Using creative nonfiction, memoir and life writing to promote young people’s wellbeing and health in educational and wider community settings

Stream: Presentations
Date: Sunday, 4 December 2016
Time: 3.45 pm – 5.30 pm


This paper examines the use of life writing, including memoir, autobiography, journaling and digital storytelling, as a therapeutic and creative tool for young people to use to work through trauma and make sense of diverse identities. There is considerable research on Digital Storytelling (DST), which has been trialled in various countries, including Australia (Thompson, 2015). Fuller and Rehberg Sodo (2015) describe three genres of life writing: formative; transformational and relational; and transcendent or survival, which is usually about trauma. Life writing can provide ways to make sense of one’s experiences, and also has a therapeutic element. Flood and Phillips (2007) found that creative activities, including journaling, can increase self-esteem and coping skills, and reduce anxiety. Creativity can recover a sense of personhood, including recognition, respect and trust (Lee & Hudson, 2007). Kroth and Cranton’s (2014) research into transformative learning describes the power of storytelling, particularly in its capacity for understanding self and society. Conley (2012) states that lives can be changed by the power of storytelling, and describes the way that story accesses one’s inner life, including passions and fears. Research indicates that exchanging stories may offer benefits across the age spectrum (Smith & Thurston, 2007), particularly on shared experiences such as prejudice, a sense of ‘Otherness’ or not belonging, and navigating the hybridity of identities. Storytelling can provide young people with agency, unify and empower marginalised communities, illuminate common experiences including the ongoing impact of trauma, and facilitate the exchange of resources. (Reference list available)


Rosalind Bellamy (Presenter), Brunswick Secondary College
Rosalind Bellamy is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of publications including Archer Magazine, Daily Life, Everyday Feminism, Going Down Swinging, SBS and Seizure. Her work was shortlisted for the 2014 Scribe Nonfiction Prize. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney, and a Master of Teaching (Secondary) from Monash University. She has plans to commence a higher research degree into the ideas discussed in this presentation. She has presented at the Australian Education Union (Victoria), the National Young Writers' Festival (New South Wales) and the Hult Prize.