Our purpose is to create a more death literate society, one where people and communities have the practical know-how needed to plan well for end of life. This means shifting focus from 'talking about it' to transforming this 'difficult' conversation into one of deep community engagement, social action and empowerment.
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 Murray is a writer-performer, dramaturge and teacher, best known for her
play, Wallflowering. Other plays include the AWGIE-award
winning, Spitting Chips, on the theme of adolescence and
bereavement, and This Dying Business, commissioned by Junction
Theatre Company, Adelaide in association with the Hospice Society,
and premiered at an international conference on Palliative Care. She is
the author of The Law of Large Numbers, about the impact of gambling
addiction on small communities, the AWGIE-winning The Keys To The
Animal Room, on family violence and Salt, winner of the Victorian
Premier’s Award for Drama. In 2003 Peta was awarded a Centenary
Medal for Services to Society and Literature.
Peta holds an MA from QUT and a PhD from RMIT University. In this ‘other life’
as a researcher, she is interested in the application of transdisciplinary and
arts-based practices as modes of inquiry and as forms of cultural
activism. Her triptych of works on themes of ageing and the creative life course,
Ware With A Translucent Body premiered at Footscray Community Arts Centre.
Vigil, a performance-lecture on death literacy was presented at the Melbourne
International Festival in 2017, under the banner of Survival Skills for Desperate
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.