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The arts industry is one that requires a tough skin to work in at the best of times. The shutdown of the Australian arts industry, due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), has highlighted why mental health is more important now, than ever before.

I caught up via zoom with Australian performer, Matt Heyward to chat about The Arts Wellbeing Collective. This initiative was set up by Arts Centre Melbourne in 2016, when CEO, Claire Spencer began looking into ways to help provide Arts Centre Melbourne team members with mental health and wellbeing resources. This happened to coincide with a Victoria University report on the mental health of arts professionals in Australia. As a result of the worrying statistics that were brought to light, The Arts Wellbeing Collective was established, with Tracy Margieson as its Project Manager.

The Collective provides fantastic services like Mental Health First Aid Training and the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline, which is "a 24/7 phone counselling service staffed by clinicians with specialist knowledge of the performing arts". Both of these services are crucial resources for a community that has been decimated by this pandemic.

When talking to Heyward, his passion for the Collective and the services it offers is clear. Watching the video below, Heyward also really brings home the impact of how Coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting arts workers. Having worked solidly in musical theatre since his professional debut in the original Australian production of Mamma Mia! his experience and knowledge of the Australian music theatre industry is vast.

Heyward became involved with The Arts Wellbeing Collective as a content advisor for the development of 'Tour Well', a mental health and well being resource for arts workers who are touring on a show. This terrific resource has been downloaded more than 60,000 times.

To help support The Arts Wellbeing Collective you can donate on the link

You can also tune into the fundraising encore performance of dance theatre production, SELF, streaming Sunday 24 May 8pm AEST on

Directed, choreographed and conceived by Michael Ralph, with original music composed by Jack Earle, SELF showcases the brilliant Rohan Browne as "the Artist" and features a fantastic ensemble comprised of Alex Given, Sheridan Anderson, Max Patterson, Romina Villafranca, Jordan Turner, Loren Hunter, and Jackson Rudge. This online broadcast will also present an exclusive look into the development process with the show's cast and creatives after the performance.

When chatting to Ralph about this encore performance he says, "The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 is pushing thousands of our most vibrant, creative and passionate artists to the brink - mental health themes which are explored within the piece SELF. I'm so thrilled to be able to bring the production back to audiences in this online broadcast form, and provide some escapism and hope to help people during this challenging time".

For more information on The Arts Wellbeing Collective visit their website

Get Help

If you or someone you care about is in crisis or at immediate risk, dial 000.

The Support Act Wellbeing Helpline - 1800 959 500
For free, confidential phone counselling service available 24/7 for anyone who works in the performing arts industry. Call to make an appointment, or request to speak to someone immediately about any aspect of your mental health and wellbeing.

Lifeline - 13 11 14
Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.

beyondblue - 1300 224 636
beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.

Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service 1800 512 348
beyondblue has trained counsellors available 24/7 to support anyone feeling worried or struggling to cope during the coronavirus pandemic.

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From This Author Josh Stent