They [do more than] Interrupt Us from Sadness: Exploring the impact of participatory music making on social determinants of health and wellbeing for refugees in Australia

N. Sunderland, L. Istvandity, A. Lakhani, C. Lenette, B. Procopis, P. Caballero


This paper reports on the outcomes of an exploratory narrative study on the impact of participatory music making on social determinants of health (SDOH) and wellbeing for refugees in Brisbane, Australia. A key component of this exploratory research was to map health and wellbeing outcomes of music participation using an existing SDOH framework developed by researchers in the field of health promotion (Schulz & Northridge, 2004). This paper maps reported health and wellbeing outcomes for five refugee and asylum seeker members of a participatory Brisbane-based music initiative, the Scattered People, along an SDOH continuum ranging from individual level through to macro level fundamental determinants of health.

While most themes emerging from this study corresponded to distinct categories in the Schulz and Northridge SDOH framework, three key aspects, which were critical to the achievement of wellbeing for participants, did not fit any of the pre-defined categories. These were: cultural expression, music making, and consolidation of personal and social identity. The importance of those themes to participants suggests that music and wellbeing studies involving culturally diverse groups and from a SDOH perspective may need to consider broader, more relevant concepts. The paper provides recommendations for future interdisciplinary research in this field. 


music, refugees, wellbeing, participation, health,

Full Text:



Arts and Health Australia. (2014). About Arts & Health Australia.

Retrieved from:

Australian Government. (2013). Creative Australia: National Cultural Policy. Retrieved from:

Batt-Rawden, K. (2010). The role of music in a salutogenic approach to health. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 12(2), 11-18.

Bennett, A. (2000). Popular music and youth culture: music, identity and place. Hampshire, New York: Palgrave.

Bergh, A., & Sloboda, J. (2010). Music and art in conflict transformation: A review. Music and Arts in Action 2(2), 2-18. Retrieved from:

Bonde, L. O. (2011). Health musicing - music therapy or music and health? A model, empirical examples and personal reflections. Music and Arts in Action, 3(2), 120-140. Retrieved from:

Cameron, M., Crane, N., Ings, R., & Taylor, K. (2013). Promoting well-being through creativity: How arts and public health can learn from each other. Perspectives in Public Health, 133(1), 52-59.

Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.

Clift, S. (2012). Creative arts as a public health resource: Moving from practice-based research to evidence-based practice. Perspectives in Public Health, 132(3), 120-127.

Clift, S., Camic, P. M., Chapman, B., Clayton, G., Daykin, N., Eades, G., Parkinson, C., Secker, J., Stickley, T. & White, M. (2009). The state of arts and health in England. Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 1(1), 6-35.

Cohen, S. (1991). Rock culture in Liverpool: Popular music in the making. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cole, A.L., & Knowles, J. G. (2001). Lives in context: The art of life history research. Oxford, England & Lanham, MD: AltaMira/Rowman and Littlefield.

Corley, M.C. (2002). Nurse moral distress: a proposed theory and research agenda. Nursing Ethics, 9(6), 936-950.

Cox, S. M., Lafrenière, D., Brett-MacLean, P., Collie, K., Cooley, N., Dunbrack, J. & Frager, G. (2010). Tipping the iceberg? The state of arts and health in Canada. Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 2(2), 109-124.

DeNora, T. (2000). Music in everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dockery, A. M. (2010). Culture and wellbeing: The case of Indigenous Australians. Social Indicators Research, 99(2), 315-332.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection. (2014). Refugee and humanitarian. Retrieved from:

Erlen, J.A. (2001). Moral distress: a pervasive problem. Orthopaedic Nursing. 20(2), 76-80.

Frith, S. (1981). Sound effects: Youth, leisure, and the politics of rock'n'roll. New York: Pantheon Books.

Frith, S. (1996). Music and identity. In S. Hall and P. Du Gay, (Eds.), Questions of cultural identity (pp. 108-127). London: Sage.

Georgeff, N., Lewis, A., & Rosenberg, M. (2009). Bridging the gap: Towards a framework for evaluating arts and health. Australasian Journal of ArtsHealth, 1, 31-39. Retrieved from:

Ghorashi, H. (2008). Giving silence a chance: The importance of life stories for research on refugees. Journal of Refugee Studies, 21(1), 117-132.

