The Big Anxiety comes to Melbourne Naarm

The Big Anxiety comes to Melbourne Naarm

A festival aimed at reimagining mental health care in the 21st century will open in Melbourne following the final report of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health.

Woman with VR head set stands next to a window Edge of the Present by Alex Davies. Credit – Jessica Maurer

The Big Anxiety Melbourne, is a radically new kind of festival which uses arts events to tackle the major anxieties of our times, as well as addressing the practical challenges of supporting emotional distress and trauma recovery. 

Creative thinkers – including artists, researchers, scientists, health and community workers and people with a wide range of lived experiences – will come together for a series of events presented in cultural spaces throughout Melbourne’s CBD, RMIT and venues in the Yarra Range.

Festival co-director Professor Renata Kokanović described The Big Anxiety as a strategic and creative response to contemporary mental health concerns, developed from ongoing collaborative research into arts-based trauma support and lived-experience engagement.  

As partner of the Melbourne event, RMIT has commissioned a new performance by renowned artist and podcaster Honor Eastly. 

Drawing on stories from Eastly’s critically acclaimed ABC podcast No Feeling is Final, this ground-breaking performance memoir about the lived experience of suicidality will be brought to life with visuals by award-winning video projection artist Carlia Zimbler.

Head of Cultural and Public Engagement Paula Toal said the connectivity of creative industries and their communities is a central element of the festival.

“RMIT Culture is proud to be the delivery partner working with University of NSW (UNSW) and our festival partners to produce a program of creative work that resonates with the issues of the day. 

“The Big Anxiety will showcase RMIT’s creative practice talent and engage our students in meaningful wellbeing collaborations and projects.” 

Other highlights include a two-day experiential Forum at Storey Hall, an Awkward Conversations program at RMIT’s Garden Building, a series of exhibitions, Archives of Feeling, throughout RMIT gallery spaces and a Children’s Sensorium aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of children through contemporary art practices that also draws on themes of nature, working with the Kulin calendar.

Founded in 2016, The Big Anxiety is an initiative of UNSW Sydney. The 2022 program across Melbourne is presented in partnership with RMIT University and produced by RMIT Culture in collaboration with RMIT Social and Global Studies Centre and RMIT Contemporary Art and Social Transformation (CAST).

The festival runs from 21 September to 15 October, aligning with National Mental Health Month in October and following R U OK? Day on 8 September. 


Story by: Louisa Walsh


  • Arts and culture
  • PEG

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.