The Life Drama Project makes use of applied theatre & performance techniques to promote sexual health & wellbeing in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and Northern Australia.

Impact and Effectiveness

4.4 Impact and Effectiveness

The team is in the process of compiling data to answer the five Life Drama research questions. At this stage we are able to report preliminary indications only, however results are very promising.


Can indigenous performance forms and “Western” performance forms be combined to forge new, hybrid forms of applied drama, which participants in PNG find culturally-appropriate and meaningful?

Performative data from Karkar Island indicates that participants readily engaged in and understood the new hybrid forms they helped to create. An example of this is the game “Dancing Diseases”, which is the subject of a forthcoming research paper.


Is Life Drama effective in developing change agents – does it empower its participants to mobilise change in the community?

Qualitative interviews with participants in Tari demonstrate that people who previously did not see themselves as teachers are now willing to take on that role, as a direct result of Life Drama training.

Recent participants in the Karkar Island pilot reported that, while they did not yet feel confident to act as trainers and conduct Life Drama activities in the same manner as the Lead Trainers, they did feel confident to use their existing skills as performers to incorporate HIV material from the Life Drama training into public performances.


Is Life Drama a more effective way of engaging learners, and facilitating movement along the Behaviour Change Continuum, than established models of education in PNG?

Encouraging results are coming from one HIV awareness trainer who is using Life Drama to enhance her teaching in remote areas, and regularly contacts the Life Drama team to report on her activities. She reports that learners are more engaged, and maintain their concentration for longer, now that she incorporates Life Drama activities in her training.

Similarly, a school teacher in Tari reports that Life Drama techniques are better than traditional teaching methods for engaging students in discussions of moral dilemmas to do with conflict and violence, gender relations, and the care of children, as well as sexual health and HIV.

The evaluation team in Tari was able to video the work of one participant, a Sunday school teacher, as she conducted Life Drama activities with her Sunday School class. One member of the group, the participant’s father, volunteered the information that he was previously fearful of people who are HIV positive and discriminated against them. He stated that he had changed his attitude as a result of his daughter’s teaching, and now accepted that people with HIV should be accepted as equal members of the community.


What are the factors that impede and facilitate dissemination of the Life Drama program, and what models of dissemination are most effective given these factors?

The experiences of the Tari and Karkar Island pilots, and the Madang Theatre Exchange, have helped the team identify a number of factors that impede and facilitate the effectiveness of individual trainers. People are most effective as trainers when they have:

  • personal strengths (eg. confidence, communication skills, charisma, humility, willingness to listen, flexibility)
  • passion, interest, motivation to help their community
  • some existing knowledge and understanding of STIs, HIV and AIDS
  • experience in teaching or training roles, or some leadership role involving public speaking (eg. pastor, police officer, civil society leader)
  • interest in drama and performance – preferably previous experience

Trainers are much more effective if they have a mandate and infrastructure to enable them to conduct the Life Drama work. Those who are in paid positions, where Life Drama enhances their ability to do work they are already expected to do, are better-positioned to continue the work than volunteers.

Having some level of resourcing (eg. money for travel, food and accommodation; telecommunications; a safe place to store training materials) is helpful. Trainers can work more effectively if they have access to suitable all-weather training spaces with basic furniture, such as chairs and a blackboard.

Dissemination is impeded by those factors which prevent would-be participants from attending training. These include gender (girls and women in particular are often too busy attending to household chores and caring for household members to participate); employment (those in paid employment may not be able to participate); distance to be travelled and the costs involved in travel; and safety/ security concerns.

The upcoming trials of dissemination methods are expected to provide more information on factors which enhance and impede dissemination.


Can Life Drama be implemented in PNG in a sustainable manner?

The establishment of PCAP, appointment of a Research and Administrative Assistant, and launch of the Life Drama website, are the first steps in creating a sustainable in-country presence for Life Drama in PNG.

Capacity-building is vital to the sustainability of Life Drama as an educational approach to sexual health in PNG in the long term. At this point, the project has two national trainers (one male and one female) who have the capacity to begin working as Lead Trainers in conjunction with the existing Lead Trainers from Australia, and four (two male and two female) who might quickly reach this level of capacity with additional training.

Sustainability will now depend on the project’s ability to attract the funding required to complete the training of these potential Lead Trainers, and to upscale the Life Drama approach nationally. The team will also need to negotiate workable methods of dissemination, in partnership with in-country partners, once the trials of dissemination methods have been completed.

Select Video