Messengers History
Messengers Sketchy

The Messengers Program of the Tuggeranong Community Arts Association is now in its 24th year supporting young people within the A.C.T. Throughout this time it has significantly influenced and changed the lives of creative teenagers via an arts-based therapeutic approach to supporting young people.

First funded through a suicide prevention initiative in January 2000, Messengers has provided young people from the age of 10 a creative respite from the pressures of navigating adolescence. Countless artists, theatre-makers, musicians and filmmakers have either worked in the program or learned their creative skills by participating in the program. “Today we have an amazing team who bring personal experience, art knowledge and a trauma informed approach to supporting young people in the program. The arts-based therapeutic program can greatly assist distressed young people and foster new capacities in art practice, socialisation, self-regulation and development of peer support networks,” remarks the current program manager Roger Jillard.

One of the program’s most influential managers was Dr Garry Fry, who was instrumental in the program’s transition from a small art program in the Tuggeranong Valley to a recognised early intervention program. Garry’s vision was to build creative skills in young people enabling them to explore and tell their stories, whilst providing them with professional psychological support and intervention. 

“Early adolescence equals vulnerability,” Dr Fry says, “and the young people that came to us who were challenged by life, were given the task to show their challenges and confront them through drama, writing, music and visual arts – and they did. The work they created sent out their message, and with the experience of having personal control of their situation, their resilience grew.” 

Over the years the program has adjusted to provide support within the fast-paced world that can be a difficult and painful place for young people who are experiencing early signs of mental health issues including, disengagement from family, community and/or school. The core support base has been consolidated into a visual arts focus which draws on the strengths of the the centre as well as the facilitators. This has allowed for a long-term engagement strategy which is in line with a trauma informed approach. Messengers is an innovative ACT-wide program (with a focus on Woden, Molonglo and Tuggeranong Valley) with a demonstrated legacy of supporting young people in creative ways. The program continues to evolve and adapt to the current needs of young people and provides one of the more unique engagement programs in Canberra. The wealth of experience gained over 20 years of operation makes Messengers an important part of youth service delivery in the ACT.