A Brief History

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Kickstart Arts grew out of an Arts In Working Life Program established in Tasmania in 1992, directed by Jock MacQueenie.

This laid the foundations for the Company’s innovative partnership process that brings together diverse groups and organisations from the private, community, education, health and public sectors in a spirit of creativity. 

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During this five-year period, Jock led a broad range of Tasmanian artists to champion the use of good quality and innovative art-making in a community context: a focus that has remained a defining feature of the Company.


Long Term organisations that grew out of the Arts in Working Life program include IHOS contemporary opera company and Sisongke African choir. This is where the practice of using grant funding to leverage investment from other sectors was instigated. 

Click here to go to the Kickstart Arts Past Projects Archive.

In 1997 writer, filmmaker and creative producer Richard Bladel became the Artistic Director, bringing with him a broader social justice agenda. Richard incorporated the organisation naming it Kickstart Arts and expanded the partnership model to include many successful joint ventures with education, health and community service organisations with the purpose of making art for change. Programs seeded by Richard have had lasting impacts on the Tasmanian arts ecology and include the Arts Program at Pulse Youth Health Service and The Works festival in Glenorchy.  

Jami Bladel is the current Artistic Director/Executive Producer of Kickstart Arts, a position she has held since September 2006. Jami leads a team of creative producers, artists and arts workers who develop and produce multi-arts partnership projects that are both artistically excellent and focused on positive social change.


Awards include 7 awards for excellence in social inclusion in the Arts, and formal thanks by the Tasmanian Parliament for contributions to arts and culture in regional Tasmania in a Motion of Parliament.


Jami has led the establishment of the Kickstart Arts Centre and is leading the development of the St Johns Creative Living Park.



Between 2016 - 2020
Kickstart Arts: 
  • produced 1,097 cultural events 

  • employed 153 artists, artsworkers and facilitators

  • engaged 3,790 people to participate in our projects to make art 

  • attracted 81,702 audience members to exhibitions, workshops, performances, screenings and events  

  • created 473 new artworks

  • received feedback from 96% of audience members and participants who rated the work as good or excellent

Since 2013, over 2 million dollars has been raised by Kickstart Arts and invested in repurposing and renovating the (former) Queens Orphan School buildings at St Johns Park in New Town, ensuring this significant heritage site is utilised now as well as preserved for future generations.  


St Johns Park

St Johns Park has long been an absence in the collective consciousness of Hobart Town.

A great many people still don’t know where exactly it is located. 

In the nineteenth century, it was a place of great suffering caused mostly by poverty - suffering in the form of sickness, trauma, family breakdown and stigma. It was a place where the best of intentions to cater to the welfare of poor people collided with divisive notions of charity, religion, class and race. In many respects, the stigma remains to this day.

The boys and girl’s orphanages, infant school and the Anglican church with its clock tower were part of the convict system where the children of the poor and stolen Aboriginal children were held in overcrowded conditions with a high death rate, harsh discipline, physical abuse, poor food, freezing rooms and little to no education from 1833 till 1879.   

From 1879 until the mid 1920’s the original Orphan School operated as the New Town Charitable Institution, mostly catering to elderly poor men, a great many of whom had grown up in the orphanges.

Since 1833 to the present day St Johns Park has housed instruments of public policy in the institutional care of the poor, sick and destitute. In 1833, like now, there was a raging debate about the need, nature, cost and efficacy of this policy. 


It now operates as a multi service health precinct practising contemporary solutions to illness in the community.

For that reason, it is fertile ground for the exploration of the root causes of illness, poverty and stigma – an opportunity to turn the story around - a place of exploration of how we might thrive together – live in a way that values justice, wellbeing and co-creation. 


As Kickstart Arts raises funds to repair and repurpose the former orphanage buildings, we are inviting community to explore their own stories in relation to this place and the issues it raises. 


Healing Ground is a multi-year project to regenerate St Johns Park by inviting community to explore new possibilities through making art and practising culture together. 

Links to further reading: 

Website: The Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Blog, Libraries Tasmania

Website: Friends of the Orphan Schools