Community Leaders.

Djuŋadjuŋa Yunupiŋu – Cultural Custodian and member of Advisory Council. Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island.

We are now living in a modern world, in two worlds, Balanda (white fella)  and Yolŋu, if we learn Balanda system all the time and teach the children Balanda westernised culture that is very difficult for them. Our expectation is for Yolŋu to hold their heritage, their culture, their song and dance, how to play yidaki, they should be taught. I want to see culture in schools as often than literacy. They can learn both, Yolŋu and Balanda, white man’s law and Yolngu law. Through the SharingStories program the children are learning both ways, they are trying to express from their own heritage, from their own culture, from their own land their stories and try to make a bridge between themselves and other communities with technology, sharing and telling who they are.

It is an incredible project and one of the things I was focusing on was taking the kids to the field (Country), from looking at theory at school all the time I want them to be taken to the field, where they can experience a life, a real life, where the wind can speak to them, where the land can speak to them, where the water can speak to them, the environment of the nature can tell them who they are. Children have to know who their ancestors are and their link to land and animals; about every creation in this land that we dance or perform or sing about. This story has to be maintained to educate them, so they’ll learn Yolŋu stories instead of Balanda stories, understand their connections to the land, find the real meaning of where we come from and why we are here.

William Watson – Deputy Chairman Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC)

Blackfella way we start from the roots and work up, you get the stories from the ground; that is where the roots start, from the ground. You don’t plant your tree on a rock or on a building, you plant it in the ground and it has to hold so it can be strong.

Our old people are our roots. We have to get our story right from the old people and record them for the future, for the young generation and that’s what we’re doing with SharingStories.

Roy Wunyumbi Ashley – Elder and cultural custodian and cultural facilitator with SharingStories program in Wugularr.

I’m worried about something for all my family around here, I try to teach them properly so they can have their really law, really culture, otherwise government come and take our land. They say ‘you got no culture, you just floating around, you got no culture, no law’.  That’s why we trying to support these young people to learn something, that’s why we trying to put it in the school for the new generation, it’s really important for them. It’s important to record it like that (SharingStories digital workshop), because we want to put something there for them in the school, to learn something, for that new generation growing up.

Jeff McMullen – CEO Ian Thorpe Fountain for Youth

There is a great urgency in the pleas of old Aboriginal custodians of Aboriginal knowledge. A sense that with every funeral, there is this loss of unique knowledge and a great wisdom that they long to share with their children and all our children.  The attrition rate is high, the death, and unnecessary premature loss. we are losing touch, we are losing Indigenous languages at the rate of about 20% per year. The most powerful part of the Australian story is the Aboriginal voice. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people give voice to what it means to be Australian, you start to understand the longer timelines of history. For a couple of centuries, Aboriginal people have been telling this country that they have a story – but we have not listened. From the grass roots, from communities, there has been this longing to value their knowledge, their language, their history and their unique stories. Sharing stories makes great use of the digital age and allows all of us to appreciate the holistic way that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see the world around us…. the knowledge that is carried in the songlines, the mapping of Country, the unique expression of concepts through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. All of these things deepen our understanding of the oldest, unbroken story of human knowledge in the world. We need to use the tools of the digital age to hold language, cultural meaning and that is what Sharing Stories is all about.  

Dennis recording with Roy Wunyumbi Ashley.

Language Tool partners

Michelle Nicholson – then principle at Wilcannia Central School.

Liz and her team have worked with Wilcannia Central School over the past three years and facilitated the production of a swag of culturally appropriate and high quality resources with students, staff and community. During their most recent visit the Language Advisory Board embraced and ratified the SharingStories Language tool. Uncle Stan Grant made comment that this resource was the best Language tool that he had seen and claimed that it was superior to any that he had worked with as it has the capacity to be populated by students and community through access to the oral dictionary as created by Murray Butcher in his capacity as Coordinator of the Language Circle.

Murray Butcher – Paakantji Cultural Leader

What’s happening now is our culture isn’t being transmitted in the traditional way. I don’t see why we can’t use modern technology to maintain it, put our stories into technology where our kids are able to walk comfortably and learn culture though that medium. We have to try and marry our ancient beliefs with modern technology: we have to show our kids we can be looking to our culture for positive things, to reaffirm their identity and we’re doing that with SharingStories.


