an environment where both those who participate in the industry and the workplaces that we participate in, our organisations can all thrive and flourish as much as possible. Mental illness in Australia is, it’s a challenging topic. It can be very, very confronting for quite a number of people to talk about openly, largely that’s because it is there is a lot of stigma attached to it. We would like to have frank, open conversations about these challenges. You’ve probably heard the statistic that 20%, or one in five, people in Australia will be diagnosed at some point with a mental illness. Of these mental illnesses there are two that are particularly common; they are anxiety and depression. And the third is substance abuse, which has a very peculiar relationship with mental health in that it can be both a symptom and a contributor to mental health challenges. And it is definitely something that is experienced by many people in the creative industries.

Mental illness affects all Australians, either directly or indirectly. We also know that the prevalence is far higher in some population groups, LGBTIQ and First Nations people, as well as people living with disability. As an example, double the proportion of women aged 20 to 29, report mental health conditions, whereas men in the same age – the incidence is far less. In the creative industries, one of the challenges that faces us, is if we want to have a genuinely diverse sector, we really do need to address these mental health challenges and take extra efforts to, to embrace that diversity. Arts Wellbeing Collective was established as a consequence of a survey that ran in 2016. It was commissioned by Entertainment Assist and undertaken by Victoria University, and it found some really, really dire mental health metrics for those that work in the arts and entertainment industry. These were further replicated in 2012, in a survey run by Support Act with Swinburne University. You can see from the statistics on screen that psychological stress is more than four times that in the general population. Anxiety and depression, more than double that of people in the general population. While the tail end of the pandemic certainly impacted these figures, that doesn’t necessarily affect others that were included in a survey. Like 15% of people surveyed, said they didn’t feel safe at work is a really frightening statistic.

Unfortunately, we are unaware of more general surveys across the whole creative industries, more meta research that brings together all these findings from various disciplines. If you know of this research, we’d be really interested to do about it. So Wave Australia’s survey couple a couple of years ago, so 89% of Australians believe that engaging in the arts can have a positive impact on their mental health. This is in their 2023 Creative Wellbeing Report. Our industry clearly has a problem if the people who are creating the work are faring so poorly. There’s obviously a lot of work to do in front of us.
Thanks, Jim. So I’ll continue on. So kind of from the origin story of Arts Wellbeing Collective after the pilot ran in 2017, it was indicated through independent review that there was a desire for the program to continue and to expand. And from the industry, there was quite a lot of relief and gratitude at the program running.

So it evolved and we had a whole bunch of resources available online, which hopefully a lot of you are familiar with. And in this last year or so we’ve also expanded to having a relaunch training program. And that’s all been based on this integrated approach to workplace mental health, which is ‘Me – We [and] – Us’ which is a research-based system from these two researchers you see below, which we’ve quoted, which you can look up if you’re more interested in having a look at more. But Aaron Johnson, he’s at the University of Melbourne with ‘Me – We – Us’ model, and it’s basically a strength-based holistic approach to creating a mentally healthy workplace. And that we don’t rely for creating a mentally healthy workplace is that it’s just the responsibility of one person or one group of people. But we actually need all three of these, to integrate and be holistic for that to occur.

So this approach combines the strengths of medicine, public health, psychology and has really the potential to have the prevention and also the management of when mental health problems arise in the workplace. So we’re trying to prevent harm in the first place, reducing risk related factors. We’re trying to promote the positive of the things that do work and are working well in the workplace. And we’re trying to then manage if something does happen, we’re trying to manage that. And we’re trying to have a look at that no matter what the cause might be of that. So that’s the theme that we’re going to take today for you and that we can really set psychological safety from the start of the year, have this intention for the rest of the year. And we’re going to start that by looking at ‘Me’.

Claire Pearson

So when we’re looking at ‘Me’, we’re really also looking at self-care. And what’s the first way that I can start building self-care is by increasing my self-awareness. So often, self-care, we probably first think of like a bubble bath or ‘I’m going to have a massage’ or we think of these kinds of things which are usually… Something maybe we’re doing in reaction to already potentially being in a bad place, or possibly even being a crisis point when we start to think of something to do to look after ourselves. But self-awareness is actually a preventative model for that. So it means that we’re trying to actively do things all the time with a set plan, with a set structure for ourselves. And we’re really investigating and getting really curious about what are the things that really work for me? And what are the things that don’t? And so that we can ask ourselves these questions of ‘what’s going on for me when I am feeling good?’, ‘what’s going on for me when I’m just getting by?’ and ‘what’s going on for me when I’m feeling bad?’ So if we can actually increase that, and actually get better at practising that, which you can do, just like anything else, the more that you practise self-awareness, the better you can get at it. We get far more aware about ‘hey, actually, when I’m in these certain scenarios, or I’m talking with these people, or I found myself in this situation again, how am I feeling? Am I feeling deflated? Am I feeling flat? Am I feeling bored? Or lethargic? What about when things feel really good? Why are you feeling good? Why? What are the type of activities or people or situations that bring up for you feeling energised, really excited, feeling optimistic, relaxed and joyous?

