School of Hard Knocks

Our Vision

To empower disadvantaged Australians through pre-eminent arts education.

Our Mission'

We do this by:
• Partnering with leaders in government, the arts, education, health, corporate, welfare and philanthropic sectors
• Providing training to professional and volunteer artists and educators to work with disadvantaged students
• Delivering tailored arts and cultural programs.
• Providing performance opportunities
• Inspiring and engaging our audiences
• Changing community perceptions of disadvantaged Australians
• Creating pathways to wellbeing, education and employment.

Background In 2006, Dr Jonathon Welch unveiled the ‘Choir Of Hard Knocks’ to a national audience. This highly innovative social inclusion initiative featured on ABC television and has since become the ‘Choir of Hope and Inspiration’. Around the world street choirs have formed, emulating this engaging model for re-connecting isolated members of their communities.

The Model The Choir model comprises a high level, visionary teacher, an iconic space to call home, (the Choir is the ‘Choir in Residence’ at Federation Square) collaborations with professional artists, the opportunity to perform to significant audiences and continuity over time. It also involves a highly innovative method of teaching to reach and engage a challenging and diverse group of participants.

From this strong foundation, we are building the School of Hard Knocks.
The School brings together the worlds of the arts, health, education and welfare, volunteers, the corporate sector and key venue management. The SchooI engages the leaders (‘exemplars’) from the arts, culture and well-being sectors. It involves teachers and artists who wish to volunteer their services. It utilises spaces and facilities that are respected or iconic.

It provides education, engagement and respect to Australians experiencing homelessness, disadvantage, long-term unemployment, risk of re-offence, mental health conditions or disability. To this we add opportunities for public performance and exhibition, and for long term engagement.

The School is a virtual institute, based in a small office in Southbank. It utilizes, at no cost, leading public and private facilities. Our Melbourne classrooms include the MCG, Deakin Edge at Federation Square, the Opera Centre, Boyd Community Hub, Victoria University, Box Hill Institute and various corporate boardrooms.

In partnership with Opera Australia, the School launched the OA Community Choirs Program in Victoria. New choirs have been formed in Brimbank, Casey and La Trobe cities. They came together in a 400 voice choir at Mazda Opera in the Bowl on 23rd November at the Myer Music Bowl.

Our Programs
The School has developed and piloted highly innovative arts programs, including:
• Choir of Hope & Inspiration (8th year program continuing at Deakin Edge)
• Ukelear Power - Ukulele teaching
• Something 2 Say - Creative Writing
• Keys to Happiness - Keyboard teaching
• Cardboard Theatre - Drama program
• StreetBeats - African Drumming
• Streetwise Opera With Streetwise UK
• Community Choirs - With Opera Australia

For more information about the School of Hard Knocks go to: