Arts students pitch 'big ideas’ to tackle Australia’s ‘big issues’
Published: Tuesday 5th December 2017
In 2017, the National School of Arts has collaborated with The Big Issue, Australia’s longest standing social enterprise, to bring the Big Idea Competition to ACU. After making it through the preliminary rounds and then competing against semi-finalists from 10 other Australian universities, a team of ACU students from the Strathfield campus has won through to the final, which will be held at PwC’s offices in Melbourne on 5 December.
The Big Idea Competition challenges students to identify an area of disadvantage in the community and develop a business case for a social enterprise that can function either as a start-up or as a complement to an existing not-for-profit organisation. One of the key objectives of the competition is to encourage students to develop a deep and empathetic understanding of disadvantage.
During the course of this semester, in select units in ACU’s National School of Arts, students have been working hard to plan and promote their ‘Big Ideas’ to improve the lives of disadvantaged Australians. They have had opportunities to meet successful social entrepreneurs, ‘thought leaders’ and industry professionals across a range of sectors, and to gain ‘real world’ advice on how to effect positive change in diverse communities.
The National School of Arts is proud to have introduced this initiative to its students in the knowledge that they will walk away with new experience and skills that they can showcase to potential future employers. In the process, the students will also have engaged in real and meaningful ways with ACU’s commitment to have ‘impact through empathy’ beyond the walls of the university.
Two teams from ACU’s National School of Arts were selected for the semi-finals in mid-November, with one going through to the Final. Students Rachel Webb, Amy Voglis and Brooke Archer proposed ‘The Ark’, a pet-friendly women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence and their animal companions. They concluded that domestic violence shelters that offer co-habitation with animals are virtually non-existent in Australia. They explained that there is strong evidence of perpetrators of domestic violence using pets to manipulate and maintain abusive situations. Many victims of domestic violence feel unable to leave dangerous relationships due to the risk to their pets.
As the team’s leader Rachel Webb explained, “The Ark endeavours to create a sanctuary for the victims of abuse and their animal companions, where they can be comforted in the knowledge that their animals are safely with them and they can proceed to plan for the future without concern. The presence of the animals will also serve the purpose of assisting in the recuperation of many inhabitants, as studies have shown that animals can reduce stress and anxiety. We were concerned for the welfare of the animals as well, so our proposal included services for any injuries or illnesses the pets might arrive with.”
A likely outcome of the students’ proposal would be to partner with existing women’s shelters to provide a social enterprise that would allow women in dangerous situations to remain with their pets, with stable funding coming from pet-grooming services offered to paying members of the general public.
In addition to competing in the Final on Tuesday 5 December, the three ACU students have been invited to attend an Immersion Experience Day at PwC in Melbourne. There, they will ‘learn about … how they can bring … their passions to the workplace’ to ameliorate disadvantage and serve the common good. They will also hear from ‘a current PwC employee and social entrepreneur on how he is able to bring his own purpose and passions to PwC’. This will be a unique opportunity for the students to enhance their professional development.
National Head of ACU’s School of Arts, Professor Michael Ondaatje, commented: ‘I am absolutely delighted to have partnered with The Big Issue to create this wonderful opportunity for students in the National School of Arts. And I have been very impressed by the hard work and initiative shown by our students. I wish the team all the best as they compete against some of the nation’s “best and brightest”, and I am sure the Immersive Experience offered by PwC will stand them in good stead for the future. I would like to thank Professors Anne Cummins and Tania Aspland for their support of this excellent initiative’.
For more information on the Big Idea Competition, please email Dr Ellen Warne, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Coordinator of the Big Idea at ACU: Ellen.Warne@acu.edu.au.