And then maybe there are situations where you feel completely different to that where, perhaps it’s certain scenarios you find yourself in, or habits you find yourself in where you’re panicky or anxious or feeling even apathetic or having despair. So if we can practise more ways about feeling attention to that, and feeling a lot more aware of that mental health continuum, which Jim was talking about before, where we have the green and the red, it means that we can always be that bit more self-aware of ‘where am I on that scale right now? And what can I do to have prevention of getting into that red, into that orange?’ And if you do end up there, what are some things you can do to help yourself get back out of that with support? And so self-awareness really brings up this idea between resilience and endurance. So both of them are really important, and they’re needed at different times in our life. Except, we can ask ourselves, ‘what have I done before that’s worked really well and given me resilience to bounce back?’. But also ‘what have I endured? And maybe don’t want to endure again?’ And resilience can mean that we’re bouncing back, flexibility, and that we have the ability to do that. And that is actually sustainable. Endurance, can be more, ‘I’m going to grit my teeth, and I’m going to get through this no matter what. I’m not going to listen to the signals my body’s giving me’ or blocking those things out. ‘I’m just getting through this.’ So we have to think about which one there is more sustainable. The circumstances in our life. And if we can get more to that resilience space, that’s going to be better for us. And that’s going to come out from us and affect the others around us. So with that self-awareness, we can always ask ourself, ‘what’s worked for me before? And how can I access that again, to work for me now?’ And if we haven’t done something, ‘what have I learned from what I have endured?’.

So there are five categories of self-care. And a way you can remember this is – although they seem quite basic and straightforward – is to think of your hand and you have five fingers on your hand, that could always remind you about what these are. So we have to look at our physical life, we have to look at our emotional life, our spiritual life, our relationships, and our workplace. And, of course, our workplace is a huge part of our life. In fact, we often are with our workmates more than we’re even with family or friends. So that’s super important. And sometimes when something’s going on for you, a little tool you can use for that self awareness and checking in is to go ‘maybe something’s going on’. Go to your middle finger and go ‘what’s going on for me right now?’ And you can actually go through your fingers and go through each of those parts of your life, maybe just to do a little quick check in to see where you’re at. So some questions I might ask you today just to have a think about it. We obviously can’t go too deep today, but let’s say, for example, physical, really big things like ‘am I getting adequate sleep? Am I eating fruit and veggies? Am I getting enough exercise? Am I going to the doctor if something comes up? Emotionally: ‘Do I have ways to actually process my emotions? And am I getting checked with the doctor if I think I’m concerned about something? Am I bringing things into my life? To feel recharged emotionally, and have some stimulation mentally?’ Spiritual doesn’t have to be church or religion, it can be anything that just gives you a deeper sense of meaning. Maybe travel, maybe music. It could be a whole lot of things that could tick that spiritual box.

Relationships are super important. They can be our friends, our family, our workmates. Any of our relationships are super important and social connection is such a huge driving force in mental health. So are we making sure that we have those relationships, so that we can reach out to those people if we need support? And are we maintaining those relationships? And with our workplace, of course, as I mentioned, are we looking after ourselves at work? Having good relationships at work? Doing really basic things, like having breaks for meals and regular breaks during your work hours? Are your work hours manageable? Do you maybe have a mentor or great manager that can help you through the different things that you’re doing at work? Do you have access to really basic things like sick leave, and things like that? So these are all the type of questions that come up in this area.

