The HEAL program (Home of Expressive Arts in Learning) is a Brisbane school-based mental health program which specialises in helping with refugee kids’ well-being via creative methods.

Art Therapy, Music Therapy, and 'Art for relaxation' are used to help our refugee kids express themselves safely, allowing them the space and time to process their journeys thus far, thus aiding better settlement in the new land, with a view to improving learning outcomes.

HEAL’s mission

To provide therapeutic services, research and education which increase the possibility of culturally diverse adolescents experiencing the good mental health necessary to participate fully in the learning experience, and to enjoy life without barriers.

HEAL history

How It all began

Music Therapy (MT) started in 2003 at Milpera via a practicum placement for MT students studying at University of QLD, and after a successful research project, Carolyn Jones (now Hart) continued MT in the school. (She now works in Music Therapy in Adelaide).

Art Therapy (AT) commenced at Milpera in 2004. It began when ESL teacher and trained Creative Arts therapist, Jane Griffin, worked with whole class groups in various rooms in the school. Next came individual therapy work. Soon after, a building was donated by supporters, and individual AT as well as "Art for relaxation" had a permanent home.

In 2005, the two therapies joined to become the HEAL program (Home of Expressive Arts in Learning), a school-based specialty mental health program, which cares for refugee youth. In 2009 we had money donated by Ceres Capital, some of which built us a beautiful Memory Garden which is used for memorial rituals and quiet walks by HEAL participants. In 2011, after the January floods, our donated demountable was submerged, then totally renovated, to emerge shining and new! Now "art for relaxation" takes place in a dedicated classroom, in the capable hands of Liana Trujillo.

HEAL exists largely because of the cutting edge and innovative thinking of Milpera State High School's original Principal: Adele Rice, retired end 2012. Many refugee kids, and we HEAL staff, thank Adele for her courageous compassion in introducing the Creative Arts Therapies to the school program.

Since HEAL began, we have been involved in training via Practicum for Music Therapy (UQ) and Art Therapy Masters(UQ), Creative Arts Therapy (MIECAT), and Psychology and Social Work(QUT).

We also collaborated with QLD Transcultural Mental Health on the planning and implementation of the Adolescent BRITA Program, and with QUT on the Tree of Life Research Project. We work closely with Queensland program of assistance to survivers of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT), Multicultural Development Australia (MDA), Access and all service providers.

We have welcomed private practitioners and international visitors through HEAL to share our learning concerning working with multicultural adolescents, and presented at national and international conferences.

Our favourite visitors are the returning Milpera students who are invited back one afternoon per year, for 'Back to Milpera Day', and it is so great to see how our past clients are getting along! Long may they re-visit us!

The Friends of Heal Foundation (FHEAL) was formed in 2012, with past Milpera founding

Principal, Adele Rice, as chair and Milpera arts Psychotherapist Jane Griffin as CEO.  Donations made to FHEAL are tax deductable! 

Our work

We work with refugee adolescents to help them process where they’ve been and where they’re going. We use creative caring.

To understand the work in context, please see our school HEAL reports, in the FHEAL annual report for full information about HEAL, including the statistics for the year.

Intensive individual therapy/ Group therapy in HEAL (Home of Expressive Arts in Learning). Kids who have seen too much danger in their young lives, and experienced loss and sadness, may end up struggling with feelings of anxiety and feel confusion about issues of control. Throw in a forced migration while experiencing adolescence in a new and foreign place, and kids face all sorts of challenges, like inability to settle well in their new culture; difficulties learning in class; behaviour problems with peers: frightening nightmares; and body aches and pains. For those young refugee people, we offer a space and time to heal, and a helping relationship. Work is done in both groups and in individual sessions, depending on what is assessed to be most useful for the individual.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is the creative and planned use of music and musical experiences to attain and maintain health and wellbeing

(Australian Music Therapy Association). It focuses on meeting therapeutic aims and may address physical, psychological, emotional, cognitive or social needs.

The Australian Music Therapy Association.

What is art therapy?

Art Therapy (also known as Art Psychotherapy) is the focused use of visual arts and play activities within the therapeutic relationship to meet developmental, emotional and psychological needs, and is based on the understanding that the creative process is healing and life enhancing. It uses psychotherapeutic methods combined with art therapy practice.

We help kids to:

  • Address social, behavioural and emotional issues via Art Therapy and Music Therapy. 
  • Improve their ability to learn at school by helping allay the symptoms of trauma
  • Improve confidence and self-esteem.
  • Learn resiliency skills through therapy and programs such as BRITA (Building Resiliency In Transcultural Australians)
  • Process their refugee journey through therapy and programs such as Tree of Life ( a strengthening narrative approach).
  • Begin to envisage their place in their new country, with a good understanding of acceptable behaviours and their rights.

In HEAL therapists enjoy reading trauma-informed work, such as that by Judith Herman and John Briere.

Last reviewed 20 May 2019
Last updated 20 May 2019