Teachers and Community facilitators involved in Digital Storytelling programs

Des BarrittPrincipal Jilkmingann School. NT.

As principal of Jilkmingan school I’ve been really, really impressed by the SharingStories Program. I’ve worked for over 30 years in indigenous schools in the Northern Territory I’m really impressed with the way that technology has linked up with the cultural aspect of the indigenous community here. Going out, taking the students out, down to the river and on other trips and then using the technology to actually capture the really strong traditional things that have been happening on those excursions and for thousands of years. That has been really impressive. Then bringing elders into the classroom and having them share stories there has strengthened the two-way aspect of our school in ways that hasn’t happened before. Bringing elders into the classroom and taking the classroom back out into Country A lot of my non indigenous staff have been impressed with some of the cultural aspects they’ve seen that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise and that’s created a really strong bond with the community Also Krista, the SharingStories curriculum consultant has tied the program in with our curriculum really well in a way we can basically use to really strengthen the learning outcomes we have for the students for oral language, written language and the technology side of it. She has assisted by actually writing units of work that the teachers will use after the SharingStories team have headed off…. and the kids have been so engaged with the whole program that our attendance has increased…. so it’s great! In brief…. Strengths of the SharingStories project are probably the increase I’ve seen in culture in our school during the program. Other spin offs are Professional Development for teachers, really good engagement with our staff, indigenous and non-indigenous and also the kids; the kids love it so it’s increased attendance.

SharingStories participants photographing and recording Sheila Conway and Jessie Roberts telling stories about the Roper River . Jilkmingan.

Sam ParkerTeacher. Wugularr School. NT

The new skills that I and kids have learnt during the SharingStories program is a lot to do with technology, we learnt to use hand held recording devices and cameras, they also learnt a lot about software and being able to put content up on the internet with the website . It’s all new for them and also new for myself. SharingStories was beneficial in terms of curriculum and bringing culture into school as far as teaching traditional culture is concerned. The excursion was really a highlight of the program. We got to hear from (elder) Roy Ashley and learn about the culture and about his ideas and about what he believes and it was really good I enjoyed it and the students also enjoyed it. I don’t feel qualified to do that and Roy was perfect for that and I’m really happy we had that time in which he was able to teach the kids those cultural aspects. It was really great to have SharingStories Curriculum consultant Krista Scott assisting with curriculum planning and we came up with some good ideas that will help me with my reporting and further development of the SharingStories program. I can see that I will continue with the units of work we’ve developed and I’ll be able to report and come up with some assessment pieces for it. I think it was really helpful I would recommend the program for other schools and teachers; it’s a great thing for the school, great opportunity. The problem that we have is mixing in with the community and SharingStories seem to be able to make that mix and help to close the gap between the school and the community.

Sue HearndenPrincipal. Wugularr School. NT

Without a doubt SharingStories has been valuable PD (Professional development), it’s always very difficult to get professional development when you are living remote but by far the most valuable professional development is offered on site and that is what SharingStories has offered our teachers. We have so much traffic coming in here, we are so focused on what our goals are and the outcomes for our students, each time we have people coming in they are entering in to a very focused space, but after seeing what you’ve done and achieved with the children it would be really good if we could continue the work. I think more time with us would be valuable, coming back and adding on to what has taken place. It’s particularly useful when we can link special activities within our curriculum and by bringing expertise in that area with their curriculum consultant working with participating teachers, SharingStories has been particularly valuable.

Alex creating pictures at Malkgulumbu (Beswick Falls) for a slide show about his Country.

Kate Abberton – Head of Curriculum. Lockhart River State School. Qld.

When we were looking at curriculum with the SharingStories curriculum consultant we worked on a health unit. We had aspects of environmental health and personal health and pretty much central to health for indigenous people is that concept of self and identity and where you draw yourself from. So instead of only looking at environmental health on a level that we see it, white fellas coming in, Liz  (SharingStories Director) was tapping into some of stories that really addressed health in terms of relationship to Country, which relates to health of the individual. Liz is somebody who is very skilled at negotiating and drawing out the stories and finding out which story we have permission for, which to leave sacred. That was a whole PD (Professional Development) for us as teachers and staff and the community as well. So it wasn’t just about student education and it wasn’t just about indigenous perspectives within the curriculum on a day to day basis, that I hope will influence the indigenous perspectives being embedded within our curriculum as part of our daily practice, it was also about PD for teachers. The other lovely thing that resulted was that a lot of people say strong culture is lost but   the process of SharingStories meant those stories could go with students to boarding school, as part of their portfolio’s, and people, instead of seeing them for what they don’t have, could see them for these amazing strengths that they do have.

