People We Help
Here are just some of the inspirational voices and stories that make up Creativity Australia’s With One Voice family.
You are warmly invited to join us in song.
I decided to join a choir as I felt I needed a bit of motivation. My life is a little bit rough at the moment, I decided to look for something to do. I wanted to add a bit of soul and positivity in my life.
I searched online and came across the With One Voice choirs and decided to give it a go! Everyone was helpful and made me feel very welcomed. Kym Dillon our conductor is so great, he has so much energy and makes the singing fun.
Just being a part of this group of people, people from all walks of life is refreshing. Some work, some don’t, some are going through tough times like myself. It’s just so nice to be a part of a group every Tuesday night, I look forward to it every week. I just love all the singing, it makes me feel happy and it’s my highlight.
I joined Ashburton’s With One Voice choir about three years ago as I wanted something of my own to do.
My husband Jon and I used to be involved with square dancing. We are both in wheelchairs, and once our classes stopped, Jon began going to able-bodied classes just to enjoy the music.
Personally, this wasn’t enough for me, and I went looking for another activity. That’s when I found With One Voice Ashburton.
Six months later, Jon joined me. We both really enjoy singing and have always been involved with music in some way, and now singing is something we are working at improving. We never took ourselves as singers, but our conductor, Kym, is very talented, and he is extremely inclusive and fun.
Since January this year, I have been volunteering at the Ashburton choir. I take care of memberships, attendances, and I also manage the database. This month, we have already had seven newcomers – and four of them have already become members!
I encourage anyone to come and give it a go! Just do it! The community within the choir is so kind and supportive, and we really do have a lot of fun!
Beth’s courage, keen sense of humour and incomparable love of life inspires us every week.
Beth was born with cerebral palsy and is one of With One Voice Melbourne’s original participants.
Peter: “Beth, why do you come to choir?”
Beth: “Freedom, independence and a sense of belonging. Because I feel like I don’t belong anywhere else. I do belong here. At choir no one sees my wheelchair. They see me, as a person.”
In 2014, Beth achieved two lifelong dreams: standing up for the first time, which she did at a choir rehearsal, and landing her first job. The job was at the Royal Melbourne Show, thanks to SKILLED.
“Beth welcomed show-goers with her incomparable enthusiasm and loved the job so much she extended her working hours,” said Delphine Cassidy from SKILLED.
“Both show-goers and co-workers were inspired by Beth’s passion for life and friendliness.”
The day before my first rehearsal for With One Voice, I had been searching the internet for things to do on the weekend when an advertisement popped up. I’d been searching for a community choir for about three months prior and couldn’t find anything that matched what I was looking for.
I joined because I love to sing and there are limited opportunities to sing with others in everyday life. I LOVE to sing, it makes me so happy to sing with others, with no pressures or competitiveness, but just singing for fun and support.
I loved meeting so many different people, hearing their stories, connecting, and witnessing some amazing musical talents.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
I have been looking for some way to give back to the community and I have found it in my much-loved community choir.
It is really good therapy for me to meet so many different and wonderful people – people who are homeless or who have a disability or who are recovering from depression and other illnesses. People who have businesses and big jobs and office workers…
I was born in Sri Lanka and lived in a small village. During college in India I used to take my guitar and go out to the lake to sing songs by myself.
I have always been passionate about music and sing a lot – in those days it was Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck and The Beatles. I still do a great rendition of Please Release Me!
After a strict Catholic upbringing I left college in my early 20s and went travelling around India. I spent several years living in an ashram in Rishikesh and learnt yoga and meditation from spiritual leaders.
I also walked through the Himalayas, sleeping in temples and meditating lots, and taught English to young monks in a Buddhist monastery.
In 1989 I met and married Deb in Goa, where I was teaching yoga and meditation, and moved to Australia. We have two beautiful children, Alex and India Rose.
I absolutely love being part of With One Voice Sydney.
I have met so many people from all walks of life. Even my daughter’s school principal comes to choir! Every Tuesday I look forward to seeing my friends and singing together and bringing happiness to us all.
