Finding Our Words

‘To know that we can still create, amidst all the chaos and mayhem of losing one’s sanity and find that our words are a powerful testament to our existence, needs to be honoured’ says Sandy Jeffs, an artist included in The Dax Centre’s new exhibition that explores mental health issues through poetry and visual art.

Julie Goodwin, pages from Artist’s diary, 2001, pencil, pastel and charcoal on paper, 21 x 14.8cm each. Courtesy the artist and The Dax Centre, Melbourne

On view in Melbourne until 20 September, the show is comprised of works from The Cunningham Dax Collection that counts 16,000 pieces in total, part of which includes art from patients in Victoria’s psychiatric hospitals from the 1960s to 80s. The select paintings, watercolour, drawings, ceramics, poetry, video and audio works have been chosen for their ability to convey the lived experience of trauma, grief, stigma and belonging. Work from poets Paul Fearne, Sandy Jeffs, Tessa Gatt-Rutter, Gudrun Hinze and Geoff Prince and visual artists; Donna Lawrence, Emma McEvoy and Elizabeth Turnbull is displayed alongside a new installation ‘Poetry Forest’, which will grow over time as the audience or community groups contribute.

‘Finding Our Words’ hopes to draw-out discussion and meditation on the link or complementary nature of visual expression and the written word. In addition, the showcase will encourage our engagement and education, contributing to reducing the stigma and discrimination that can follow mental health issues. For more information on the exhibition program please visit and if you are looking for support reach out to or Lifeline 13 11 14.