High commendations awarded to Merri volunteer Jack


Published October 15 2019

Above: Jack showcasing artwork by Merri consumer Marg.

Merri volunteer Jack received high commendations for Volunteer of the Year at the Moreland Awards for her contributions to the community and consumers of Merri Health.

We asked Jack a few questions about her role as volunteer in the mental health art studio at Merri.

How did you get into volunteering?

I moved here from NSW and started the volunteering process straight away in order to make contacts and friends in a new place. I had studied community services and had a history in art study.

This process was interrupted when, out of the blue, I had a serious mystery health issue that interrupted my life for about two years. Commencing with my voluntary work also became a part of my healing process as the artists I worked with, helped me as much as I wished to help them.

Where did you study art and how did you decide that was the path you wanted to take?

I studied art at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology in the UK. I was 19 when I began and in hindsight was a little too young to make the best of this. My school art teacher, encouraged me to go to art school when it was considered an impractical subject to study, even more so than now!

I lacked support from people around me to help me really feel confident, this has meant that I have a strong understanding of the obstacles many creative people have to overcome usually in a very solitary way.

I am not sure that artists really have a choice about being an artist, it is just an intrinsic part of who you are.

What is your greatest achievement so far with your volunteering?

Volunteering in the mental health art room has shown me how everyone benefits from making space in their week for their own brand of creativity. Art is therapeutic. It can be heartfelt; accessing incredibly personal unique ways to express or be heard.  It can be 'switch off your head' time, or it can be just 'PLAY and see what happens' kind of therapy. It is all of these things and more.

Having this volunteering experience has shown me how alike we all are, rather than how different we are.

What have you learnt through your role as a volunteer at Merri?

Those in the art room have reminded me of how valuable I am as a person and as an artist. What they achieve has broken down barriers regarding what art is and they have shown how it can speak to us all. How we can communicate through our artistic expression.

What would be your advice to someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer?

Becoming a volunteer not only gives one a feeling of self worth and value, it warms the heart to see that in participating, one can have a positive effect on others and so becomes a circle of giving and receiving.

If you want to see Jack's work, she has an exhibition at Edinburgh Castle Window Gallery - corner of Sydney Road and Albion Road, Brunswick, until 27 October 2019.
It can be viewed from the street.