National Youth Performing Arts Connection Program



Since the founding of ATYP in 1963 (the country’s first theatre company dedicated to young people) Australia has been at the forefront of international performing arts practice when it comes to creating work for and with young people. Many of Australia’s most celebrated professional artists have been employed to work with our communities through the Youth Arts industry. This industry brings everyday people together with inspiring professional artists to be entertained, to share stories and to find their voice.

Australian youth theatre companies are amongst our most successful cultural exports. Windmill, Slingsby, Polyglot, Monkey Baa, Terrapin and Patch Theatre are just some examples of Australian companies that are constantly touring Australia and the world. Australia’s network of performing arts companies creating work with young people are recognised for using best-practice engagement processes that support the growth and wellbeing of young people. And the World knows it. Since 2021 the President of the international peak body for youth theatre, ASSITEJ International, has been Australian Sue Giles. 

Despite the vital role the youth performing arts industry plays in our cultural life and the extraordinary community impact delivered by companies working in the sector, little information exists on the industry as a whole. This webpage is designed to address this need.

With vital, responsive investment and partnerships, we can grow the good and make it greater.


Photos: Clare Hawley ©

There is an overwhelming body of research demonstrating that an involvement in the performing arts offers tangible benefits to young people and wider society. It demonstrates that an involvement in the arts delivers, amongst other things:

  • An increase in wellbeing including resilience and the ability to overcome challenges;
  • An improvement in self-esteem and sense of self-worth;
  • A greater connection to community and enhanced sense of belonging;
  • An improvement across all areas of curriculum learning;
  • The development in creative thinking, problem solving and working collaboratively; and
  • An increased willingness to participate in community activities such as volunteering and voting.

Over the past 15 years the Australian youth arts industry has borne the brunt of stagnant government investment and support for the arts, particularly from the Federal Government. In 2007 there were 21 youth arts companies receiving operational funding from the Australia Council for the Arts. In 2022 there were just 4. Amongst the companies lost during this time was the national industry publication, Lowdown Magazine, and the peak advocacy body, Young People in the Arts Australia. 

This decline in investment has coincided with the steady deterioration in the resilience, wellbeing and mental health of young people. In Mission Australia’s latest annual Youth Survey released in November 2022, 33.9% of the 18,800 young people surveyed identified  Mental Health as one of the most important issues in Australia. 38.5% of young people were personally extremely or very concerned about mental health. 

Photos: Clare Hawley ©

So the youth arts sector clearly has a problem. How do we inform our Governments, philanthropists, community leaders and others that we can improve the lives of young Australians through greater participation in the performing arts?!

Thanks to the support of the Ian Potter Foundation, ATYP is working in collaboration with the national youth theatre industry and Theatre Network Australia to make the performing arts a priority for all industries seeking to engage young Australians.



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