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Connect With…Sing Australia Coffs Harbour

Meet Sing Australia Coffs Harbour – one of our connectABLE project partners. Sing Australia has operated in Coffs Harbour since 2002. The group is part of the national Sing Australia network that has a large repertoire of songs. We talk with Group Leader Tess Mylrea, as well as member and carer Laura Good about what makes the group inclusive and how singing can help people make valuable social connections and lead a healthy life.

Why did Sing Australia partner with CCO in the connectABLE project?

Tess: We love to share our joy of singing. Anybody is welcome and if you like to sing in the shower, this group is for you. As an added benefit singing is good for your health and wellbeing.  At Sing Australia we try to promote a supportive and friendly environment.

Laura: I have personal experience with disability through caring for my daughter Joanna. I think the more barriers you can bring down, the better society will be in general. It would be great if the whole of community could broaden their view so that people with disability – who are just like everyone else – can do the the things they want to do and enjoy. This is how I see connectABLE making a difference. If the project can help the community have more exposure and interaction with people with disability, that fear of the unknown will eventually go away and people can make friends and hang out on the basis of interest, not what they can’t do.

What does social inclusion actually mean for a group like Sing Australia?

Tess: In Sing Australia we sing for the joy of singing. There are no auditions, no requirements to read music and no singing experience is necessary. People are always welcome even if they feel that they aren’t very good singers or haven’t sung for a long time. We show everyone that their unique voice is just as relevant as anyone else. We have a professional accompanist and conductor to guide us and give us tips to help us improve.

Laura: The Sing Australia group are really friendly people and welcoming of everyone. The practice venue is wheelchair friendly. If you like singing – there’s no problems. I don’t think anyone feels excluded there. Family and friends are welcome to come along to social nights. At our Christmas Party Joanna got up and sang Silent Night. This was a huge deal for me because I had to wait 5 years to hear her say ‘Mum’ so to hear her sing in front of a group – and she knew all the words – we all sang along and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

How has singing helped your members live active and well connected lives?

Tess: As well as the fun and friendship of our weekly singing sessions, we provide entertainment at aged care facilities and a variety of community events. Many of our members really enjoy this aspect of giving back to the community. Each year there is a Sing Australia National Gathering and the sound of up to a thousand voices singing their hearts out is truly awesome. There is also the opportunity to go on bus tours around Australia and overseas, singing as you go with likeminded people. Membership of one Sing Australia gives you membership of all, which is great if you are travelling around. It’s a wonderful network.

Laura: As a carer I was feeling very isolated. I wasn’t working. I had family around but I still felt quite isolated and lonely. I wanted to be involved in something. About 4 years ago after Joanna recovered from some major surgery I came home and thought “Now what?” I was looking through the paper, saw the Sing Australia ad and called them up. I’ve always loved singing but its not just about that – you meet people and establish friendships. We’re really good at supporting each other if someone needs a hand. I don’t make it along to as many gigs these days but I love going to practice.

What would you say to others to encourage them to consider Sing Australia as a social outlet?

Tess: If you like singing, you can meet lots of like-minded people, make new friends and be included in other fun social activities. As a bonus there are loads of proven health benefits with singing. It improves your breathing, boosts the immune system reduce stress and sometimes it even helps people with chronic pain. It’s also great for confidence and self esteem. After a night of singing we usually feel really uplifted even if we were tired when we started. We offer a free first visit to our Monday night session and people have a couple of weeks to decide if they’d like to join. We have reduced membership rates for pensioners and full time students are free.

Laura: There is no age limit.  You don’t have to read music or even read from the song book if you can memorise the words. Everyone is very understanding if you miss a session and you can pick up where you left off. Monday night practices are the best! They’re a lot of fun. Singing releases endorphines so everyone is just happy!

Coffs Harbour Sing Australia meets from 7-9pm every Monday night (except public holidays) at the Anglican Church Hall in McLean Street, Coffs Harbour. For membership enquiries please contact Tess or Dave Mylrea on 02 6652 7402 or mylrea@netspace.net.au

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