What do you enjoy most about your role?
What I enjoy most is that my little idea has become a national reality. I founded the Australian Children’s Music Foundation (ACMF) to see if I could help children in similar circumstances that I experienced as a child – lost or without hope, neglected, lonely or troubled. I know how much music helped me when I was young. Music brought me joy, solace and an escape in very difficult times. Music also fired my imagination and changed my life.
Over the past 18 years, I have seen thousands of young lives transformed in a positive way through the power of music. Music brings joy and hope, inspires creativity and imagination, enhances self-esteem, self-expression, discipline, social behaviour and improves literacy and numeracy. Research has shown that children who study music can be up to 30% more accomplished academically than those who do not have music education.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Since inception, we have raised over $30 million and received great support from organisations such as Future Generation Australia which we are grateful for. However, without a doubt, the most challenging aspect of my job is trying to find the funding necessary to help as many children as we can. We work wherever we can to help children in disaster-affected areas, be it bushfire, drought or flood etc., but it is always difficult to get the support that we need and help people realise the power of music to comfort and provide a positive outlet to endure hardship. Music is vital for children’s mental well-being. The ACMF hosted music programs for three years in every school in Victoria that were affected by the 2009 bushfire tragedy. The way music helped the children, parents and teachers deal with such a traumatic event was amazing.
What are you most proud of at the ACMF?
At the commencement of 2021, the ACMF will have been running for 19 years. I am most proud of the fact that we continue to help disadvantaged children across Australia and it is most gratifying to know that countless children who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to access music education are now learning to play instruments, sing, write songs and learn music theory. They are experiencing the creativity and imagination that music inspires for them to have a better future.
How will the challenges faced during the coronavirus permanently shift the way the ACMF supports young people facing mental health issues?
The ACMF has always been focused on mental health. We have been very aware that since the terrible drought, the devastating bushfires and now the coronavirus pandemic, children are more anxious and we have alerted all of our teachers across the country to be extra vigilant and ensure that the children get the necessary care if needed.
We are also developing more online resources for children, teachers and parents to keep young people engaged and participating in activities with music. Two months ago we started a new long-term music program in a bushfire affected school in New South Wales and will be starting a number of other programs in disaster-affected areas at the beginning of school term in 2021. We are also planning to work in eight or nine schools in the Alice Springs area as soon as funding is in place.
What does it mean to have the support of Future Generation?
The support from Future Generation Australia means an enormous amount to the ACMF. In 2020, we were able to deliver music programs to over 1,000 disadvantaged children every week in both New South Wales and Victoria. The support enabled the ACMF to continue the National Schools Songwriting Competition which has been held for the last 18 years and is open to every school-aged children in Australia. This initiative is for all children and not just the disadvantaged and encourages creativity and imagination. We have received over 35,000 entries to date and many of these children have developed musical careers. Our regional music programs funded by Future Generation Australia has brought families, communities and schools together through concerts and performances, and we were also able to develop music programs for special needs students in many of the Future Generation Australia funded schools.
About the ACMF
The ACMF provides free, long-term music classes and instruments to disadvantaged children to inspire creativity, nurture self-esteem and improve educational outcomes. Since inception, the ACMF has provided over 233,500 free music lessons, donated over $1 million worth of musical instruments and received over 27,000 entries in the ACMF National Songwriting Competition.
The ACMF and Future Generation
In 2020, the ACMF was able to deliver music programs to over 1,000 disadvantaged children each week in both New South Wales and Victoria. The support of Future Generation Australia has enabled the ACMF to continue the National Schools Songwriting Competition which has received 35,000 entries to date, and funded regional music programs to bring families, communities and schools together through concerts and performances.