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Polyglot Theatre


  • Project: Expecting Something?
  • Amount: $110,000 over two years
  • Year(s) Funded: 2011

‘Expecting Something’ project aims to improve social and development outcomes and break negative cycles

Expecting Something? (formerly the Play Box Project) was a creative play and installation project targeting disadvantaged young mothers and their babies in Gippsland. It was developed and run by Polyglot Theatre, Australia’s leading interactive theatre company for children which interacts with around 60,000 children each year. While disadvantaged young mothers often suffer from social isolation, stigmatisation and can be hard to reach, this two-year project influenced over 200 participants through weekly and outreach workshops. Helen Macpherson Smith Trust provided $110,000 funding over two years for a workshop facilitator, evaluation and production costs.

Expecting Something? participants at their exhibition

I think from being in the project it’s made me more confident in myself and proud of myself as a young mum

Expecting Something? Participant

‘Expecting Something’ was an innovative approach to mobilising young mothers to strengthen vital relationships with their babies, families and community through creative play, art and performance.

Working with the Latrobe City Council and local service providers, Polyglot Theatre established groups in Morwell and Traralgon, with women from Moe, Newborough and Churchill attending.

Project aims

These included:

  • Develop long-term partnerships with Latrobe City Council, the early learning childhood network and socially disadvantaged communities
  • Engage up to 60 vulnerable families in a creative arts project to improve family and social connections and build confidence in the young women
  • Break the cycle of disadvantage, promote young mothers as leaders and a positive voice in the community
  • Showcase the skills, ideas and aspiration of young mothers and babies at an annual local event
  • Increase parents’ understanding of their role in their child’s development.

While the establishment of regular meetings took longer than expected, largely because of the often-disrupted nature of the women’s lives, a core of about 10 women became regular attendees.

Assisted by training from Polyglot, they became project leaders who helped facilitate 10 workshops with the wider community through the Koori Health Network, four childcare centres and two local support agencies.

Polyglot Theatre Outreach Artist, Lis Blake, says the regular meetings and workshops assisted in boosting women’s self-esteem and confidence, strengthened their social connections, encouraged fun and creative play. It also gave them a space to explore being a parent and to become proud and skilled in their role both as a mother and as a community member.

Art celebrates the joy of parenting

Working with local and Melbourne-based artists, the women brought the walls and pavements of Morwell to life with an outdoor public installation, a gallery-based exhibition and an interactive performance, all of which celebrated the joy and fragility of pregnancy and parenting infants.

A novel gift program also encouraged mothers to place images of their creative work on Facebook, generating many conversations and furthering community connections.

“The director of the gallery said the art show really connected with the community and made a significant impact. It also became a mechanism for bringing together the many different, often divided, communities which co-exist within Morwell,” says artist Jessica Wilson, who directed the project.

“Paired with the performance and the exhibition in the Gallery, the public artwork component of this project was really important. Morwell rarely is offered artworks, let alone art experiences that are for the public and not just for people accessing the gallery. This work was placed directly into the public sphere, and cried out to be noticed.”

Dr Ricci-Jane Adams of Melbourne University evaluated this project, exploring the success of Expecting Something in its contribution to the knowledge and understanding of arts, the value of participative engagement and the connection between vulnerable mothers and children. She provided a clear documentation of the process with a framework that will enable Polyglot to develop similar projects into the future. It will assist understanding what is required for the community project to be sustainable over time, and the impact on mothers and babies involved in it. Copies of the evaluation are available from Polyglot Theatre.