And so when we look at all these things, what are they? Well, they’re the protective factors like Claire (Febey) was saying before. So it’s been proven that these things are the things that keep us in that green zone, that keep us in touch. And are we going to do everything perfectly all the time? No, we’re not. Is everything going to be totally right all the time? Are we always going to get eight hours sleep? Are we going to eat perfectly every day? Are we going to be that best friend every day? No, we’re just not, that’s just life. But we can definitely always keep tilting towards the good the things that are working and helping and we can increase that self-awareness to go ‘actually, I’ve got some really great friends and support at the moment. But actually, you know, this kind of thing is going on for me with my sense of purpose and meaning while I’m at work’, and we can start to just be so much more self-aware. And when we’re self-aware, that means we can really help ourselves and others. So those protective factors are having supportive friends and family, good physical health, financial stability – a really tricky one in the arts – access to support and knowing where to go for support.

And it’s really important as – access to support is actually you knowing where to go before crisis hits. When we’re in crisis, we can’t really think straight, so it’s really great to think of these things before and ahead of time. So to have these things actively aware for us, so that when something does happen, we know where to go and what to do. Enjoying and engaging in hobbies and interests. Either your art or maybe something outside of your art? Accomplishment and achievement, social connectedness, sense of purpose and meaning and, of course, sense of self worth. And so there’s actually a reason behind all this. And it’s, it has been researched and Seligman, he actually did a paper called Flourish, a book in 2011, which looked at this exact stuff. And it’s known as PERMA in the positive psychology world. If you’re interested, go and look up and read some more. And it’s – what he found that we needed as individuals to be flourishing individuals in our society and at the workplace, and that includes positive emotion. So just feeling good. Getting a good coffee that day, talking to the barista. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It’s just feeling good. Positive emotions help us as human beings all the time, excitement, belonging, aberration, humility – all of those kinds of things. Trust and connection.

It’s really important that we feel these things as often as we can. And making the most of situations when we can. Our engagement or flow are really huge one in the arts, because we love creating, and we love being in flow with our creativity. And we need to be engaged in activities which challenge us. But we really feel like we’re also just truly being in the moment with our creativity, or just being present, like playing or learning music, building things during puzzles, things like this are really engaging work and in our workplace. Relationships, as we said before, so keeping those positive and sustainable relationships in our life. Or maybe it will be in your community, like having a sporting group or a community group. All these things really help for this meaning, so we want to live with purpose, and that our life aligns with our personal values. And that’s something very personal.

And today like me and Jim can’t tell you what these things mean to you. Because it’s also personal. And you’re going to have your own things which are coming up in your head for you now. But we hope that we’re giving you some ideas to keep thinking on this and reflecting on what these things mean to you. And of course accomplishment doesn’t have to be winning a race or getting a medal. Those things can be awesome and nice. It could be those big, big finish points. But we also want you to think about accomplishment when you just achieve things every day, small things and recognise progress as it happens. So we really want to celebrate the small wins and the big wins. And so although this is very simple, what we can say today, of course, is more things which are really important here, like we talked about before: sleep nutrition. And they’re all really equally important to wellbeing. And I think that’s now on to you, Jim, for ‘We’.

Jim Rimmer

Thank you, Claire. If we move through that framework, Claire has just been talking about ‘Me’, if we move into the ‘We’ area, in our sector, that more often than not, we’re talking about our relationship with our direct colleagues. Creative industries are often engaging with audiences and the general public. But for the point of this conversation, we’ll just limit ourselves to our coworkers. This is an incredibly brief summary, but it’s really important that we include it. We can’t encourage you enough to do more learning in this area, because, ultimately, it may save lives. When we’re considering the mental health of our colleagues, one of the first things that often that occurs to us is changing the behaviour. So a colleague who is usually on time to meetings and the start of the work day might start being late or a natty colleague might start coming to work dishevelled.

One of our coworkers might stop eating, and you just notice these changes in your colleagues that might be indicative that they’re going through some stuff. So starting a conversation is the first challenge ahead of us. Before talking to a colleague, we really need to take some things into account, whether we ourselves are ready to have that conversation that might be quite challenging conversation, whether we need to be conscious of picking our moment. So not doing it in front of a crowd of other colleagues, acknowledging confidentiality and doing it at a moment where our coworker is likely to share openly. We need to be able to listen without judgement, to be patient and avoid confrontation. And we need to encourage action. Often offering practical support, normalising seeking help from professionals and checking in with our colleagues. So there’s a process, it’s – challenging conversations can make a real difference in somebody else’s lives. There’s support out there through ‘RU OK Day?’ and their website. The courses like those offered by Arts Wellbeing Collective, the ‘responding to mental health – mental distress course’, and the ‘mental health first aid’ course. Training for these conversations, these tough conversations is really important.