Ben Knight – Participating Teacher. Years 6-7. Lockhart River State School. Qld.

It was awesome having the Sharingstories project crew in Lockhart River State School, the cultural experience the kids have had going out to country, looking at bush tucker, entwined with our Health Unit really slotted in well. So instead of your standard curriculum in the schools we worked together as a team and came up with totems and how they relate to the environment, bush tucker, trips out into country, a more organic experience for kids, get out of classrooms, not just white fellas talking to them anymore. I’ve got really inspired to get the kids learning their language which is getting lost…there’s only a few elders that know it. With my teacher aid and a few other elders we’re going to get that going now. We made lots of digital stories and resources with SharingStories not only for language but also for bush tucker, country, and grass roots stuff.  I’ve always had the desire to do all that but it’s been really difficult without the right support but the SharingStories crew just really got the ball rolling, started it off, got me inspired, got all the elders into the school. The gap between the school and the community I definitely think has closed. At the weekend we had all the community come to look at the children’s work, slide shows and photographs, their stories, I want more of that. I have already felt really passionate about that but it’s just a question of getting it started and SharingStories has done that.

Students at Kalkarindji making animations of a story shared on Country.

Maureen Yanawana – Teachers Assistant.  Bidyadanga School. WA.

We don’t want our culture and language to die out; we need to keep it alive and work together, school and community, to keep it strong.Kids need to know their history, that’s very important, to learn who they are, their identity, to belong to the community.

SharingStories puts our community on the map and the resources we have created with them are good, it is good to do something like this, taking kids back to Country, using the program out there, recording our stories, that is very important. It’s important to use these technologies to go out to Country, to know more about the Country and to record stories. It’s good to see our Aboriginal people out there being the teachers and educators of our community. I think it’s good for our community and other people to see the kids work and stories about culture, it’s telling us we keeping our language and culture strong.

You need to have a program that is Two Way, our way and within the school way, I always had this in the back of my mind to make that connection with the school to teach Aboriginal culture.

Emma Hegarty and Rebecca Hunter – Teachers Sheperdson School. Galinwinku, Elcho Island. 

I think incorporating elders and community leaders to bring elders and traditional learning into a modern or western curriculum is really important. I think to get the kids to learn and  engage and  to make education of value in any community you have to engage the community . By  engaging them in SharingStories, it brings reality to the education and the community can see that we’re working together and that their goals are appreciated and what they want to teach the kids is of value to us as well . It’s really important that we as Balanda (white) teachers coming into this context break down those barriers between indigenous communities  and our balanda way of teaching. The only way we’re going to do this is by getting out into community and SharingStories allows us to build community links.

Over the last two weeks of our schools participation in the program I feel like I have built a stronger relationship with families of the eleven kids that were involved . Now we can build on those relationships and do more realistic learning,  taking learning out into community and giving it more context. The program has been extremely useful for bringing culture into the classroom,. It was a great starting point for looking into Yolngu culture and also for looking at the indigenous cultures around Australia represented on the site that the children we were teaching weren’t aware of, as well as  finding links between the culture of other groups and their own. It was a great way to start talking about and opening up discussion within a classroom about what’s important to the students and what culture is. Seeing stories made by kids who look a bit like them, they thought, ‘if kids are interested in their stories they’ll be interested in mine’. It gives children and communities the opportunity to tell their stories.

SharingStories is a vehicle for this community to tell strong stories about culture and show them to the world. I think that is the most important things. It’s a right of reply. I think it’s one of the most amazing programs I have been involved in. SharingStories shows how you can link culture into a western framework. I think it’s a great way to be able to bring western and cultural teachings together. It gives you a way to do that that is interesting and engages students as well. It’s a great resource for communities such as Elcho but also as a resource for schools in Victoria or NSW or Melbourne because it gives students a realistic depiction of what indigenous Australia is and what these young people are doing, their culture and their reality. So not only would I use it here but also if I go back home I would definitely use this resource to teach my students about indigenous Australian culture. Sharingstories allows children to teach children and also for children to teach adults.