‘Looking for the blue, the yellow, all the colours of the rainbow’: the value of participatory arts for young people in social work practice


  • Amber Walls University of Auckland
  • Kelsey L Deane University of Auckland
  • Peter John O'Connor University of Auckland




mental health, youth, arts, participatory research


INTRODUCTION: Emerging from a flourishing field of practice overseas, the growing evidence base on participatory arts engagement demonstrates numerous benefits for young people’s health and wellbeing. In Aotearoa New Zealand, participatory arts engagement is under-valued and under-resourced despite local practice examples suggesting it deserves further attention.

METHODS: Focusing on a case example of an Auckland-based creative arts participation project geared to promote positive mental health and wellbeing of marginalised young people, two focus groups were conducted to explore how participants felt arts engagement contributed to their wellbeing. Participatory arts activities were integrated within the focus group process to enable creative expression of their voices.

FINDINGS: The youth voices unearthed through this research indicate that an arts based approach can be used as a powerful tool in promoting youth wellbeing and offers significant promise to address local policy priorities.

CONCLUSION: We suggest that participatory arts engagement deserves further investment and research to explore further application in social practice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Author Biography

Amber Walls, University of Auckland

Faculty of Education and Social Work

Doctoral researcher


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How to Cite

Walls, A., Deane, K. L., & O’Connor, P. J. (2016). ‘Looking for the blue, the yellow, all the colours of the rainbow’: the value of participatory arts for young people in social work practice. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(4), 67–79. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol28iss4id206



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