As an example, we wouldn’t go into opening night without having done rehearsals. So getting familiar with the process of how to have sensitive conversations with colleagues is super important. And from ‘We’, we also move into the ‘Us’ territory. The ‘Us’ space is really about our workplaces as a whole. And one of the things that Arts Wellbeing is especially conscious of, is how different our workplaces are from people that don’t work in creative industries. Our workplaces – it could be a stage, it could be a gallery, it could be in your studio. And there little foibles that are really big contributors to mental health challenges in the creative industries. You may have heard terms like ‘psychosocial safety’ and ‘psychological safety’ and thought they’re interchangeable. But there really is a small but important difference. ‘Psychosocial safety’ encompasses the broader work environment that supports mental, emotional, and physical health at work. This is governed by federal legislation that was brought in in April 2023. ‘To ensure employees are creating a psychologically safe environment. We are now required to use a hierarchy of controls to manage hazards and make adjustments to both our organisational policies but also our practice.’ If we look at this list, unfortunately, I would say that many people that work in the creative industries, would say they’ve experienced at least one of these hazards, too often, as likely more than one. ‘Psychological safety’, on the other hand, is about feeling safe to share your thoughts to work in a team. Without concerns or fear. Often psychologically safe teams are the highest performing teams, and I’ll hand over to Claire to speak more about psychological safety.

Claire Pearson

Yes, as Jim was saying, this is what we’re looking at, a psychologically safe workplace and what that leads to. Psychological safety is actually a shared belief held by the members of a team that [they are] safe to take interpersonal risks with each other. So it describes an environment which is characterised by trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves. I heard a really great definition once from a past CEO who said, you know, that a great culture is when you can be yourself at work. And I think that’s true that you are the culture. And this includes the ability to speak up without fear of negative consequences, or your self image, your status or your career. And like Jim was saying, when we do that, it actually empowers individuals to feel comfortable to put forward their best ideas, for great collaboration, which ends up being great products which get produced with that show, or creative product, or whatever it may be.

So it really allows people to build confidence and trust within themselves and the team. And it makes a space where everyone feels valued and encouraged to participate. So what happens when that doesn’t happen? Well, it’s it’s pretty much the opposite. In an unsafe workplace, we get reduced functioning, we get increase of absenteeism, high staff turnover, low morale, motivation. And like Jim said, we, you know, we would have known the great moments. So we described before, we’ve definitely always been in, we’ve been in teams where you know, this can happen as well. Loss of productivity, the inability to deliver objectives, and, unfortunately, increase of workers’ comp claims. So unfortunately, a lot of organisations can be described this way. And if you’re a leader or a concerned leader, and you’re really wanting to create a psychologically safe workplace, you really want to take those steps to really build trust and inclusivity in your team.

So what can we take from those two last slides? Well, we can think of [when] we’re starting out with a project, we can think about our aims and our goals and our success with the project and often, particularly coming from a theatre background – but any creative industries – we’re thinking about the product, we’re thinking about the audience, we’re thinking about KPIs, we’re thinking about selling seats, we’re thinking about selling a product. And these are the things which often describe what the successes of a project that maybe we can also think of as leaders or as team builders, or producers, or whatever we may be, that when we start our work with the intention of psychological safety from the beginning, and we make that part of our goals and our values for a project.

And we really make that an aim. And whatever we do with that work, because if we can have the great outcomes, but if the team isn’t happy, and people are leaving, and people feel very disempowered, what does that all mean anyway? So we really can see actually a definition of success for ourselves can be to have a psychologically safe workplace. And we can even look at this from grassroots points of your team building and from grant applications that you can make these things, priorities in how you budget your work, say, for training, or putting in your grant applications and that kind of thing, for helping your team have a psychologically safe experience. So yeah, really think about how you can bring that in from the very start of your projects, and that it’s just as valuable as anything else that you’re doing. So we’ve had a look through that and I just want to put to you there, sitting listening from home or the office, you can think about either way you are right now or where you have been about maybe where your organisation is at this point.

