School of Hard Knocks

We build self-esteem, trust and help empower students to progress to better health, further education and employment

Having created Australia’s first choir for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage with Sydney Street Choir in 2001, Dr Jonathon Welch AM then recreated his highly innovative social inclusion initiative in his home town, Melbourne, with the Choir of Hard Knocks in 2006.

A major challenge to social policy over the next two decades, and beyond, will be the large numbers of disadvantaged Australians excluded from participation in the mainstream economic and social life of the nation. The School of Hard Knocks was established in response to this and provides an innovative approach to improving the health and life of its students.

People who are disadvantaged, marginalised or socially excluded often feel a great sense of failure or alienation and our programs are designed to address this. We have developed a unique teaching methodology that allows us to use the arts to:

  • Engage
  • Educate
  • Empower

Our programs involve students in arts and well-being activities with the country’s best arts practitioners, in the highest quality rehearsal and performance venues possible, with ‘performance’ as a key outcome. Students are typically referred to us by health and welfare organisations. We have strong relationships with many of these organisations who refer their clients.

Studies show that a hearty session of creativity can equate to a good physical workout and stimulate the body, mind and spirit! We’ve developed, piloted and currently run a wide range of innovative arts programs including choral, drama, instrumental and creative writing.

We also develop and lead community choirs in under-privileged areas, in association with City Councils and community and welfare organisations which enable them to engage isolated members of their communities.