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Centres and institutes_

CREATE Centre (Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts and Transforming Education, Health and Wellbeing)

Exploring the relationship between learning, creativity and the role of the arts in education, health and wellbeing.

The CREATE Centre acknowledges and celebrates that Story and the Arts are central to the knowing, doing, being and becoming of First Nations Australians. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future and note that the land was never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

We engage in three main areas: creativity research; the role of the arts in creative education, health and wellbeing; and how the arts transform all levels of education from early childhood through to higher education. Our researchers come from education, performance studies, medicine and health, literature, architecture, music, business, and the visual arts.

We acknowledge the central, intrinsic role creative pedagogy and the arts can and should play in the lives, learning and formal education of all people. 

Our vision

Creativity and the arts are central to learning, and every Australian is entitled to high-quality creative pedagogy and opportunities to engage with creativity and the arts.

The CREATE Centre is a vibrant hub of innovation in research making creativity and arts education a critical part of the education of all Australians at every age and stage of education.

We foster innovative, arts-informed and creative research methods, integrated with more traditional methods across the University. We are developing multidisciplinary research that engages experts throughout the University’s faculties and schools to enable the pursuit of new pedagogical and methodological directions in research, and to build:

  • new knowledge in the arts, education and creativity
  • new possibilities for professional practice for the education and health sectors and beyond
  • deeper partnerships with schools, health and education providers, arts organisations and other stakeholders
  • continued focus on collecting evidence and disseminating research findings through a multiplicity of art forms (including narrative, drama, song, artworks, film and dance) to reach a wide audience inside and beyond the academy, and thus create a significant impact on the community and society more generally.

Our partners

  • Arts Health Network NSW and ACT
  • Australian Theatre for Young People
  • Barker College
  • Barking Gecko Theatre Company
  • Bell Shakespeare
  • Creative Agency, RMIT
  • Diversity Arts
  • International Grammar School
  • Milk Crate Theatre
  • Steiner Education Australia
  • Sydney Theatre Company
  • The Australia Council for the Arts
  • Centre for Arts and Social Transformation, University of Auckland

Selected projects

A community-devised performing arts workshop and public performance for young people. ActBack builds resilience in the face of recent disasters including floods and COVID-19 and teaches skills in disaster recovery to participant young people. Young people in Hunters Hill have experienced multiple, recent major disasters, including floods and COVID-19. This drama-based process helps them process and respond in a supportive environment.

This project was funded by the NSW State Government’s Office of Regional Youth, through the Children and Young People Wellbeing Recovery Initiative.

This area of work aims to explore and advocate for the fundamental role of arts and culture at all stages of disaster management and at all levels of operation in the mitigation and adaptation to climate risks and impacts. It will consolidate existing knowledge and build evidence for policy and inclusion across the disaster ecosystem. It will build on current practice, and develop resources to position the role of culture and the arts as a vital contributor to climate resilience and its impacts on our communities’ wellbeing. 

Academic leads: Claire Hooker with Michael Anderson and Natasha Beaumont (CREATE).

Affiliated partners:  Creative Recovery Network, Alex Wisser (Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation), Jen Rae (Centre for Reworlding), The Cad Factory.

Leading an innovative process of teaching and learning. Investigating the outcomes of a multi-arts professional learning program on EAL/D teachers, learners, and teaching artists.

Academic Leads: Professor Emerita Robyn Ewing, Dr Kathy Ruston, Eliza Oliver

Investigating the value of theatre for young people globally. This study includes an evidence gap map and qualitative report produced in partnership with ASSITEJ. 

Academic Leads: A/Prof Kelly Freebody, Professor Michael Anderson, Eliza Oliver

If theatre is an interweaving of memory and liveness, and learning is constructed in negotiation and dialogue, theatre education offers a powerful place to encounter the unexpected, to extend horizons of expectations and consider where we are positioned in the world.

It is material and ephemeral, and recognizes that meaning is made not only in the symbols, metaphors and narratives of drama, but between spaces and places, in the gaps and the silences of reflection as well as in the movement of and activity of practice (Nicholson, 2011, p.)  