There’s, again with the red to the green scale. So, you know, are we in a reacting state as an organisation to when things come up? Or are we in a preventative state? So starting from the red that we in a harmful state that really no one cares about this stuff. And at least as long as the show goes on, as long as the product gets up, that’s all that matters. Are we reactive in the orange? So basically, we’re just waiting until something goes wrong, and then we’ll think about what to do. Is it considered? Which might mean that you’ve got maybe subsystems and policies and things in place to mitigate the risk, but maybe that’s all about it. Or we want to get up into this green space, being proactive. Pardon me – went one slide too far. So we want to be proactive, which is that it’s actually embodied into our organisations throughout leaders and the values and it drives continuous improvement actively. And then, of course, we want to get right to the top, which is a generative state. A generative state of thriving, so not just surviving or thriving in a mentally healthy workplace is seen as the norm, not an exception. So have a think about maybe where your current company is at and where you would like to be.

And so when we do look at that green, what does that green mean? What does that mean having a mentally healthy workplace? Well, it actually is broken down into these eight pillars, which we founded through our Work Well Guide, which you can have a look at on our website. Which is support, connection, leadership, enablement, engagement, courage, protection and safety. And these have been found to be the key eight areas that will actually allow your organisation to be thriving and where people feel safe. So I’ll just go through some examples of what do these mean. And if you look at our Work Well Guide online, you can actually go through a bit of a checklist for yourself. And if you come and do our training with creating mentally healthy workplaces, you can actually sit through this for a few hours with a facilitator and really have the time and the conversation to work through these about ‘what are the things that your organisation is doing really well? And what are the things where you could improve on or keep working on?’ So support – like ‘do you and the employees – do you recognise when you need support? And do you know where to go to access it?’ We found often in training that a lot of organisations and workers don’t know that they haven’t EAP (employee assistance program) service, for example, engagement, as we learned in the PERMA before, human beings really thrive, being fully engaged, and especially in the arts, we’re, like, super passionate about what we do.

But we also know that we can be engaged and have a work life balance, and that work is work. And we also have a life outside of work. And that’s OK. Leadership – is there a clear vision from the leaders about where the company is at and what it’s trying to achieve? And, particularly, is there clarity when there’s uncertainty in the organisation from those leaders? Courage – can company members speak up and say, if something’s not quite working well, and not fear that they’ll have anything happen to them if they do speak up? Protection – is physical safety a priority and mental health a priority? There are strategies and policies in place to promote physical safety? Is that respectful? And do we deal with grievances and complaints quickly? And promptly? And do we actively prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace at any level? Enablement really means getting set up for success. So can everyone do what they have to do? And do they have what they need to do their job really well and properly? And that’s a really big one. Are the resources in line with their role? And safety – are we considering different perspectives about work? So First Nations perspectives, lived experience, which is incredibly important for mental health. Are we making a really welcoming workplace where everyone feels safe, and it’s accessible and inclusive? So as I said, you can have a look at that further online and our Work Well Guide.

And we also have our training, which you come to do as we wrap up today. So if you really want to learn more about this, come as you are yourself or part of your workplace. And we have these courses coming up. We’ve got Creative Selfcare, which is looking at the ‘Me – We – Us’ model, looking out for each other, Responding to Mental Distress and the accredited Mental Health First Aid, and, of course, creating mentally healthy workplaces where you can actually, like I said before, work through those points and have a really detailed and great conversation about where you take yourself and your organisation next, with these ideas and themes. And Jim, do you want to talk about the webinar?

Jim Rimmer

We’ve both made mention of a bunch of the resources that AWC have available on our website. We’re always adding to those resources. So in a few weeks time, we have an Anti-fatigue webinar. It’s free. It’s, this is a challenge that has been recurrent in our sector for way too long. We’re tapping into the knowledge pool of Arts Centre Melbourne, and our colleague, Ally Hurd, who has previously been a production manager, tour manager. She’s had a wealth of experience. She’s now working in a safety role, and she’s going to take participants through an anti fatigue toolkit. At around the same time and launching in mid March, we also have the latest update in our popular wellness series called Navigate Well, which is an interactive tool for career planning or career changing. That takes account for our mental health and wellbeing in those processes. Explores our relationship with time, with money, with our preferred colleagues, really taps into the values that contribute to a productive and safe career in the creative industries.

So to summarise today’s points, we are all active participants in maintaining our own mental health. There are a range of small positive steps that we can take to help ourselves and to help others. If we need help, we should seek it. And ultimately, our sector needs to rise – to rise to this challenge. For too long, research has indicated that mental health statistics are through the floor and our sector, we need to change that, we need to turn it around. We need our sector to invest in its people and its workplaces. The companies that don’t will quickly get left behind. So just before we finish, I’d like to ask you one thing that you will do for yourself before you go back to your office, or your team, what will you do for yourself and for others that can make a positive impact to psychological safety in the year ahead? If you want to make a public pledge about this, you can drop it into the chat, you can share it with colleagues, you can write it on a post-it note. Or you can just make a promise to yourself and keep it private. But the one thing I would encourage you to do is to do it. Just before we go, we’re heading toward the exit door. And we have a bunch of resources that will be made available.

