‘Play Ground’ An Art Approach to Working in an Aboriginal Community School

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Catherine Keyzer


This article reflects on an art approach referred to as ‘Play Ground’ that evolved over six years in four Aboriginal pre-schools in regional NSW, Australia. It focuses on one of the pre-schools and proposes a culturally sensitive, collaborative play space that allows for individual and group expression within the safety of the art therapy setting, reaching beyond the work with the children, including teachers, families, and Community. 

Art therapy theory and processes, my art practice, and a reflective psychodynamic orientation guided my thinking and helped in navigating uncertain terrain and in understanding the continuing traumatic social framework of this school and community in the aftermath of colonisation. Western psychological knowledges offer a way of understanding the work, however, the author embarks on an ongoing search for a meeting place and point of exchange and learning in the intercultural space, within the socio-historical context of this Aboriginal Community School. Winnicott’s idea of ‘potential space’ (1971), as an intermediate area of experiencing, is embedded in Play Ground but also brought alive in the encounters and knowledge sharing between cultures - in the classroom, the staffroom, ‘under a tree’ - and may offer a between-worlds area of reverie and place of meeting.

 Keywords: Aboriginal, intercultural, trauma, clay, play, uncertainty

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