I talk to the other participants and they have gone through so many hard things in their lives. Their stories really move me.
Singing is something that comes from the heart – it is good for the soul! You don’t have to have a good voice. It comes naturally. Singing with my friends makes me feel very happy.
At choir I’m in a different world, completely. It’s amazing.
“Hi Tania, my name is Sarah Ann Butler. The very big reason why I have joined the Melbourne choir was to belong, and to be needed. I have been depressed for some time now, as I have not seen my daughter, or my two beautiful grandchildren for the last 15 months, and I have been feeling very empty, lonely, and lost.
Most of my days I am crying. I know then I was going through depression. I had been going to see a Psychologist. The talks we had were good, but I was still going home crying. My son Paul had said to me, Mum you need something different in your life. He suggested music, as music is good for the soul. Paul went on to the internet, touch on to Google and found Melbourne choir at the Sofitel. Paul came with me for a few months until I got used to going on my own.
Tuesday is choir night, and I love looking forward to it. Singing makes me Happy. I have met so many nice people in the choir. The first few months I must say, I was still very sad. The people in the choir did not see the unhappy Sarah when I was singing or talking to them. I had a mask on, I hide my sadness. But as the months went by I knew I no longer needed that mask. I am now a Happy person once again. I am surrounded by people who love me, The Choir. And that lovely Young Conductor Kym, how great is he, the way he has control of his choir, the people in the choir hang on to every word he says, the way he moves. His actions, the way he jumps around, he sure puts a smile on everyone’s face, what a guy. So today’s new friend is tomorrow’s Best Friend, and we all need someone to Lean on.
There was one choir night! I was singing, there was a tap on my shoulder a young lady asked me for my phone number, I gave it to her. Katherine rang me two days later, we went out for coffee into the city, we talked and laughed. Katherine is from Sydney, and she has just moved to Melbourne. We just seem to click. I have taken Katherine to the Thousands Steps, we also climb the Thousand Steps. Katherine, and myself have joined the many Volunteers in this wonderful Melbourne Choir. We greet people at the front desk, we love seeing smiling faces coming towards us. I greet them by saying, Hi, my name is Sarah with a Big smile on my face.”
Sarah from With One Voice Melbourne
My name is Sera Elmasri. My last name means Egyptian and I am literally ‘Sarah the Egyptian’!
I am from an Islamic background. When I first went to the With One Voice Greater Dandenong choir, I didn’t know what to expect. I was met with welcome and acceptance.
I never told anybody what religion I was. In fact, I think I was afraid to say it. As time went on, I felt that I was in a space that was very safe that allowed people to be who they really are, without judgement and a space in which many people could come and talk about their lives in a very real and genuine way.
Coming to this choir has meant, for me, a space in which there is community. There is the joining of people from very different backgrounds.
As a Muslim, I feel very accepted. I feel part of one group. I feel part of a world. Please, join us. You are also part of this world.
With One Voice Greater Dandenong
I am a proud man from two very diverse heritages, Papua New Guinea and Australia.
I was born in Port Moresby, my beautiful mother is a proud Australian and my wonderful father is a proud Papua New Guinean. I am proud of who, what, and where I am… but the journey has not ended.
I still have a lot to learn, accomplish, to maintain, and better myself for the current generation. I love keeping fit, although I don’t visit the gym as much as I should. Being balanced physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially is important.
I found this out the hard way, which was a strenuous and time consuming process.
I had a terrible accident nearly four years ago. My aunty in Sydney told me about the With One Voice choir starting in Brisbane. She thought I should give it a go, and I thought, “Well I have nothing to lose”.
I don’t really hang out with my old friends anymore, being part of this choir has opened my eyes to a whole other world and other people’s views and perspectives.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
I have cerebral palsy and walk with elbow crutches. I also use a mobility scooter to get to where I need to go.
I come to choir to meet new people and improve my networks. I also come to choir because I am passionate about singing! I even sing along to my music on my iPhone when I’m out walking! I’ve loved singing all my life and I had singing lessons in high school, I was also in musicals throughout school!
