Outloud is a social impact arts organisation which facilitates meaningful creative and performing arts opportunities and experiences for culturally and linguistically diverse young people in Western Sydney. Many of Outloud’s programs serve as early intervention harm reduction projects that target issues affecting young people in the Canterbury-Bankstown community. My project will focus on the history of RESPECT, a music program which educates boys in Years 5 and 6 about gender equality and family violence in a school setting.
In September, I visited Outloud for the first time to meet with Craig Taunton and Van Nguyen who both work on the RESPECT Program. Outloud is based at the Bankstown Arts Centre, and entering the premises, you very clearly get the sense that it is part of a thriving, interconnected hub of artistic activity. The night before we met was the first Tuesday of the month, and so the famous Bankstown Poetry Slam had taken place downstairs. Craig was pleased to inform me that an alumnus of the RESPECT Program had taken up the mantle of timekeeper for the night.
We quickly fell into a discussion about some of the most recent music videos uploaded to Outloud’s YouTube channel, including some very impressive fast rapping in Punchbowl Public School’s “A Good Foundation”. Craig and Van then guided me through some of the framed pictures on the opposite wall of rap performances that had taken place at Bankstown Shopping Centre during pre-pandemic years, explaining that hundreds of boys would usually take part.
Check out “A Good Foundation” below. I hope you appreciate the green screen backgrounds as much as I did— my personal favourite is the Bankstown Sports Club!
After visiting Outloud, meeting Craig and Van, and watching past musical performances, the community impact of this incredibly special program was undeniable. The sheer amount of young people that Outloud has supported to engage with the arts is such a meaningful feat to begin with. RESPECT goes above and beyond even this.
In Craig’s words, while Outloud as a community arts organisation is constantly cultivating artists in the Bankstown area, for this particular program, “art is a tool for engagement”. Over the course of 12 weeks, the boys learn from facilitators and family violence counsellors in a school setting, and write an original song which distils what they have learned. Not all the young boys will be transformed into career musicians (although their rapping is beyond impressive!). Most significantly, 98% of the boys come away from the program having developed a vital understanding of the harms of family violence and the characteristics of healthy relationships. Former participants have overwhelmingly expressed that promoting gender equality and preventing family violence are matters that are important to them.
In November of 2021, Outloud launched UNITY, a sibling program to RESPECT for girls and gender diverse students. This is a testament to the success of the RESPECT Program, as well as Outloud’s ongoing commitment to educating young people about healthy relationships and consent. With the launch of the UNITY Program, Outloud will continue to empower young people in Western Sydney by amplifying their voices in their community through art.