This research will investigate the following questions from the participant children’s point of view: Does theatre matter to children? If so, how? What happens when young children are given access to three live theatre performances and related pre- and post-performance activities over a two year period? What do they: wonder about? Imagine? Hope for? Remember?  

Academic leads: Professor Emerita Robyn Ewing AM and Professor Michael Anderson, in collaboration with Barking Gecko Theatre Company.

Bell Shakespeare and the CREATE Centre, University are co-designing a two-phase research project:

Pre-Phase 1: Scoping

Initial introductory scoping of the research in Australia and internationally about the impact of engaging young people with Shakespeare and the nature of their engagement.

Phase 1 of the proposed project will focus on a multi-site case study of Bell Shakespeare’s programs in regional/remote schools including live performances and tailored artists in residence programs for teachers and students. This phase will investigate what happens when young people in remote NSW schools have access to Bell Shakespeare’s in-school residencies and Player performances and related activities from the participant young people’s and teachers’ perspectives. Data will be gathered from student focus groups; teacher and principal interviews; and participants’ arts-informed responses.

Lead researchers: Associate Professor Kelly Freebody, Professor Michael Anderson, Professor Robyn Ewing, Natasha Beaumont.

This is an educational research partnership between the University of Sydney and Barker College (Sydney). The project team also includes researchers based at the Australian National University (Canberra, ACT) and James Cook University (Townsville, Qld). Better Strangers brings teachers and academics together to design, test and disseminate creative new approaches to the theory and practice of Shakespeare education.

Academic leads: Professor Liam Semler, Professor Jackie Manuel, Professor Will Christie, Dr Clare Hansen.

A collaboration with partner Standby: Support After Suicide, the Sydney Children’s Hospital, and research colleagues from Black Dog Institute, this project explores the use of body mapping to support young people and communities who have been impacted or bereaved by suicide. Body mapping allows people to explore, express and process their feelings in a safe and productive way. The project aims to provide evidence for the use of this technique with the objective of developing body mapping as an accessible tool for use in suicide prevention and support.

Academic leads: Claire Hooker (CREATE).

Partner investigators: Diane Macdonald (Black Dog Institute), Michelle Jersky (Sydney Children’s Hospital), Tania Tuckerman (StandBy), Lydia Gitau (UNSW), and Sally Nathan (UNSW).

In partnership with Sydney Theatre Company, this program helps asylum seekers and those with refugee and migrant backgrounds, learn English and foster social connections. It uses imaginative stories and folktales to explore character, place and meaning.

Academic leads: Zoe Hogan and Victoria Campbell.

A collaboration between the University of Sydney and the University of Auckland, the Creative Schools Initiative is developing a robust index measure of creative environments in schools using quantitative data. The Creative Index draws on 11 skills and capacities taken from a review of the literature of creativity in schools. An interactive ‘creative environment’ report is provided to schools and supports developing the environment for creativity in the school culture and curriculum.

Academic leads: Michael Anderson, Peter O’Connor, Kelly Freebody, Paul Ginns, Marianne Mansour.

Find out more about the Creative Schools Initiative

This project utilises inclusive pedagogy that honours the languages and cultures of the students and their agency in the learning process. It promotes translanguaging and a creative pedagogy that creates space to express symbolic understandings of students’ culture and worlds.

Identity texts are any products of students’ creative work that connect to the students' culture and community and disrupt an English only transmission pedagogy whereby students are viewed as blank slates (Freire, 1975).

They offer an accessible, focused way to draw attention to “essential aspects of the link between identity affirmation, societal power relations, and literacy engagement” (Cummins et al., 2015: p. 556) and, importantly for this project, they help bring the voices and languages of multilingual students to the fore as in this example:

Oute Alofa ia oe
Was once said to me,
I grew a tiny leaf,
But it died right after I tried to pronounce it

– Year 8 student

The project commenced several years ago. We engage with primary and secondary teachers in professional dialogue and reflection and focus on identifying the literacy and wellbeing needs of their students (Timperley, 2011). We then outline strategies to help students use their home languages in English lessons and share examples of quality literature that employs translanguaging to support students to develop authentic identity texts (Cummins, 1981; Cummins 1986; Cummins, 2000; Cummins and Early, 2011).

