The GroundSwell Project was born after a chance meeting on a Melbourne street between Clinical Psychologist Kerrie Noonan, and Playwright Peta Murray in late 2009. The synergies in their interests and enthusiasms excited them both, and within three months of that first meeting, and with the involvement of other like minds from backgrounds as diverse as visual arts, social research, and the law, The GroundSwell Project was up and running as a not-for-profit organisation, with DGR status, incorporated in New South Wales.
Our first year, 2010, surprised us all. We embarked on a pilot project at Penrith High School, and, with inspirational drama teacher, Nicole Bonfield at the helm, brought together a group of Year 11 Drama Students with people directly and indirectly affected by Motor Neurone Disease. We facilitated a creative engagement between these two groups and using workshops, play, and the exchange of life-stories, fostered the writing and performance of a sophisticated piece of theatre. The MND community was empowered and enlivened by the experience. The young students went on to perform this piece to more than 500 people. The groundswell of change surrounding this project, now in its 5th year continues.
That first year saw us successfully secure our first official grant, and our first major donor, the remarkable Jude Simes, and before the year was out we had staged two Festivals of Remembrance. We embarked on the planning for our first partnership, with Rookwood Cemetery and the HIDDEN Sculpture award and associated community arts events to be staged each year since 2011. We concluded the year on a high note, picking up an award for Excellence in The Arts in Palliative Care at the International Conference on Arts and Health, Melbourne.
Since those auspicious beginnings, The GroundSwell Project has gone on to produce multiple projects that address issues from breast cancer to organ and tissue donation, as well as hosted several events to explore innovations around end of life. 2011 saw the launch of the FilmLife Project, a national short film festival capturing stories of organ and tissue donation and transplantation through the eyes of young, emerging filmmakers. In 2013 we launched Dying to Know day, a national annual day of action dedicated to bringing to life conversations and community actions around death and dying.
Clearly, The GroundSwell Project is an idea whose time has come. The energy and goodwill around our activities has been immeasurable, and the sense of readiness in the communities we approach has been immense.
There are new projects and partnerships ahead. Importantly, we continue to be single-minded in our goal to tackle the stigma and taboo of death and the impact this discomfort has on our community.
- Peta Murray, Co-Founder
Co-Founder, Creative Director
Peta left high school Drama teaching behind for a career as a professional playwright after writing her first playWallflowering which has since been produced all round the world. Subsequent commissioned plays include the AWGIE award winning, Spitting Chips, on the theme of adolescence and bereavement. This Dying Business was commissioned by Junction Theatre Company, Adelaide, in association with the Hospice Society, and premiered at an international conference on Palliative Care. This play was also nominated for an AWGIE award. Other works include The Law of Large Numbers, about the impact of gambling addiction on small communities, and the AWGIE-winning The Keys To The Animal Room, on family violence. In 2003 Peta was awarded a Centenary Medal for services to society and literature.
Peta completed an MA in Playwriting through QUT’s Faculty of Creative Industries in 2011 and is now a PhD candidate in creative writing at RMIT University, Melbourne. In March 2014 her extravaganza for ensemble performance, Things That Fall Over: an anti-musical of a novel inside a reading of a play, with footnotes, and oratorio-as-coda was presented at Footscray Community Arts Centre.
With a background in Visual and Community Arts, Niki has worked on local festivals and in community theatre as a performer, designer and production manager. Occasionally she exhibits some of her own work in a gallery or festival context. Niki has won several awards for her short story writing and has developed a series of biographical writing workshops for both the terminally ill and their carers.
Niki ran for many years a local Festival of Remembrance, a public and creative space for communities to be together around their stories of loss and bereavement. Niki supported the GroundSwell Project in the early days and became a key artist on the Busting Cancer project. More recently, she created the collaborative project Touching Stories with the support of a Blue Mountains City Council Cultural Partnerships program. Currently Niki is working on the Caring at end of life research project with The University of Western Sydney and Cancer Council NSW. The project aims to better understand a communities capacity to care at end of life.