Green, J. (2010). The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of

Health. Critical Public Health, 20(1), 1-4.

Harrison, K. (2013). Music, health, and socio-economic status: A perspective on urban poverty in Canada. Yearbook for Traditional Music, 45, 58-73.

Harwood, D. L. (1976). Universals in music: A perspective from cognitive psychology. Ethnomusicology, 2(3), 521-533.

Haslam, S. A., Jetten, J., Postmes, T., & Haslam, K. (2009). Social identity, health and well‐being: An emerging agenda for applied psychology. Applied Psychology, 58(1), 1-23.

Hesmondhalgh, D. (2008). Towards a critical understanding of music, emotion and self-identity. Consumption Markets & Culture, 11(4), 329-343.

Homan, S. (2013). From Coombs to Crean: Popular music and cultural policy in Australia. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 19(3), 382-398.

Homan, S., Cloonan M., & Cattermole, J. (2013). Introduction: Popular music and policy. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 19(3), 275-280.

Hood, M. (1977). Universal attributes of music. World of music 19(1-2), 63.

Johnson, B. (2013). ‘Lend me your ears’: Social policy and the hearing body. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 19(3), 353-365. doi:10.1080/10286632.2013.788161

Kendall, E., Muenchberger, H., Sunderland, N., Harris, M., & Cowan, D. (2012). Collaborative capacity building in complex community-based health partnerships: A model for translating knowledge into action. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 18(5), E1-E13. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31823a815c

Lenette, C. (2014). ‘I am a Widow, Mother and Refugee’: Narratives of two refugee widows resettled to Australia. Journal of Refugee Studies, 27(3), 403-421. doi: 10.1093/jrs/fet045

Lenette, C., & Sunderland, N. (2014). “Will there be music for us?” Mapping the health and well-being potential of participatory music practice with asylum seekers and refugees across contexts of conflict and refuge. Arts & Health, (ahead-of-print), 1-18. doi:10.1080/17533015.2014.961943

Lenette, C., Weston, D., Wise, P., Sunderland, N., & Bristed, H. (2015). Where words fail, music speaks: The impact of participatory music on the mental health and wellbeing of asylum seekers. Arts & Health, (ahead-of-print), 1-15. DOI:10.1080/17533015.2015.1037317

Levins, R., & Lopez, C. (1999). Toward an ecosocial view of health. International Journal of Health Services, 29, 261-294.

Liebkind, K., & Jasinskaja-Lahti, I. (2000). Acculturation and psychological well-being of immigrant adolescents in Finland: A comparative study of adolescents from different cultural backgrounds. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15(4), 446–469.

Liebkind, K. (1992). Ethnic identity: Challenging the boundaries of social psychology. In G. Breakwell (Ed.), Social psychology of identity and the self-concept (pp. 147–185). London: Academic.

MacDonald, R., Kreutz, G. & Mitchell, L. (2012). Music, health, and wellbeing [eBook]. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586974.001.0001

MacNaughton, R.J., White, M., & Stacy, R. (2005). Researching the benefits of arts in health. Health Education, 105(5), 332–339.

Mares, P. (2001). Borderline: Australia's treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. New South Wales: UNSW Press.

Marmot, M., & Wilkinson, R. G. (2005). Poverty, social exclusion, and minorities. In M. Marmot & R.G. Wilkinson (Eds.), Social Determinants of Health (pp. 197-222). Oxford Scholarship Online.

Marsh K. (2012). “The beat will make you be courage”: The role of a secondary school music program in supporting young refugees and newly arrived immigrants in Australia. Research Studies in Music Education, 34(2), 93-111.

Mathews, G. (2012). Happiness, culture, and context. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(4), 299-312.

McMaster, D. (2002). Asylum seekers: Australia's response to refugees. Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Measham, F. (2012). Trading fears for tears in complex asylum seeker debate. Eureka Street, 22(13), 20-21.

Merriam, A. P. (1964). The anthropology of music. Northwestern University Press.