The research data is contextualised within the socio-spatial frames of Lefebvre (1991) and Soja (1980), and the concept of Li Wei’s (2011) ‘Translanguaging Space’. These spatial theories are used to understand how the everyday practices of school and classrooms are shaped by prevailing monolingual ideologies and how ‘thirdspace’ practices can challenge deficit views, support student agency and give voice to symbolic representations of self and culture.  

Academic leads: Dr Kathy Rushton, The University of Sydney; Dr Janet Dutton, Macquarie University


Investigating wellbeing, transferable skills, and perceived employability for young people following multi-arts workshops on the far south coast of NSW. 

Academic Leads: Eliza Oliver, Professor Michael Anderson, Professor Emerita Robyn Ewing.

A research-led practice exploring how people, particularly children, relate to the civic condition, and the ways in which ‘play’ can be integrated into the fabric of everyday life. Our projects explore ways that art in public places – and urban design more broadly – can become increasingly integrated, inclusive and interactive creative spaces. It is our goal to challenge the ways a permanent public artwork might be encountered in daily life. Developing major works of playable sculpture, we aim to expand the role of art in contributing to current definitions of ‘play’.

Pilot project: Children as architects for play

In this "playable sculpture" project, infants, toddlers and children will become the architects of their own playscape. It is our aim that the children’s encounters with their play space will reveal to us valuable insights into their perception and behaviour with environments and art objects. Through this research we will be able to deduce which physical determinants of sculptural shapes affect children’s decisions, actions, interactions, feelings and behaviours. This will be tested across key demographics, primarily age and gender categories.

Academic leads: Sanné Mestrom, artist and academic; Melissa Loughnan, curator, consultant and director of Utopian Slumps; and Anna Ciliberto, director, Ciliberto Architects.

A Partnership with the University of Texas investigating the role of applied drama workshops in mitigating climate anxiety in young people.

Academic Leads: A/Prof Kelly Freebody, Professor Michael Anderson, Eliza Oliver

An evaluation of a series of site-specific drama skills workshops undertaken with young people on the NSW South Coast after the bushfires. In partnership with the Family Place. The workshops will culminate in public performances for the communities.

Lead researcher: Thomas De Angelis, Professor Michael Anderson, Professor Robyn Ewing.


A teacher professional learning program developed by Sydney Theatre Company in partnership with the University of Sydney and Professor Robyn Ewing AM. The program aims to enable teachers to develop the confidence and expertise to use drama-rich pedagogy with literature to enhance learners’ English and literacy outcomes. Each teacher works with a Teaching Artist to embark on a unique co-mentoring partnership. Since 2009, more than 35,000 teachers and students have participated in the program.

Drrama program reimagines how we teach English - read more.

Explore the School Drama research portfolio here. 

School Drama Hub

Over five twilight workshops, teachers learn how to integrate drama across the curriculum, plan their own drama units and develop their teaching artistry. 

Find out more about the School Drama Hub.

Stories from the Future

Run by Diversity Arts Australia (2019-2020), this is a contemplative workshop series for culturally and/or linguistically diverse artists and arts workers to imagine a future where cultural diversity is present at every level in the arts.

Find out more about Stories from the Future.

Academic Lead: Dr Remy Low, with support from Paula Abood and Lena Nalhous.

In the face of an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, education can make the difference as to whether people embrace the challenges they are confronted with or whether they are defeated by them. And in an era characterised by a new explosion of scientific knowledge and a growing array of complex societal problems, it is appropriate that curricula should continue to evolve, perhaps in radical ways.

Understand them through their way of living and the circumstances of their lives … try to penetrate the psychology of different nations … endeavour to penetrate the psychology of persons around you toward whom you feel unsympathetic … attempt to experience what they experience (Chekhov, 1953).

If we can experience something through art, then we might be able to change our future, because experience engraves lessons on our heart through suffering, whereas speculation leaves us untouched (Sarah Kane, British playwright).

