Remote art centres are hubs of happiness and western health systems could learn from them, an Indigenous health and well-being researcher has said.

Bidjara woman Maree Meredith, the first PhD graduate of the Flinders Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Well-Being, has based her research on how Aboriginal art centres are critical to the health and happiness of remote communities.

After more than a decade working in Central Australia, the Flinders University lecturer and researcher said western health systems should recognise the centres’ holistic benefits.

Australia’s art centre model, established for more than 80 years, has evolved from being craft and hobby drop-in centres for women to become much more, including a culturally safe place to promote healthier lifestyles and social and economic growth,” Ms Meredith said.

“They’re not just about producing art but are an enabling space for people to come together and meet each other, discuss community affairs, seek health advice or even call Centrelink.”

Ms Meredith said Australia’s more than 100 art centres are “hubs of happiness” that can complement traditional health services.

“They help to overcome this idea of deficit, so people can not just participate in art but also engage in social, emotional, spiritual and also medical health interventions, if health clinicians or aged care services come to the community,” she said.

By Wendy Caccetta