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It is well established that youth in detention are characteristically not highly motivated to participate in educational programs that demand concentrated effort or study. If they do choose to participate, they often do not display behaviours consistent with high levels of engagement and persistence while on task. Therefore a strong need exists for educational programs that not only stimulate interest in the learning process but also encourage students to adopt a more active role and greater responsibility for the quality of their learning outcomes.

For a period of over three years, a number of Adult and Community Education (ACE) funded arts projects have been offered by staff from the Australian Catholic University to young detainees at the Hindmarsh Educational Centre, Quamby Youth Detention Centre, Canberra. This paper provides an overview and evaluation of the programs offered; their development and implementation; the successes and challenges faced; the learning environment; and the role of community artists in the teaching and learning process. Evidence exists to support the claim that such projects can work effectively to rekindle interest in learning, provide opportunities for creative endeavour, and encourage the development of positive attitudes towards learning and improved levels of achievement. The high levels of enthusiasm displayed during the various educational activities suggest the visual and 2 kinaesthetic modes of learning utilised during these experiences might hold potential for stimulating the construction of more meaningful connections to other areas of learning.

By the conclusion of the 2002 project, the participants had completed an environmental sculpture for display in the grounds of the centre, worked cooperatively to produce a variety of quality art works, and extended their ability to more fully concentrate on specific tasks for the production of personally satisfying learning outcomes. It is hoped that through participation in these positive learning experiences, students will be stimulated to pursue further educational activities after release from the centre. For this to occur, it is essential that continuing arts community programs that offer safe, engaging and constructive learning environments for young people are available to ensure the maintenance of the positive outcomes evidenced at the Centre.


School of Education

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Conference Paper

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