Financial disadvantage can prevent children and young people from getting involved in opportunities that supplement classroom learning and stimulate personal growth.

There is a growing body of evidence that the development of non-cognitive skills in children and young people, such as motivation and self-confidence, can influence schooling and employment achievements.1 Disadvantaged children growing up in environments of financial stress often have limited family and social networks or access to opportunities and resources, and may struggle to have their social and emotional needs met.

Research and our own experience tells us that when students participate in creative enrichment programs and initiatives aimed at developing their social and emotional capabilities, it can help increase their attachment to school, improve their confidence, and build their aspirations for further education.2

We place value on providing extra-curricular opportunities to disadvantaged students to help support their social and emotional development and build on their emerging talents and interests.3

High school students photography exhibition

What is SmArts?

Girls performing theatre

Students' theatre performance

What is SmArts?

SmArts is designed to provide students in Years 9 to 11 who are interested in creative arts with links to art organisations and relevant career information. It aims to raise student’s education aspirations and career knowledge of the creative arts through an interconnected creative program.

SmArts runs for a minimum of 20 hours and includes the following four parts:

  1. Hands-on creative practice so students can access creative activities to increase self-confidence in their own talents and abilities as well as enhance social skills.

  2. Visits to or from arts-related organisations, such as an exhibition, theatrical performance or musical performance.

  3. Talks with an expert so students can engage with art professionals and hear about their study and career pathway to their current job.

  4. Post program links so students can expand their connections to community and organisational opportunities.

We run a number of programs nationally as part of SmArts, and in partnership with other organisations.

University partnerships

The Smith Family runs SmArts in partnership with the following universities:

  • The Australian National University (ACT)
  • RMIT University (VIC) 
  • The University of Melbourne (VIC)

Newcastle Region Art Gallery - ArtCastle is an initiative by The Smith Family in collaboration with the Newcastle Region Art Gallery (NRAG) and funders. Over the two day program, participating students work on individual and group art works, guided and educated by three artists. By the conclusion of the workshop each student will have worked on art works and experienced new art techniques which are inspired by current gallery exhibitions.

Museum of Contemporary Art - Bella is a program of art-making workshops and exhibition tours for children and young people with specific needs. It is made possible through our partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art and our funding partners. Bella is designed for groups aged between 15-18 years old with disabilities or who are disadvantaged due to financial, social and geographic factors. It runs twice per year with available funding for up to 12 Learning for Life students who participate in a four day art camp held.

Conservatorium of Music - We work with the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney NSW to offer CONverge to up to 60 young people across three Sydney high schools. The program seeks to explore and develop students’ own musical identity, creativity and potential. CONverge is about a bringing together of interest, opportunity, resources and place in the context of music, in this case exploring and using the voice as an instrument.

Artwork by Melbourne high school students

Artwork by Melbourne High school students

Featured Program: CONverge

"To be able to sing makes you feel happy, makes you feel stronger, it gives you more confidence." - Sarah, CONverge program participant.
This year, we are celebrating 10 years of CONverge, which has been helping disadvantaged students from schools in Western Sydney find a voice since 2005. Take a glimpse behind the scenes of the 2014 CONverge program and the final concert that brought together students from Fairfield, Mitchell and Cranebrook High Schools at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

2014 CONverge concert

All the people [were] there to support me. I made a whole lot of friends. After every day ended, I wanted tomorrow to come quicker!


The 2014 SmArts Outcomes report revealed that:

  • 89% of surveyed students agreed they had better creative skills after completing the program
  • 81% of surveyed students agreed they now have more information to continue with their creative interests on their own.

Donate now to support more children on Learning for Life programs.

1 Heckman, J, Stixrud,J. Sergio, U.(2006) The effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labour Market outcomes and Social Behavior. Journal of Labor Economics, 2006 , vol. 24, no.3, The University of Chicago.

2 Annear, K. (2010) Music, dance, drama: The Benefits of extracurricular participation. Teacher (June/July), 46-50.

3 The Smith Family: Emotional literacy: Building strong relationships for lifelong learning, November 2009.