Australian Children’s Music Foundation

ACMF is supported by the Foundation to provide music workshops in juvenile detention centres across Australia. The Foundation feels that it is of the utmost importance that these young people have the resources to find their way out of poverty and to discover a sense of hope for their future.

The Matana Foundation supports the weekly Youth at Risk music programs conducted for the past ten years by the ACMF in 19 of the 21 Juvenile Justice Centres across Australia, including Juniperina at Lidcombe in Western Sydney, the only juvenile detention centre for females in   Australia.  The ACMF music programs provide a bridge to connect with detainees, who have typically been disinterested, disillusioned, disengaged and disconnected in educational settings.

Professional musicians employed by the ACMF provide a range of musical programs to the young people in the centres, including teaching the detainees to play guitar, keyboard, drums and electronic music, as well as to compose and produce song lyrics and music, often to the level of recording a CD. There are often opportunities for the detainees to perform at assemblies and NAIDOC celebrations, which showcase the participants’ talents and new skills for parents, carers, and other young people at the facility.

Richard Stenning, the Programs Manager at Juniperina JJC, said at the end of 2011: “We have just had the most amazing performance at the centre to date. Seven girls performed five numbers and there has been much talk afterwards on how well they performed. This is the first performance where we have had keyboard and drums (provided by the ACMF) and we have only had one performance before with the girls singing, so needless to say it was quite a step up by all the girls.”

The ACMF also provides musical instruments to the centres, which are theirs to keep, as well as donating instruments to selected detainees upon their release, to enable them to continue their musical development.

The benefits of the music program are many and varied. The participants develop a wide range of musical and non-musical skills, including enhanced literacy and numeracy skills; improved confidence and self-esteem; an increased ability to focus and concentrate as well as the opportunity to practice new positive social behaviours.

The experience often leads to a renewed interest in learning, including continuing with the study of music including music engineering and production at TAFE or local community colleges on their release.

As Lisa Coon, Principal of Don Dale JJC in Darwin says: “I am extremely thankful for ACMF’s ongoing support and can not speak highly enough of the music program and the positive benefits of self-esteem and pride that it installs in all detainees.”