The With One Voice choirs enable members to meet other people who they wouldn’t normally meet. Singing also a lot of positive benefits, including improving self-esteem and encouraging people to do things that they may have been told they can’t do.
I volunteered as choir member support officer because I wanted to give back to a community that has given me so much.
If I met someone who was struggling with something, I would encourage them to come to the With One Voice program because it will help them to forget their worries for a short time each week.
They will find people in the program who will accept them for who they are and could even help change their lives for the better, even in the smallest way.
I had been looking for work for six years and last year I managed to find a job in a call centre. Unfortunately, I was sacked from that job after eight weeks even though I tried hard to do everything they asked. I mentioned at choir that I had just been sacked from my job and my wish was to find a good ongoing job.
Peter Kronborg introduced me to Anne Tesch whom Tania had invited to choir. She said she might be able to help me with some voluntary work.
I called Anne this year and she said that she is willing to give me work but it won’t be voluntary work. Instead it will be paid work! I just started and am so excited. Choir has changed my life.
Annabel recently walked 500km in 90 days for charity… which gave her a lot of singing time!
The choir makes me feel so good!
I am a carer for my two children and their mother, despite the fact I have a rare type of diabetic neuropathy that affects my entire body.
I needed to do something just for myself. I drive for nearly an hour each way to get to choir. Some days I can’t make it because of my condition, but it’s worth the drive when I do.
I come out of there on such a high and I don’t get pain from my neuropathy most nights I sing.
Everyone is welcome and although everyone is different we all are treated as equals. I really like that.
Marg & Jeanette
For resident Marg Walker and her daughter Jeanette, the With One Voice Altona Meadows community choir at Benetas St George’s is more than just an opportunity to sing along to their favourite tunes.
“Mum and I absolutely love singing in the With One Voice Altona Meadows choir,” Jeanette said.
“We feel closer with other residents at Benetas St George’s and enjoy meeting and getting to know the members of the community who participate.”
Jeanette added that involvement in the choir builds a sense of community between all of the participants and it is truly joyful to hear the different residents singing so enthusiastically.
Read more in this great article from DPS News.
Julian was born in Sri Lanka and came to Australia at 21. He joined Greater Dandenong Sings because he was not working and suffered from anxiety.
Julian had always been interested in singing and when he came across a flyer for the choir he thought it would be a place where he would fit in.
“I had bad anxiety, mainly from not working, which could have become depression if I had not found Greater Dandenong Sings,” Julian said.
“Singing has helped as it makes me happy, it’s uplifting, but also talking to people who had similar problems. The choir is supportive. We sing happy songs that give a sense of positive good feelings.”
“I always look forward to choir. I think I will be singing there until I can’t anymore.”
“My wife noticed the difference in me. I’m back to my normal self now.”
The choir is an escape for me. To open my heart, to be relaxed, happy and forget about all the problems. It’s an open door that you can only see flowers in front and be happy. Enjoy the perfume of the song. The choir really had an important role in my confidence. The diversity in the choir is really huge.
When I got my job interview to prepare they gave me a hand to improve my confidence and to take that step it was really hard for me. I was so nervous, so emotional. I couldn’t believe I would have a job. Then I have the job. I say thanks to all of the members of the choir.
I’m a transient who was born in the once-beautiful city of Christchurch, New Zealand. I moved to Australia at 14. My wife, Sylvia, is my best feature and she was born in the Czech Republic. We have two kids, Charlotte (six) and Billy (three). I’ve lived in a few places, Germany, France, Belgium, England, and the Czech Republic.
I am a newspaper journalist and love writing. If I could find a way to get paid for it, I would spend my whole life learning languages, I love it. I love the theatre of speaking another language and the feeling of a foreign tongue in your head.
This is about meeting a real fear head on and doing something outside the comfort zone. It’s about the feeling of creating a big, proud sound with others and meeting people I wouldn’t otherwise have met.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
To see my Mum’s enjoyment of belonging to a local choir made me interested to come along and see it for myself.
