Models for Advocacy and Support

One thing we know about school music in Australia is that there are many approaches and many different models.  Some have no music at all and parents may need to advocate to the principal, school community, and perhaps the education department (government schools) or school board (non-government) for more music.

In others there is already a good understanding of why music is important but parents can still get involved, for example by supporting the band or fundraising to buy instruments.

Here we present two possible models for parents to support a musically active school. Of course, they can overlap and be adapted to suit the needs of your school.

Parent Committee Model

Schools typically have Parents and Citizens (or Parents and Friends) committees, a well-established structure for parental involvement in and support for school life.  We know of a number of models for parent and community committees to support music in schools.

1. The P & C

In some schools, such as Bourke St Public School, the P & C committee actively supports music in the school. In this case, the P & C was responsible for raising money to start a music program and acquire resources, as well as encouraging musical activities and supporting them as parents.

2. The P & C Sub-Committee

School P & C groups can create ‘ad hoc committees’ (for special activities), or ‘standing committees’ (where there is an ongoing role, such as a Canteen Committee or Band Committee). In NSW public schools, for example, the insurance covering P & C groups will cover most activities or P & C subcommittees and there are existing procedures and structures. For example, a Principal is automatically a member of the P & C association and its subcommittees although they cannot veto or censor its discussions. Check with your local P & C groups for more information about creating a sub-committee.

Ashbury Public School has a ‘band committee’ which is formally a sub-committee of the P & C; it has its own committee, treasurer, president, secretary and other positions, its own meetings and agenda. In other schools we have heard of a ‘Friends of Music’ group being established with short meetings before regular P & C meetings, to attract the ‘active’ parents that tend to go to meetings anyway. This group became so popular that it soon outnumbered the P & C meetings! Its approach was not to ask parents to fundraise but simply to support musical activities such as concerts and tours in other ways.

3. The Community Committee

In East Gippsland an organisation was established in the community, called Performing Arts Victoria East (PAVE) specifically as an umbrella organisation to support community music and to establish music programs in local schools.  In Bellingen on the NSW Mid-North Coast, the Bellingen Music Association is linked to both the school and the local youth orchestra, fundraising and organizing support for both. The Dandenong Ranges Music Council is an exemplar example of ‘mutual collaboration’ between schools and the community, as described in the major “Sound Links” research project and our own case study.

4) The Informal Parent Group

Another option is a less formal group of parents to support musical activities in the schools. This might be appropriate where a particular activity (eg. A band tour, school musical, or a new ensemble) needs parent support but doesn’t warrant a formal structure.

Parent Advocate Model

A good example of this model is the Parents Understanding Asian Literacy program, an initiative of peak parent bodies (ACSSO and APC) to promote Asian language education through parent advocacy. The campaign recognises that information alone cannot change the culture of a school and that people need to take the initiative to make the case for changes in the school. The Parents Understanding Asian Literacy project is resourced to provide half-day training to 2-3 parents from 75 schools. Music Australia isn’t currently offering training on this scale but we are happy to chat to parents who would like resources and support to become better advocates.

For more information on this approach, visit the Parents Understanding Asian Literacy website.

This approach may be related to the school P & C (or P & F).

The Priorities:
  1. Stimulating student demand
  2. Supporting Parents to Support Schools
The Model:
  1. Make the case for introducing or improving provision of the subject in school (See the Music to Our Ears report)
  2. Identify parent advocates
  3. Provide them with training/resources to become advocates in the school
  4. Initiate action ‘on the ground’

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