Academic lead: Dr Alison Grove O’Grady, Thomas De Angelis.

Transforming Schools began as a project in 2017 to consider the “how” of school transformation.

Emerging from the books Transforming Schools and Transforming Organizations, the project now features more than 40 schools in long-term partnerships and several PhD, master's degree and honours students researching the how of transformation.

This work undertaken in partnership with 4C Transformative Learning and not only researches transformation and the 4Cs (creativity, critical reflection, communication, collaboration) but investigates how schools throughout Australia are making it a reality. 

This project’s mission is to use arts-based methods to amplify anti-racism solutions and to explore how young people’s experiences of racism affects health and healthcare in Western Sydney. The project aims to collaborate with people striving to improve community outcomes through awareness and education, and to address issues guided by the lived experiences of the diverse local communities. Key partners are the Casula Powerhouse and the Sydney South West Local Health District Arts and Health Committee.

Academic leads: Claire Hooker (CREATE).

Partner investigators: Miriam Cabello (Casula Powerhouse), Caroline Lenette (UNSW), and Linden Wilkinson (USyd).

Our progams and activities

Our programs are flexible, arts-informed and responsive to new ideas. CREATE’s professional learning is designed in consultation with colleagues across the University, alongside education health and arts organisations and community partners. Participants are engaged in creative ideas and experiences.

The centre pursues authentic research partnerships that establish environments that enable innovative ways of thinking, doing and researching using by engaging with creative arts methodologies and processes.

CREATE’s Online Conferences (Oncons) and partnership webinars introduce distinguished experts, creative artists and community members to share new knowledge and understandings and lead provocative interdisciplinary discussions. Roundtables bring experts in a particular field together to explore research opportunities.

A regular research higher degree program encourages early career researchers to build knowledge, expertise and important networks.

Our programs apply interdisciplinary designs, drawing on expertise across dance, drama, literature, media arts, music and visual arts to enhance health and wellbeing, create and develop knowledge, innovation and develop creative and rigorous approaches to research.

CREATE leads public discourse and communicates clearly and assertively on the importance of the arts and creativities in education, health and wellbeing through existing and new networks and media channels. We lobby key policy makers at the state and federal levels arguing for reform and greater vision.

Our people

Founding Co-Directors

  • Professor Robyn Ewing AM
  • Professor Michael Anderson

Associate Director – Health and Wellbeing

  • Associate Professor Claire Hooker

Centre Manager

  • Dr Anna Kamaralli

Research Manager

  • Eliza Oliver

Research Associate – Strategic Projects

  • Thomas De Angelis

Professional Learning

  • Professor Jackie Manuel
  • Professor Michael Balfour, University of NSW
  • Professor Margaret S. Barrett, Monash University
  • Professor Katherine Boydell, University of NSW
  • Professor Pam Burnard, Cambridge University
  • Associate Professor Andrea Cherise, University of Toronto
  • Professor Will Christie, Australian National University
  • Professor Sandra Gattenhof, Queensland University of Technology 
  • Professor Dan Harris, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
  • Patrick McIntyre, National Film and Sound Archives
  • Professor Peter O'Connor, The University of Auckland
  • Professor Robyn Ewing
  • Professor Michael Anderson
  • Associate Professor Claire Hooker
  • Dr Anna Kamaralli
  • Thomas De Angelis
  • Dr Paul Dwyer
  • Associate Professor Robyn Gibson
  • Dr Andrew Lavery
  • Ksenia Sawczak
  • Professor Liam Semler
  • Associate Professor Lee Wallace


Headshot of Professor Robyn Ewing
Professor Robyn Ewing
Academic profile


Headshot of Professor Michael Anderson
Professor Michael Anderson
Academic profile

Associate Director – Health and Wellbeing

Headshot of Associate Professor Claire Hooker
Associate Professor Claire Hooker
Academic profile

Centre Manager

Headshot of Anna Kamaralli
Dr Anna Kamaralli

Research Manager

Headshot of Eliza Oliver
Eliza Oliver

Research Associate – Strategic Projects

Headshot of Thomas de Angelis
Thomas De Angelis

For more information

Anna Kamaralli