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Healing Ground


Writing a New Story for
St Johns Park

Healing Ground is a community and arts led regeneration of St Johns Park from a place with a hidden history of incarceration, trauma and stigma to a place where community members are exploring how to thrive together in a way that values compassion, justice, connectedness, wellbeing and creativity.

Projection on building

The aim of this work is to begin the collective healing process on this trauma site, beginning with understanding and listening.


As Kickstart Arts raises funds to repair and repurpose former colonial orphanage buildings, we are inviting community to join together: to network weave new connections; to practice regenerative culture – creating gardens, growing food, exploring and sharing spirituality, physical healing practices,  practising cultural respect for diversity, repurposing, learning and teaching new skills and making art, music and dance together. 


Against this background, Healing Ground has been a community engaged conscious exploration of our collective histories on this site, beginning in 1833. Through research, artmaking and discussion, community members have been exploring their own stories of this iconic place and the issues it raises through making art, conversation and practising culture. 


Which stories were never told? 

Which stories were never acknowledged?  

What can we learn from the past? 


Read more... 

Healing Ground: 2020

The Walkout Step

pakana (Tasmanian Aboriginal) elder and first time public artist Cheryl Mundy and sculptor Marcus Tatton are collaborating to create this art work from natural materials sourced from different parts of lutrawita country, steel and clear resin.

The artwork is under development and will be installed in the pavement at the front door of the former boys orphanage at St Johns Park, New Town, later in 2020.
The installation is a response to the reality that pakana children were incarcerated and suffered terribly in both the boys and girls colonial orphanages during the nineteenth century.
The artwork is, to use Cheryl’s words, “a dream from my heart and spirit to free the children out into their lands, rich with natural signs to direct them home.”
Cheryl’s concept is to bring the natural elements that were robbed from the Aboriginal children kept in the orphanage. Shells, sand, stones, leaves, kelp, reeds, charcoal... “our kids had to walk on foreign land and had foreign things under their feet.”

Artists: Cheryl Mundy & Marcus Tatton

Healing Ground: 2019

Remembering the Future

This project engaged local children from New Town Primary School in a conscious exploration of their history, beginning in 1833 and then through research, artmaking and discussion, visiting potential futures.

The provocation questions that informed this project were:

  • How are we equipping our young people for an uncertain future?

  • What values, skills, understandings and knowledge will best equip them to deal with a world facing climate breakdown and pandemics? 

We kept this conversation focused upon the active opportunities to make a positive difference both personally and collectively. 

85 young people visited the former Boys Orphanage and adjacent City Farm and explored the space with the stories of the orphans from the nineteenth century in mind. They experienced what the space might have been like, even lying down on the dormitory floor in rows and imagining how the boys in the 1830’s managed to sleep there. They then engaged in thought experiments and art making at school, seeing ordinary and repurposed domestic objects as though they were artifacts dug up 200 years in the future over the first two terms of 2019.


Professional artists and New Town Primary School staff and volunteers then worked with 25 grade 5 & 6 students to create sculptural objects from post-consumer materials and short personal video works exploring individual and community thriving in the future through research and personal story telling. 


Young people expressed their concerns about the world they are about to inherit. They are dismayed about pollution, waste, inequality, global climate breakdown and how to attain the skills they will need to suit jobs not even invented yet. 


The making of this art was a time for conversation, mutual learning & teaching, listening, seeing objects and relationships differently, imagining a whole series of shifting contexts for consumer items and for the act of consuming itself. 
This resulted in a public exhibition from September 25 – 28th at the former Queens Orphanage for Boys at the St Johns Creative Living Park and a sculpture slam, video projection art and music event. 


Artists: Andy Vagg, Rebecca Stevens, Richard Bladel, Troy Melville and Cary Littleford

Teachers: Mel McCrum and Veronica Marshall 

Community volunteers: Allen Rooney, Steve Lovegrove and Joel Roberts

Production Support Team: Jami Bladel, Kardia Gillie Terry, Joseph Barrows, Priya Vunaki, Richard Coburn, Stephen McEntee and Adam Potito.