After six months of attending, meeting new people, listening and learning to Kym, our choir master, being involved in the big concert at the Melbourne Town Hall was something quite spectacular. What fun and excitement!
Being a stroke survivor, joining the choir has developed my social enjoyment of belonging, encouraged to keep doing what I like and meeting local people.
I was given a 3% chance of survival, yet here I am!
Singing makes me happy. I had also played the flute since year 9, but hadn’t done so for about two years, which was sad, however a member of the Creativity Australia staff recently granted my wish for lessons! I want to be in a music group.
I’m currently learning how to be a Laughter Yoga Leader, which is fun. If more people sung there would be less unhappiness, violence, and broken hearts. I am glad I am in a choir!
I’m from Leicester in the middle of England, and first moved to Melbourne nearly 16 years ago with my hubby. I then moved to Brisbane 18 months ago. I love to sew, renovating, movies, and volunteering with OXFAM.
I did a Drama Degree and then trained as a primary school teacher when I was in London. Now I arrange headsets for people to help with existing and potential neck injuries. It’s a strange job!
A friend sent round an email about the choir. I love to sing but am not very good at is so I liked the ‘no auditions’ aspect! Also joined to meet people – I hardly know anyone in Bris Vegas. I’m blown away by how quickly we’ve got such beautiful harmonies – aren’t we awesome!
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
I sing because it makes me happy. I sing because it makes me well. I sing because I want to but most of all, I sing because it brings me joy!
I have been singing since I was a wee girl growing up is a family home filled with many and varied forms of music. My Dad played the church organ, my brother played in a rock band and my other brother played in a brass band. My dear Mum and I just sang along to whatever music was playing in which ever room we were in at the time.
Different phases of my life have been represented by different genres of music. Singing choruses along with all the hand actions in Sunday school was pure joy. Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain was a real favourite. The Beatles were a huge part of my early teens and it is with great joy that I am now singing A Hard Day’s Night in my With One Voice Geelong choir over fifty years later. The joy may be different, but it is indeed joy.
During my studying and working years, I used the joy of song more as a tool to relieve stress and worry. There is nothing better than cranking up the volume and singing at the top of your voice in the car, in the shower or where ever.
Now that I am retired, I find great joy in singing in my garden. I am blessed to live on two acres in the country so I can sing along to my music without disturbing the neighbours. I don’t think that they would derive the same level of joy that I do from my singing!
If anyone has been through the heart breaking experience of social exclusion, bullying or ostracism because of the way they look or their disability, they would know equality is truly bliss. Bliss is home. I love my new found ‘home’ in this choir. Once a week extends out to all aspects of my life… it isn’t escapism. It’s a healing experience that betters a person.
I came from Beijing in 1990 and grew up in sunny Brisbane. Mum came to Australia two years earlier and worked hard to make a home for me. I lived through the Tiananmen square massacre and got rice with food stamps. When I arrived in Australia I was blown away! This is an amazing country… I’m very lucky to be here.
I have faced many challenges, including child sexual abuse, but I am a survivor. I endured bullying and racism when I first lived in Brisbane, but that taught me compassion.
At 17 I was diagnosed with lupus, which can attack the body at any time. At 18 I was hospitalised with cerebral lupus. I was also diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder.
After 10 years I was put on medication that worked, however the side effects are weight gain and kidney complications, which can be bad for lupus. My self-esteem went down the drain. I thought about suicide a few times but I had far too much to leave behind.
One of the things I took refuge in was singing and music. I found With One Voice Melbourne online and went along in the first week of 2013.
The energy and connectedness of the people in the choir amazed me and I knew there and then I wanted to be a part of it.
I smile a lot in choir. Ever since the first time I attended, I could not stop smiling because I’m so happy being there. It’s so much fun and very healing. I feel rejuvenated and nurtured after choir!
Each time it ends I feel good for two days and start craving choir again! It just keeps getting better and better!
The choir benefits me because it reminds me of my life’s purpose… to be happy, to sing, and to feel inclusion and community instead of isolation and alienation.
