The MMIGP choir supports its members to explore issues of identity, culture and healing in a safe and supportive environment. As an Aboriginal community led group, it aims to strengthen community and cultural connections to counteract the impact of dispossession, intergenerational trauma, and loss of kinship connections.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (2011) has identified culture and identity as an important factor in contributing to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal community members. Strengthening culture is key to promoting resilience, decreasing the risk of social isolation and depression, as well as improving health outcomes. Research has also shown that singing in a choir increases feelings of social connection and belonging (Bailey & Davidson, 2005), improves mood and decreases blood pressure and anxiety (Clark & Hardin, 2011), and releases feel-good hormones such as endorphin and oxytocin (Dunbar, MacDonald & Hodapp 2012). The Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place (MMIGP) community reconciliation choir is a community led health promotion initiative of MMIGP which has been a highly successful programme since July 2014, with up to 24 community members involved in weekly rehearsals and regular public performances. It is conducted by an Aboriginal health facilitator who is also a registered music therapist, and is supported by up to seven volunteer musicians.
The review of the MMIGP choir found the benefits for choir members included feelings of happiness at singing together, increased confidence through the public performances, an increased sense of connection to the MMIGP community, an increased sense of belonging (‘the choir is like a family’), a sense of pride and achievement, positive feelings about learning language songs and exploring Aboriginal culture, feeling positive about contributing to reconciliation and raising awareness of Aboriginal issues in the general public (‘we made the gubba cry’- i.e. they were so moved at our performance it brought tears to their eyes), as well as benefits for health (‘physically, the singing and warm-up vocal exercises help my breathing–I have COPD’). There was also a sense of pride about representing MMIGP in the wider community.