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The Many Colours of Blacktown and Mount Druitt

Western Sydney Local Health District
Project Added:
24 February 2016
Last updated:
8 April 2016

The Many Colours of Blacktown and Mount Druitt


The Arts and Culture Program at Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals (BMDH) creates welcoming and safe spaces by collaborating with local artists and community groups.

This project was a finalist in the Arts and Health category of the 2015 NSW Health Awards.
Watch a video on this project (opens in a new tab).


To create a built environment that engages the local community and encourages them to seek health and medical care when needed.


  • Creates welcoming and safe spaces that promote the health and wellbeing of staff, patients and visitors.
  • Enhances the patient experience, improves delivery of care and potentially improves health outcomes over time.
  • Improves access to health facilities for Aboriginal and other marginalised communities.
  • Improves community engagement, consumer participation and staff collaboration.
  • Enhances partnerships with non-health and community organisations.
  • Ensures healthcare facilities reflect the values and diversity of the local community in the built environment.
  • Provides a sustainable and collaborative approach to the planning, design and implementation of capital works programs.
  • Supports the State Health Plan and National Arts and Health Framework.


The BMDH Expansion Project engaged consumer participants and local communities to shape the direction and design of the new hospital facilities.

Through the engagement process, it was evident that patients can experience significant anxiety when attending large health facilities, to the extent that it often deters them from seeking health and medical assistance. Art has been shown to relieve anxiety in these situations, by creating welcoming and safe spaces for patients.

An Arts and Culture Program was established with the aim of designing hospital facilities in collaboration with local artists and communities, to reflect the diversity of WSLHD and enhance the experience of patients and visitors. The program was coordinated by Health and Arts Research Centre Inc. (HARC) – a not-for-profit organisation specialising in the inclusion of art in healthcare.


  • Over 500 community members, staff, artists and multilingual community champions were engaged to design artworks and architectural elements for the BMDH Expansion Project. Community involvement ensured that the design acknowledged and reflected the significant Aboriginal community and extraordinary multicultural diversity of the Blacktown area.
  • During the engagement phase, community participants were asked open-ended questions about the values that were important to them, the hospital and the local community. These values led the development of an Arts and Culture Plan and influenced the architectural design of the BMDH Expansion Project.
  • Areas where patients often experience high stress levels were targeted, including the Cancer Care and Mental Health Units, quiet rooms, interview rooms and waiting areas. Artistic elements were integrated into the building design to alleviate anxiety, provide distraction and a sense of place. These were designed within arts and health guidelines, based on environmental design research and community engagement.
  • Many elements of the program serve both practical and aesthetic purposes, such as helping people find their way around the facility or subtly achieving privacy in sensitive areas of the hospital. These functional outcomes ensure that the arts and health program contributes to the operational efficiency of the facility in a sustainable way.

Project status

  • Sustained - the initiative has been implemented and is sustained in standard business.

Key dates

  • 2012: Health and Arts Research Centre awarded tender to develop an Arts and Culture Plan for BMDH Expansion.  Extensive community consultation undertaken and Arts and Culture Plan developed.
  • 2014: Commissioning of artworks began.
  • 2015: Installation of artworks began.
  • 2016: Stage 1 completed.

Implementation sites

  • Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals


  • Aboriginal Health
  • Blacktown Arts Centre
  • Blacktown City Council
  • Blacktown RSL Sub Branch
  • Cultural and Educational Projects Support Centre (NAPEC), Brazilian National Institute for Children and Adolescents, Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Health and Arts Research Centre Inc. (HARC)
  • Sydney Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands
  • Sydney Sacred Music Festival
  • SydWest Multicultural Services
  • Women’s Activity and Self Help (WASH) House, Mt Druitt
  • The Australian Museum


  • To date, the program has initiated 15 major arts projects, including:
    • The Call of Home: A glass sculpture designed by local Aboriginal artist Leanne Tobin and award-winning architect Chris Bosse. The contemporary, suspended sculpture draws on local Aboriginal stories of the eel migration.
    • The Many Colours of Blacktown: A 67-metre long mosaic seat representing the night sky was designed in collaboration with Blacktown community groups and produced by artist Malcolm Cooke.
    • Peace and Harmony: A floor terrazzo designed by local Aboriginal artist Robyn Caughlan defines the hospital’s community gathering space.
    • Antenatal Play Area: An interactive Australian Museum outreach display focuses on Aboriginal culture. It is supported by dedicated storytellers and book-reading volunteers. It was developed in collaboration with the Australian Museum, Hospital Alliance for Research Collaboration and Aboriginal Health.
    • Healthy Living: This program is a collaboration between BMDH and Blacktown City Council and aims to incorporate physical activity into the hospital grounds, by connecting the hospitals to Blacktown City Council bike paths and walking routes.
  • Over 100 metres of temporary exhibition space in Blacktown Hospital’s Clinical Services building is being developed in partnership with Blacktown Arts Centre, while an equivalent space at Mt Druitt Hospital will be developed in partnership with Aboriginal Health.
  • An ongoing volunteer program linked to storytelling and literature is being developed at the Antenatal Outpatient Clinic, while support of the Sacred Music Festival in collaboration with Blacktown Arts Centre and HARC has enhanced awareness of the program, with music and dance performances held in public spaces of the hospitals.
  • The program is part of an international project with a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For the past 17 years, the hospital has delivered a very successful literature program as well as arts and community health initiatives that facilitate incidental physical activities for staff, patients and visitors.
  • The project has resulted in a number of non-health grants, in-kind contributions and ongoing partnerships, which promise to sustain the program beyond the duration of the capital works project.


  • 2015 NSW Innovation Awards Finalist – Arts and Health

Lessons learnt

  • Hospital design can be substantially improved by the inclusion of carefully considered, community-inspired art.
  • There are significant functional, clinical and patient experience benefits to be achieved by incorporating arts and health.
  • Community and employee engagement are critical in creating an arts program that is meaningful to local communities.
  • Community partnerships can support the long-term sustainability of an arts program.
  • To deliver a comprehensive program at scale, the engagement of professional arts and culture consultants who are experienced in healthcare is crucial.

Further Reading


Peter Rophail
Transition Manager, BMDH Expansion Project
Western Sydney Local Health District
Phone 02 9881 8251 / 0408 788 234

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