Some of them are listed on the next slide that will be made available by the producers, the links to these, all of these resources, post this meeting. So you don’t need to scribble it down. Obviously, the best is at the top, but all the others are worth exploring as well. And if you are in need, or you know somebody else that is in need, please seek help. We have some help lines that are also on screen. Some of those help lines, as Claire mentioned earlier, it’s better to seek that assistance before being in crisis. But if you could change the slide Claire? It is important that if you are in crisis or know somebody that’s in crisis that you seek help.

So we’re really keen to answer any questions you might have, please drop them into the q&a, we will do our best to work through the list as quickly as possible. Starting with those that are most popular. And I will just have a look at now.

Cultural safety and I think Claire touched on that in in the eight pillars of psychological safety. It’s a very it’s an incredibly important consideration. It’s a very big contributor to mental health, both positive and challenges. So cultural safety is very much embedded in the present protective factors around mental health.

Claire Pearson

Jim, there is a question about oh, sorry.

Jim Rimmer

You go.

Claire Pearson

Suggestions for independent solo creatives in the room? I think – just coming from a bit of a freelance solo creative perspective myself – yeah, definitely. I think like a lot of things, you know, we talked about today for the whole workplace. And you know, the challenge obviously, of being a freelancer or an independent worker is that you are across multiple workplaces most of the year, a lot of creatives are, and a lot of your systems and processes come back to yourself. And I think that is a real challenge. Sometimes when you’re kind of in the structure of a workplace, you get certain things done for you and that kind of thing. So there’s kind of your everyday admin tasks and then there’s your creative life as well. I’m going to assume you mean – the person who wrote the question in – particularly about some some things for yourself, looking after yourself, something you mentioned in the Creative Selfcare, which I highly recommend you come and do with us – we go online and in person – is looking at what’s, you know, in your control and what’s out of your control.

And I think that’s super important and why we bring up like the self-awareness stuff, because we have to accept that certain things are out of control sometimes. And what we can control means that we get that it’s actually more in control than maybe we think in terms of our thoughts, and our looking at what is working and that kind of thing. So I think a lot of it comes back to what your own processes are. And if you can find things that really work for you, and that you can have some really clear self-care and boundaries. And when you’re making certain decisions, that you’re also doing those from a values play space, but what’s really important to you. I know those things sound really simple. But I think boundaries is a huge thing when there are self, when you’re self artists, your self independent artists, and knowing your worth and your time as well.

And those things, you know, change over your career. So you can keep a bit of a bit of self-care and sanity as you go along. And there are so many ups and downs that if you can, you know, be the ship that bobs on the sea, rather than sunk off or floating up, you’ve got to go with the flow, and try and have some things in our control from that self-care perspective, that you can control, you know, your yoga routine, or your meditation or you know, you need certain amount of sleep, whatever it might be, the things that work for you, if there’s certain things that you can have, it means whatever comes up, you’ve got some systems in place, just because our, our workplace is so up and down in terms of work and that kind of thing. If there’s any way that you can get some regularity that you can have, that would be my biggest and first tip there. I hope that’s what you’re asking about.

Jim Rimmer

I think also with solo creatives, and this touches on another question about visual artists, is that many of us in the industry, we might be solo practitioners, and we might feel isolated, but at various times, we’re all parts of big networks. So having these open and frank conversations about the challenges that we’re facing, about what works well for us, and sharing with others in our networks, others of our peers who may have been treated poorly, by a gallery owner, for instance. Yeah, having those conversations and speaking openly about the protective factors, processes that we can take to ensure that we’re not putting ourselves in harm’s way I think is really important. Do you want to work down the list a little more, Claire?

Claire Pearson

Yeah, I was just about to say too, as you’re saying that, you know, peer to peer support and recognition that, although there might be a bunch of freelancers, and that we actually all in this industry together and really they’re the people that understand you, are your other workers and any ways of community and, and networking and having those peer to peer relationships is super supportive. Let me work down.

Jim Rimmer

Somebody has asked how they can sign up to our webinars. Just if they visit, www.artswellbeingcollective.com.au, there’ll be a link on the front page. Really couldn’t be easier.

