'They Change Us': The social and emotional impacts on music facilitators of engaging in music and singing with asylum seekers


  • Caroline Lenette School of Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales
  • Brian Procopis Community Development Practitioner & Musician, The Scattered People


The literature on the social and emotional wellbeing of community musicians who engage with marginalised groups with complex mental health issues such as refugees, is relatively scarce. The Scattered People is a collective of volunteer musicians, music facilitators, and community development workers who engage, through musical activities, with asylum seekers and refugees who have experienced detention in Australia. This discussion focuses on key examples of social and emotional distress for community music facilitators through their interactions with asylum seekers. The community musicians explained the circumstances that had significant impacts on their wellbeing in terms of (i) their engagement with people in a detention centre, and (ii) the happiness and concerns linked to the asylum seekers they came across. Our paper presents the second author’s reflections on two songs from the Scattered People repertoire, which were created and performed as the embodiment of these social and emotional impacts. Our aim is to ensure that this important aspect of community music, which has been thus far neglected, receives more attention.


Community music; music facilitation; social and emotional health; wellbeing; asylum seekers and refugees

Author Biographies

Caroline Lenette, School of Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales

Caroline Lenette is a Lecturer of Social Research and Policy in the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia. She is an early career academic with a background in human services and social development. Her research focuses on refugee and asylum seeker mental health and wellbeing, forced migration and resettlement of refugee women, visual representations of refugees, and arts-based research that promotes mental health and wellbeing, particularly visual ethnography and community music.

Brian Procopis, Community Development Practitioner & Musician, The Scattered People

Brian Procopis is a community development practitioner and has been a member of the Social Inclusion and Community Development Team of Lifeline Brisbane, Australia, for many years. He is a community musician and takes his guitar (and his many muso friends) into places where people are experiencing social marginalisation in order to create a welcoming ‘community’. Human services professionals from mainstream organisations often encounter closed (or reluctantly opened) doors into precarious situations – as in detention centres. Musicians, however, are always welcomed.