Suddenly backgrounds, occupation, race, religion and disability disappears and instead there are only voices, song, smiles and happiness.
We laugh and cry and lean on each other. This is what life is about… this is what happiness is about… this is true equality.
The Wish List in the choir that gets read out each week is also amazing. So many people have had a wish come true!
How often do people even dare to wish these days? If a wish comes true then I can only imagine how that person’s heart flutters with love and joy even if it’s something small. I got free piano lessons!
I haven’t really grown up yet and don’t really intend to! There is something to be said for having a childlike curiosity, openness, and love. I find by giving I also receive. I lived in the tropical north for the past 30 years; I now live on the river in a houseboat at Kangaroo Point, which is fantastic!
I‘m also an artist, working on a series for an exhibition with two friends in November, I just love being creative. I have my own business with baths and showers, but my main business and passion is supporting people to optimum health and financial freedom.
At With One Voice Brisbane I am a buddy for new people. I always like to make people feel at ease and welcomed. It’s wonderful to hear people’s stories and enjoy the richness they contribute. I enjoy being part of the amazing growth of the choir after only such a short time, making new friends, and seeing others get confidence and realise that we are all the same in song!
Photograph by Hayley Marrs
I always regard singing as a way to express your feeling because people say that your voice is the reflection of your soul.
Every time I come I sing very happily. We open our hearts and make friends.
It makes your life rich and also this is a means for us to mix together with Australian society which is very important.
I am 45% Australian, 35% Japanese, and 20% Taiwanese. Apparently I mix up all my languages when I’m tired, and according to my friends it’s very entertaining! I love people and culture, gourmet food, arts and traveling.
I have a dual degree in Music and Education, and some diplomas in TESOL. Currently I teach piano privately, and I also work casually as an informal guide and interpreter for international participants in professional development programs seeking opportunities and stable employment.
I saw the advertisement for With One Voice in BMag and thought it would be a fun way to make new friends. I have volunteered to be a choir buddy because I enjoy interacting with people, and think it’s a great way for me to mingle around the group too, as I am shy!
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
I won a double pass to see a With One BIG Voice concert from a radio station called Radio for the Print Handicapped 1179 AM. I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided to join the choir.
I love and enjoy coming every week to rehearse with With One Voice Melbourne. The choir, for me, are a source of strength, encouragement and support in every way… emotionally, spiritually, physiologically and cognitively. Singing is a way of self expression and it is also a stress relief.
I am dealing with issues to do with family and home and a friend from With One Voice Greater Dandenong keeps reminding me to stay strong. I also play songs like Lean On Me and Keep Smiling, Keep Shining, which have been a source of strength throughout my life.
The choir has also connected me with a mentor, Peter Kronborg. He is and has been a source of support and encouragement when I’ve been through challenging times.
I was born in Peterhead, Scotland, and have been in Australia for eight years. I recently worked with Cath and Jay as a cast member of their recent world premier musical, Billy Buckett – A Rock and Roll Love Story. I just can’t get enough of the energy and positivity Cath brings to every rehearsal.
I value her ability to bring out the best in everyone, to raise your confidence beyond where you thought possible, and to push you to your limits while having a tremendous amount of fun.
It can sometimes be intimidating to attend a choir rehearsal for the first time when you don’t know anyone. I like to be a friendly smiling face that can welcome new comers with open arms.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
My name is Samantha Camilleri. I feel so much happiness, when I go to choir at the Austin Hospital at Heidelberg.
I’ve been in the choir for one year. I enjoy it and I am inspired by it and, when I wheel in the door, I see people smiling, dancing and laughing.
I love seeing and meeting new people of so many nationalities, from all around the world, who are very happy to see me.
There is this big and huge energy in a big and huge room and it gives me so much joy and happiness.
With One Voice Heidelberg
I often sing along to Michael Crawford or Tony Bennet when I’m alone. I started working as a Mechanical Fitter but was always interested in ambulance work from my days in the scouts as a lad. I joined the Rockhampton ambulance as a volunteer at 19 and went full time at 24.