Claire Pearson

There was a question, Jim, about welcoming inclusive space for people who are neurodiverse and a few other kinds of questions, which I think come from that space. It’s a really great suggestion there from Kathy, [who] is one of our facilitators, which is about those roles in the workplaces in terms of access roles, which are fantastic and advocating for that in the space. It’s super important, and it’s becoming more and more common. Jim, anything you want to add on to that one?

Jim Rimmer

This is touched on a few of these questions about creating safe and welcoming workplaces for people whose neurodiversity or LGBTIQ etc. And it’s linked also with the cultural safety question earlier. There’s, there’s both an education piece for the people that work, in the work that we work, with our colleagues, at all levels within organisations. We can’t assume that colleagues necessarily have any familiarity with the fullest breadth of our community. So I guess I would encourage people to be understanding and perhaps not necessarily having too high expectations, but be willing to take their colleagues on a journey with them.

Claire Pearson

Yeah, something yeah, we talk about, as you know, in our Arts Centre policies is, you know, meeting people where they’re at, and in terms of mental health or abilities or, and, you know, particularly creative industries has been touched on, neurodiverse is very common in the creative industries. And I think more and more, we’re realising as a society and our workplaces about that we all have the, you know, the iceberg, we see the tip of the iceberg, and whether that comes out as certain behaviours or just, or just also just who we are, and that acceptance and that general psychological safety and understanding that we’re all different, we all have different things to bring to the table. And if we can create a safe space for that, and promote that, it’s going to be beneficial for all.

And there was just a question there, Jim about, you know, I sometimes find myself not talking about issues, because it feels like you become a liability on a production. And I think that’s super common. And that is one of the biggest things that has, unfortunately, just occurs generally in the workplace, but also in the performing arts and arts, creative industries, generally. We don’t want to be seen as the liability, we don’t want to be seen as the problem person or the person that people need to look after. But hopefully, I think, you know, there is an element there of trust. And unfortunately, you know, choosing sometimes who you speak to, and who you don’t speak to, unfortunately, but if our leaders in the room can be encouraging of you, particularly in those roles of director, leadership, company manager, you’re really setting the tone for the rest of the group. And you’re really setting up how that room or that process or that rehearsal, or that project is going to go.

So don’t underestimate your leadership in those positions. And that sometimes, you know, walking the talk is super important to encourage others that it’s safe to do so. That could be asking for feedback from your team members, who might be your direct reports and asking very publicly for feedback from them, it might be sharing your own struggles you’re going through, no one has the right to demand that they know what’s going on for you privately, of course, we have to have really safe boundaries. But you might just carefully think about, you know, who I do want to reveal this information to or not? And if we create create a safe workplace where people feel like they can start having those conversations more and more, a bit more openly, then hopefully that means less fear, and less retribution if something does come up. And also though, like, if you bring up something, you know, I always like to think about the ball on the top of the hill and going down the hill, when the ball’s already down the bottom of the hill, it’s almost a bit too late. And there’s so much momentum behind the ball that to stop it is really difficult. But if you’re starting at the top with the balls, just rolling, it’s just like one hand can just stop that ball from rolling down, right?

So you can get more help and support early on and actually frame things, maybe if you’re revealing something, say to your production manager, whatever it might be, maybe you just going ‘hey, I’m just letting you know. I’m just clocking x, y, z is going on for me’ early, now. ‘I don’t think it’s a problem. I’ve got a handle on it. I’m actually doing x, y, z to really help myself out at this stage. So I’ll let you know if anything else comes up. But this is what’s going on for me right now’. And you’ve kind of already clocked it before it becomes an issue down the track, if that makes sense. So that could be a way to think about it a little bit more and framing things as the project, not just about yourself, but actually what the safety of the project is and, and that you’re actually OK. If you aren’t, of course, if you’re not, you’re not. But just, yeah, encouraging that safe, that safe conversation. And it is difficult because everyone’s on a different journey with mental health and awareness.

And, unfortunately, yeah, some people do see, they don’t understand and they do see it as a weakness. And, you know, and I’m not saying all those conversations would go perfectly but yes, that’s a tip from me I think there that could help that. And when it’s normalised, we really want to normalise these conversations more, and that, actually, that everyone has something going on at stages. And if we can keep that normalisation going, that’s super helpful.

