Banyule Kids Thrive: songwriting for social change

A year-long program for primary school students supporting children in vulnerable communities, by strengthening their social and emotional skills, and encouraging alternatives to conflict and violence.

‘Banyule Kids Thrive has been key to transforming our little school into a leadership and learning school.’ Barbara Gomez, Principal St Pius X Primary, West Heidelberg



About the Program

Kids Thrive in safe communities.

Banyule Kids Thrive is an early intervention program and community engagement strategy, empowering children and teachers to create an environment of respect and care through reflection, song and celebration.

Linking to AusVELS, and drawing on contemporary research focusing on arts and education, social and emotional learning, childhood trauma and resilience, Banyule Kids Thrive supports children to identify comfortable and uncomfortable feelings, self-regulate negative behaviours, and engage positively with the world around them – ‘changing their tune’ and telling a different story about who they are and who they can be.

This program also improves children’s literacy and creative problem-solving. Through songwriting, storytelling and performance workshops, and reflective activities delivered in partnership with children’s wellbeing and welfare specialists, children are equipped with life-long, creative strategies for personal change, which they then take out into their families and extended communities, leading by example towards new ways of being in the world.

Banyule Kids Thrive has been delivered in West Heidelberg since 2012, working with successive children from St Pius X, and Charles La Trobe College – Olympic Village and Macleod campuses. Aimed at children aged 5 to 8, the program supports them to carve out alternative pathways to conflict and violence, growing a generation of children with the understanding, skills and ability to communicate and collaborate positively.

The program builds on the Calmer Classrooms model of working with traumatised children, as developed by Berry Street. It also delivers professional development for educators and children’s specialists in using the arts for social development, and using the Kids Thrive model for engaging children who have experienced trauma.

On December 5, 2016 the West Heidelberg community launched a milestone CD – a compilation of songs co-written with children in the Banyule Kids Thrive program from 2012 to 2016. 16 of the 27 original songs composed, were recorded at Banyule City Council’s Jets Studio and The Channel at The Arts Centre. The songs flowed out of the weekly activity sessions focusing on social and emotional learning.

The Banyule Kids Thrive ‘Let Yourself Join In’ CD will be available soon.

Program Aims

  • Strengthen children’s social and emotional learning, skilling them for life
  • Deliver creative strategies for positive personal and community change
  • Promote children as creative leaders
  • Provide alternative pathways to conflict and violence
  • Develop children’s social, coping and positive conflict management skills
  • Build positive relationships between families, schools and local family agencies
  • Embed art-based approaches in schools and agencies
  • Improve educational outcomes
  • Increase community pride and cohesiveness

 Program Outcomes

After our 2014 program, the children who participated had improved:

  • Communication and persistence – 97%
  • Self-confidence – 90%
  • Behaviour – 85%
  • Capacity to self-regulate – 83%
  • Teamwork skills – 81%
  • Attendance – 61%
  • Literacy – 80%


Awarded the NAB Schools First award, 2012

 Further Information/ Footage

 ‘It will change the way you feel.  It will change the community.’ Forum, grade 3/4

‘Banyule Kids Thrive is the only area cluster that I know of that includes both Catholic and government schools. It makes so much sense because we are dealing with the very specific needs of the families in this area, and also because we often get the same children moving through schools.’  – Paul Muling, Principal, St Pius X Primary

2010 – 16 Delivery Partners

Charles La Trobe College | St. Pius X Primary School | Banyule Community Health

2016 Funding Partners

Australia Council for the Arts | Ian Potter Foundation