Between my 30s and 40s I attained a Bachelor of Business, Graduate Diploma in Management, and a Master’s in Business Administration. On the 19th of July, 2014 I became directly involved with Queensland Ambulance for fifty years.
I am enjoying learning how to relax, and enjoy singing with others who have the same interests in singing and the same reservations about their own singing.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
The choir is a big part of my life – they are like family to me, and are always so encouraging and helpful.
I was given the opportunity to sing a solo in the choir, and they helped me believe that I could do it.
People in the choir also helped me to get a job. Chris helped me with my application for TAFE, where I am studying for a Certificate III in Childcare, and let me know how I could get casual work as a childcare worker.
My father was a teacher, I am a teacher, and I married a teacher. Up until 2008 I spent my life living in rural and regional Queensland. This was a lifestyle choice and I never had plans to end up living in Brisbane. That changed in 2007 when my husband died of a terminal brain tumour, diagnosed 16 months earlier.
With my children living away from home I decided to move somewhere he and I would have never chosen – the city! The move has been a mostly successful challenge, especially in late 2012 where (to my surprise) I remarried!
I have been on leave from full time work for two years and miss the sense of challenge and satisfaction you get from doing something worthwhile. I hope that singing in the choir will keep ‘the glooms’ at bay, while also having the potential to make new friends as well as contribute to the ‘social good’ – one of my strongest life values.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
I was born in Buenos Aires, during a period of unemployment my father applied to migrate to Australia. My grandfather took a second mortgage to pay for the airfares. We arrived in 1972 with a suitcase each and $100 US and fell in love with Australia straight away.
I have been an ESL teacher for 30 years. I taught Vietnamese refugees in Darwin and refugees from El Salvador in Melbourne. I also taught African refugees Spanish in Spain. Currently I am employed by TAFE Queensland as a Case Manager for the Adult Migrant English Program.
I was sent a pamphlet from the City Council about With One Voice and was curious. From the first night I felt the choir was a community body, and I wanted to be a part of it. It felt “right” to help. This is secret, so don’t tell anyone, but I can’t really sing!
I am from Prague, a beautiful city in the middle of the Czech Republic.
I’ve been staying at my uncle’s house while backpacking. I’ve also been living out of a big blue Nissan limousine campervan, parked in some of the most beautiful places around Australia.
Four months after my arrival in Australia, I realised how much I missed singing and being party of a community choir. Being part of With One Voice was an amazing experience.
There are so many things I enjoyed, the possibility to talk to friendly people, which is extremely precious for a stranger who is struggling with the language and feeling a bit lost and dispossessed.
Thanks to With One Voice Brisbane I am able to get to know local people who provided me with advice, and helpful tips on where to go and what to see in this beautiful country.
I also got the feeling that every Wednesday night I belonged somewhere.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
I was born in Western Australia, but my accent sounds kind of American.
I love photography, and looking after children. I also love anything funny, talking on the phone, and I hope to do a photography course.
I already have a Certificate 3 in children services, and my volunteer job is to take photos and look after the With One Voice Facebook page.
I heard about With One Voice from Facebook and my mum thought it would be a great idea to go and join.
I enjoy singing every week and meeting new people.
I like to try to be positive about myself – no matter what I face in my life.
My life is full and happy with interesting work, family and friends. But too often a full life can become a frantic life. At choir, I can forget about lists and obligations.
I also discovered that choir filled a need I didn’t know I had: to be creative and to express myself. I was even inspired to start singing lessons at the age of 50!
I love knowing that the donation I make to the choir supports others – not just those looking for help with work or study, but those looking to connect and find meaning in their world. For some of our members, choir is the highlight of their week.
As the volunteer Secretary of With One Voice Footscray, I also try to foster a strong sense of belonging among our members. Not hard to do, because With One Voice Footscray is a choir with a beautiful spirit – open, accepting, caring and with a great sense of fun.
I’d love to see With One Voice Footscray still going strong in ten years time, with even more members, more songs, more gigs – while still holding on to that special spirit we’ve built over the past three years.