Jim Rimmer

If you could just go back one slide as well, please Claire. I recognise we’re rapidly running out of time. And to respond to a few of the questions, this list of resources will be made available with links to all of these websites. A lot of these are more general, there are some that are very creative industry specific like Arts Wellbeing Collective and MEA. But the other links will provide a range of different tools that are very handy in opening these conversations, in being quite explicit about what the obligations of boards and directors and, and bosses, and the rest of us are. Mental health is a consideration in workplaces, it’s not just for the boss. Occupational Health and Safety is a responsibility we all share in our workplaces. So yeah, once, once these resources are made available, I really encourage people to check them out. We probably have time for one final question.

Claire Pearson

Ah, yes, there’s a question about it, we’ll have the presentation, I believe, yeah, copy will highly likely get sent to you after this, as to who asked that. Delphine asked about the realities and not being paid as an artist, and thinking about the distress in the thriving chart, and struggling financially. Yeah, I mean, it’s a huge, it’s a huge thing in the arts, and if there’s ways that we can find some sustainability financially, and yeah, you know, you have to think of who you are and what your limits are as well on your boundaries and your values, too. So I really highly recommend Delphine, and those who have liked that question, to have a look at our Navigate Well, resource which comes out just in a couple of weeks, it’s all about that, it’s about making those really key choices about the value of your work. And also about, you know, charging or not doing the work if it’s not in line with your values, and which does come back to your relationships and finances ultimately, as well.

So and when we start kind of, really yeah, thinking through those, those decisions a little bit more, it will help it encourage those but you know, getting if you can get anything in place that really helps you keep whatever you need financially to keep you going. We all have different limits and different things which work well for us and don’t work well for us. And you have to find what those are, and that’s sustainable for you. And we all have kind of different, I think, different levels of what that means for each of us. It’s definitely a huge tricky thing. I know I’ve been there; it’s really difficult and yeah, but I would recommend for this next couple weeks have a look at our Navigate Well. It could give you really some great structures and ideas to work through some of those thoughts.

Jim Rimmer

And we’ve just been prompted that the presentation will be available on the website rather than being sent out. Thank you all for joining us today. We hope you got some value from this presentation. We’d encourage you to become advocates in your own workplaces and networks for positive mental health. Please check out the Arts Wellbeing website. Drop us a line if you’ve got any questions, register for the webinar, have a look at Navigate Well when it comes out. We’ll be in touch. Thank you.

Madeleine Swain

Thank you, Jim and Claire. Hi, everybody. I’m Madeleine Swain. I’m the Managing Editor at ArtsHub. I’m a middle aged white woman with brown tied back, slicked-back hair and glasses and I’m wearing a green shirt. My pronouns are she and her and I’d also like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land that I’m coming to you from today, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunurong Peoples of East Kulin Nations. And I’d like to pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and I extend that respect to any Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders joining us here today. We’re coming to the end of our time now. So on behalf of the teams at Creative Victoria and ArtsHub, I’d like to thank everyone for joining us and for your questions, which always add to the discussion.

And I’m sure you’ll join me in thanking our wonderful presenters Jim Rimmer and Claire Pearson for sharing such valuable insights with us today and answering your questions so thoughtfully. And on that question of communities and solo practitioners, I’d like to note that we at ArtsHub have a guided series happening that follows Julia Cameron’s acclaimed book The Artist’s Way and that kicks off this Monday March the 3rd. And it’s a free guided program, being run on ArtsHub aimed at supporting creatives to take time for themselves and their creative practice each day. And you can google ArtsHub and ‘The Artist’s Way’ to connect with that program. And if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget that you can catch up with the five webinars that we’ve previously done under Creative Exchange via artshub.com.au or Creative Victoria’s website. And you can track them down on YouTube too.

And this one will be available to you shortly. And we’ve also now launched the associated podcast series with several episodes available to listen via Spotify and Apple podcasts now. And to find out about upcoming events in the Creative Exchange series. Please subscribe to the Creative Victoria e-newsletter or follow the organisation on social media. Finally, do remember to use those hashtags the #CreativeVic and the #CreativeXchange ones. And please do complete the feedback survey, which helps us with our next webinars. Thank you again for joining us today. And we’ll see you all next time.

Watch the previous webinars and listen to the new related podcasts in the Creative Exchange series.

Madeleine Swain is ArtsHub’s managing editor. Originally from England where she trained as an actor, she has over 25 years’ experience as a writer, editor and film reviewer in print, television, radio and online. She is also currently Vice Chair of JOY Media.