Nesdale, D., Rooney, R., & Smith, L. (1997). Migrant ethnic identity and psychological distress. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 28, 569–588.

Nettl, B. (1983). The study of ethnomusicology: twenty-nine issues and concepts. University of Illinois Press.

Parkinson, C. (2009). Invest to save: Arts in health-reflections on a 3-year period of research and development in the North West of England. Australasian Journal of ArtsHealth, 1, 40-60. Retrieved from:

Parkinson, C., & White, M. (2013). Inequalities, the arts and public health: Towards an international conversation. Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 5(3), 177–189.

Pavlicevic, M., & Ansdell, G. (Eds.). (2004). Community music therapy. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Phinney, J., & Kohatsu, E. (1997). Ethnic and racial identity development and mental health. In J. Schulenberg, J. Maggs, & K. Hurrelman (Eds.), Health risks and developmental transitions in adolescence (pp. 420–443). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Phinney, J., Horenczyk, G., Liebkind, K., & Vedder, P. (2001a). Ethnic identity, immigration, and well‐being: An interactional perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 57(3), 493-510.

Raphael, D., & Bryant, T. (2006). Maintaining population health in a period of welfare state decline: political economy as the missing dimension in health promotion theory and practice. Promotion and Education, 13(4), 236-242. Retrieved from: 3761/lectures/Maintaining population health in a period of declining welfare state_RaphaelBryant.pdf

Reicher, S.D., & Haslam, S.A. (2006). Tyranny revisited: Groups, psychological well-being and the health of societies. The Psychologist, 19, 146–150. Retrieved from:

Riiser, S. (2010). National Identity and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Music and Arts in Action 2(2), 19-37. Retrieved from:

Ryan, G. W., & Bernard, H. R. (2003). Techniques to identify themes. Field methods, 15(1), 85-109.

Scattered People (2015). Scattered People: Bringing the voices of asylum seekers to life. Retrieved from:

Schramm, A. R. (1986). Tradition in the guise of innovation: Music among a refugee population. Yearbook for Traditional Music, 18, 91-101.

Schulz, A., & Northridge, M. E. (2004). Social determinants of health: Implications for environmental health promotion. Health Education & Behavior, 31(4), 455-471.

Schweitzer, R., Brough, M., Vromans, L. & Asic-Kobe, M. (2011). Mental health of newly arrived Burmese refugees in Australia: Contributions of pre-migration and post-migration experience. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45(4), 299-307.

Sonke, J., Rollins, J., Brandman, R. & Graham-Pole, J. (2009). The state of the arts in healthcare in the United States. Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 1(2), 107-135.

Sunderland, N., Bristed, H., Gudes, O., Boddy, J., & Da Silva, M. (2012). What does it feel like to live here? Exploring sensory ethnography as a collaborative methodology for investigating social determinants of health in place. Health & Place, 18(5), 1056-1067. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.05.007

Standing Council on Health and the Meeting of Cultural Ministers. (2013). National Arts and Health Framework. Retrieved from:

Storsve, V., Westby, I. A., & Ruud, E. (2010). Hope and recognition: A music project among youth in a Palestinian refugee camp. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy 10(1). Retrieved from:

Street, J. (2013). Music, markets and manifestos. International Journal of Cultural Policy 19(3), 281-297.

Whitehead, M., & Dahlgren, G. (1991). What can be done about inequalities in health? The Lancet, 338(8774), 1059-1063.

Wiggins, N., Hughes, A., Rodriguez, A., Potter, C., & Rios-Campos, T. (2013). La Palabra es Salud (The Word Is Health) Combining Mixed Methods and CBPR to Understand the Comparative Effectiveness of Popular and Conventional Education. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 8(3), 278-298.

World Health Organisation. (2014). Social determinants of health. Retrieved from:

Wreford, G. (2010). The state of the arts and health in Australia. Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 2(1), 8-22.

White, M. (2009). Arts development in community health: A social tonic. Radcliffe Publishing.

World Health Organisation [WHO]. (1978). Declaration of Alma Ata. Retrieved from:

WHO. (1981). Global Strategy for Health for All by the Year 2000. Retrieved from:

WHO. (2011). Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health. Retrieved from:



  • There are currently no refbacks.