FREEHILLS AND the Belvoir Street Company B theatre company have landed two awards for their efforts in enriching the community, and the lives of young people, through their business/arts partnership.
The two organisations picked up both the Australian Business Arts Foundation (AbaF) NSW Toyota Community Award and the National Australian Council Arts Award for young people, which were presented at a ceremony held at the Museum of Sydney last week.
The AbaF Toyota Community Award is for business/arts partnerships with outcomes that have a community focus, and the Australian Council Arts for Young People award is presented to partnerships that enrich the lives of young Australians through engagement with and participation in the arts.
Through the partnership, which began in 2003, Freehills provides financial support and some pro bono legal assistance for Company B’s education program. The program is designed to give disadvantaged young people across NSW a chance to learn about and experience different aspects of theatre production.
According to Annette Bain — pro bono counsel and executive director of the Freehills Foundation — last year more than 21,000 young people from local, regional and rural communities were involved in the program, taking part in educational theatre workshops or coming in to the Belvoir Theatre itself.
“Overwhelmingly…. certainly very few [of the program’s participants] have been inside a theatre and [experienced] all the blessings that flow from having exposure to the arts,” she said.
“For some young people it might be about escaping from difficulties in their own life. Sometimes it’s to be able to reflect their own experiences with those of the people on stage and they might not feel quite so lonely.”
A key focus of the program is to give students some inspiration to stay on and finish High School, because leaving school early is a predictor of future homelessness, Bain explained. She said the relationship was very much a two-way street, with substantial benefits to be gained for both parties. “The degree of the relationship means that we get some tickets for Belvoir Street [theatre] which we are not only able to share with our staff which helps them get involved, but also … some of our pro-bono client organisations so they can have a night out,” she said.
“It’s very much a partnership between equals. It’s not a very powerful big-end-of town [firm] and a little not-for-profit having a go. [Company B] is a very substantial leading not-for-profit which is absolutely maximising what it does, and similarly, we’re getting this great chance to give. It’s a very interesting relationship.”
Company B education manager Jane May said that the value of the partnership to Company B was “immeasurable”. “We would not be able to run our education program or leverage funds to expand the program with out Freehills support,” she said.
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