Finding Our Words – a powerful new exhibition at The Dax Centre exploring mental health issues through poetry and visual art

  • Share

Later this month, The Dax Centre will launch its second art exhibition of 2019, displaying a variety of poetry and visual works that promises to evoke emotions and enhance understanding of mental health issues.

Finding Our Words will open on Thursday 20th June at The Dax Centre in Melbourne and will run throughout winter, until 20th September.

This free-entry exhibition will showcase a collection of artworks that have been specially selected from the Cunningham Dax Collection – a collection of more than 16,000 artistic works produced by people with a lived experience of mental illness or psychological trauma.

The powerful exhibition will explore new possibilities of expression through a variety of artworks including; canvas paintings, watercolour, drawings, ceramic, poetry, video and audio as well as an immersive projection room.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings in the Poetry Forest – an interactive and suspended installation where everyone is encouraged to contribute to a community poem that will evolve and grow throughout the duration of the exhibition.

The exhibition will touch on themes of trauma, grief, stigma and belonging through visual and poetic artworks created by a variety of artists including poets; Paul Fearne, Sandy Jeffs, Tessa Gatt-Rutter, Gudrun Hinze and Geoff Prince and visual artists; Donna Lawrence, Emma McEvoy and Elizabeth Turnbull.

Sandy Jeffs, one of the exhibiting artists who will have several of her poems displayed in the exhibition, says written words can often tell someone’s story when they’re unable to find the verbal words. 

“Mental illness can rob you of so much, so to be able to create a poem from the depths of one's imagination, is a blessing. 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 in exhibitions such as Finding our Words.

“Our words speak volumes and sometimes they can speak for us when we can't speak for ourselves.  They are our treasures which we gift to the world,” says Jeffs.

Throughout the exhibition, The Dax Centre will also host a number of public programs including:

  • Poetry Reading (Thursday 4th July, 6-8pm), which will include a number of artists featured in the exhibition including; Sandy Jeffs, Tessa Gatt-Rutter and Gudrun Hinze.
  • Open House Melbourne (Sunday 28th July, 11am-4pm). For the first time ever, The Dax Centre will open its doors for Open House Melbourne allowing visitors to enjoy an exclusive guided tour of Finding Our Words, a behind-the-scenes tour of the curatorial area and the opportunity to view additional works from the Cunningham Dax Collection.

The Cunningham Dax Collection includes works created at Victoria’s psychiatric hospitals between the 1960’s and the 1980’s.  The Collection is the only one of its kind and size in Australia and one of only four in the world.

Charmaine Smith, Director of The Dax Centre says visitors to Finding Our Words will have their emotions evoked and their understanding and perspectives around mental health issues expanded.
“We are delighted to be sharing both visual and poetry works from the Cunningham Dax Collection.  Poetry is such a powerful form of expression and the works from the Collection are incredibly potent and moving.

“This is an exciting exhibition for us as it’s the first time that The Dax Centre has explored the link between the visual and written arts in such an integrated way.  Visitors to the exhibition will come away with new insights and understanding of mental health issues, and will be incredibly moved and inspired by the depth of both the visual and poetry works that are in the Collection,” says Smith.

The Dax Centre hosts a number of education programs offering a dynamic learning environment to explore art and mental health issues.  The content and format of Finding Our Words successfully aligns with Secondary School and Tertiary Education programs, providing young people with an opportunity to see how visual art can be used to express feelings, thoughts and emotions.

Last year, The Dax Centre became part of SANE, a national mental health charity, thanks to an investment of $1.19 million from the Victorian Government.  The two organisations have shared a common goal to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues for more than three decades.

Admission to Finding Our Words and its public programs is free.  For more information visit

Opening hours: Every Wednesday – Friday, 12-5pm and Sunday 28th July, 11am-4pm. 

Anyone looking for information, support and guidance from mental health professionals can contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. from 10am-10pm AEST. For anyone in crisis, call:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Line 1800 659 467
  • Mensline 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline 1800 551 800



The Dax Centre is a leader in the use of art to raise awareness and reduce stigma towards mental health issues. Through their exhibitions and education programs they seek to engage, inform and encourage community connections and conversations about mental health.

The centre is named after Dr Eric Cunningham Dax AO, and his pioneering work to develop mental health care and improve the quality of live for those living with mental illness.

SANE is a national mental health charity working to support four million Australians affected by complex mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression and anxiety.

To request an interview with the Director of The Dax Centre, Charmaine Smith please contact:

Lauren Redpath
Senior Media and PR Advisor at SANE
Phone: 0439 708 381
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last updated: 13 June 2019

Stay in touch

Never miss an important mental health update.

Please let us know your first name.
Please let us know your last name.
Please let us know your email address.
Please select at least one newsletter