2019 Healing Ground Videos

Future Echoes

Future Echoes
Future Echoes

Future Echoes

Play Video
Good Interview/Bad Interview by Zahlee

Good Interview/Bad Interview by Zahlee

Play Video
What's Important to Us - Tim & Sarah

What's Important to Us - Tim & Sarah

Play Video
The Future

The Future

Play Video

Healing Ground 2018

Disturbing Echoes – Forum & Open Day
This element of the Healing Ground project focused upon updating the community on the refurbishment plans for the former Boys Orphanage, as well as using the repair and re-purposing as a lens to invite community discussion, art making and debate around issues of social inequality, Aboriginal sovereignty and the social determinants of health.

The Open Day

The former boys orphanage was open for the day and Kickstart staff were available to conduct tours of the buildings.  We exhibited some information about the buildings past and future, as well as shared some video and visual art with community members.

The Forum

The Forum was part of a significant public conversation about the culture of Hobart, it included speakers on Aboriginal children who were imprisoned in the building, the construction of the building, orphan stories, social inequality, health economics then and now, with short films and information about the repair plans and Creative Living Centre vision. 

It also included the provocation: How has Tasmanian society evolved since 1831?


  • Dr Pete Hay, Forum Chair, Research Fellow, Geography Dept. UTAS 

  • Ms Cheryl Mundy - Healing Ground Artist – great, great granddaughter of Fanny Cochrane Smith – who was imprisoned in the former girls orphanage (now the Kickstart Arts Centre)

  • Mr Andrew Cocker – Committee Member, Friends of the Orphan Schools. 

  • Mr Peter Gaggin – Director, Philp Lighton Architects, Consulting Architect

  • Ms Kym Goodes - CEO TASCOSS 

  • Professor David Adams – Pro Vice-Chancellor (Community, Partnerships & Regional Development), UTAS

  • Ms Jami Bladel – CEO/Artistic Director, Kickstart Arts 

Healing Ground 2017

Site specific artworks in progress, dinner and facilitated discussion

The Healing Ground artists created new artworks led by their curiosity about the personal stories of the thousands of abandoned and stolen children who were once incarcerated in the orphanage buildings and the poverty, rigid class system, social inequality and authoritarian control that led to such great suffering in these buildings. 

We invited the audience to be part of a facilitated conversation in response to viewing the works in progress and the spaces they were presented within. We believe that conversations inspired by art works and their cultural and social contexts are all too rare, they are useful for the artists and are often as important as the artwork itself.   

It was a lively discussion. 


  • Priya Vunaki - Singh - Fruit Rains - drawings

  • Andy Vagg - A Ghost Among the Ghost Gums - spoken word/poetry/performance

  • FJ Horsley - The Hearth – installation, video, furniture

  • Richard Bladel - Behind the Clock – video art installation

  • Troy Melville - Rock of Ages - video and interactive sound installation

  • Jami Bladel - Turning the Story Around – visual art, music, furniture installation

  • Cary Littleford made an artwork, but did not present it due to illness.


MC: Mr Frank Bansel

Catering: Burtakan Ghibirilsalasi, Caroline Amos & Shelley Cusiter

Production Crew: Kardia Gillie-Terry, Amy Brown, Caroline Amos, Kayla Roberts, Kristen Warner, Rea Roberts, Todd Mills, Max Bladel, Richard Coburn, Sam Schofield, Shelley Cusiter and Tomas Thiele

The Story Trees Project


A huge Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria) that grew for 80 + years on the St John’s Park site became dangerous and sadly had to be felled. It had born silent witness to many stories during it’s life.


The tree was gifted to Kickstart Arts, and we commissioned renowned Tasmanian artist Marcus Tatton to create a new artwork responding to the colonial buildings.  Marcus’ Story Trees sculpture is a non-figurative response to the presence of the orphan children of the nineteenth century and the confinement they experienced.