Harmony in the Bush

What is the ‘Harmony in the Bush’ Dementia study?

It is an ambitious national dementia research project that seeks to identify key drivers of a personalised care, and use co-design principles to implement and evaluate a personalised model of care incorporating music/art and movement interventions for residents with dementia in 5 rural aged care homes in South Australia and Far North Queensland.

The project is funded by a two-year $1.5 million 'innovation in dementia care' grant from the Australian government.

Objective of the Research

To Expand the Progressively Lowered Stress Threshold (PLST) model of care for residents with dementia by incorporating individualised preferred music/art and movement interventions to co-design a personalised model of care that reduces levels of challenging behaviours and improves wellbeing in residents with dementia, minimises carers’ stress, and brings about a positive residential aged care culture change.

We anticipate that this approach will result in long-term positive outcomes for residents with dementia in residential aged care facilities, and a parallel stress reduction in aged care staff. 

History - Why Harmony in the Bush?

This project took shape through the impact of two projects which were undertaken in the Riverland region during 2017. The first, 'Spinback' (pictured at left), was a partnership between Flinders Rural Health SA and Country Arts SA, where local school children and residents from a local nursing home came together the engage in music and art making activities, as well as to enjoy fellowship and break down intergenerational barriers to form meaningful relationships for young and old alike.

The second project, 'Music and Memory', involved residents from a Renmark nursing home currently living with dementia, who were given music to listen to (chosen by the resident) for 30 minutes each day, in order to observe the responses and effects of regular listening on their behaviour, social interactions, and memory retention.

Both projects were extremely successful, and demonstrated the immense potential value of visual arts, music and dance on the wellbeing, improved mental heath and quality of life of dementia sufferers. This new project takes these ideas, and seeks to find concrete and meaninful ways to help older Australians, and in particular those living with dementia, to live full and enjoyable lives into the future.


Specific Aims of the Research

1. Train aged care staff:

  • In the theory, use and importance of the PLST model principles and non-pharmacological therapies/interventions such as personalised preferred music, arts and movement, and community engagement programs
  • To plan individualised care that will eliminate the stressors known to cause disturbed behaviours in residents with dementia

2. Identify forms of music and art activities preferred by residents with dementia before the onset of their dementia condition, and co-design personalised care plans.

3. Implement co-designed personalised PLST-based care plans, and the integrated PLST Plus music and art/movement programs care plans to care for residents with dementia.

4. Evaluate the effectiveness of the co-design personalised care plans with and without music, art or community engagement interventions, by analysing its impact on patient behavioural outcomes, staff stress level, and institutional culture change.

Meet the Research Team

Chief Investigators

Dr Vivian Isaac – Senior Lecturer (Rural Mental Health), Flinders University

Dr Abraham Kuot – Research Fellow, Flinders University

Prue Mellor – Research Fellow, Flinders University

Associate Investigators

Professor Geri Hall – Consultant Expert for the Progressively Lowered Stress Threshold Model and research in person-centred dementia care, and the Clinical Nurse Specialist at University of Arizona, Phoenix – USA

A/Professor Edward Strivens – Consultant Expert for the Research in Dementia care, and the Regional Geriatrician and Clinical Director for Older Person Health Services in Cairns and Hinterland Health Service in Far North Queensland; and the Co-Chair of Queensland Health’s State-wide Dementia Clinical Network

Support Staff

Mrs Margaret Kimani – Research Assistant, Flinders University

Participating Residential Aged Care Homes:

The project will be conducted in the following Residential Aged Care Homes:

  1. Ozcare Port Douglas Aged Care in Port Douglas, Far North Queensland
  2. Mutkin Residential and Community Aged Care in Yarrabah, Far North Queensland
  3. Resthaven on Quarry Aged Care in North MacKay, Far North Queensland
  4. Bonney Lodge, Barmera, Aged Care in Barmera, South Australia
  5. Tanunda Lutheran Home in Tanunda, Barossa Valley, South Australia 
  6. Renmark Nursing Home in Renmark, South Australia


Associated Stakeholders/Partners

The following are the key stakeholders involve in this research project

  1. The Australian Government Department of Health (Funding Institution)
  2. The Flinders University of South Australia (Project Sponsor)
  3. Flinders Rural Health South Australia (primary site for project management/ implementation)
  4. Crossroad Arts (Creative Music/Art and Health Ageing Group)
  5. The Berri-Barmera united Church Music Choir (Music intervention Group)
  6. Other Individual musicians and artists involved
    1. Ms Alteouise DeVaughn (Clink Theatre – Port Douglas Shire, QLD)
    2. Yarrabah Local Artists in Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire, QLD
    3. Local Artists in Tanunda – Barossa Valley, SA
    4. Local Artists in Riverland, SA



Would you like to know more?

We will be regularly updating our progress with the Harmony in the Bush project on this site, with links to reports and images of the research in action. If you would like to know more or contact the Harmony in the Bush research team, please contact

Harmony in the Bush team
Flinders Rural Health SA
Ral Ral Avenue (GPO Box 852)
Renmark, South Australia
Ph: (08) 8586 1000
Email: abraham.kuot@flinders.edu.au