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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Mentorship

In 2015 the Scenic Rim Regional Council, in partnership with SLQ, offered a 4 month library mentorship for an Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander young person to gain work experience at the Beaudesert library.

Table of contents

Project overview

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Mentorship was designed to strengthen engagement between SLQ and public libraries, and libraries and their communities, through the provision of services for and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The library, in conjunction with local partners, advertised for and recruited an Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander young person (aged 16-25) to undertake a 16 week mentorship at Beaudesert library.

Zane Williams, born and bred in Beaudesert with Yugambeh heritage, gained work experience across the breadth of activities carried out by the library. Zane was able to learn about managing the library collections and space, running children’s programs, and assisting with library events including a National Reconciliation Week event at State Library (South Bank) and the Conversations program at Beaudesert Library.

After learning the ropes of the library, Zane was supported to develop a program for young people based on special interests or a newly learned skill.Zane shows JJ kids the Adobe Voice app

Scenic Rim’s Mobile Library Assistant, Craig, introduced Zane to the storytelling app Adobe Voice. Zane’s supervisors explained how pivotal this new learning turned out to be:

Zane really liked using the app and telling a story that way and seemed to have a talent for it. It was not long after this that Zane visited SLQ and spent a fantastic day with Eva and met among other staff, Amanda Hayman, who talked to him about her digital storytelling work. From this point on Zane spent time each day exploring digital storytelling, working on a series of his own stories and becoming familiar with the Voice App while developing his experience with programs and events.

Zane got to work straight away using the app and made a video about the Beaudesert Library as well as a video about his day working on the Mobile Library.

Zane designed digital storytelling workshops using the app with the JJ Homework Club of Mununjali House and, following that, with kids attending the winter school holiday program at the library.

The team

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Mentorship project was a partnership between Scenic Rim Regional Council and State Library of Queensland (SLQ).

  • Tatjana Koczanowski - Regional Librarian, Scenic Rim Regional Council
  • Catherine Waalder – Youth People’s Librarian, Beaudesert Library
  • Zane Williams - Library Mentee
  • Colin Crosbie - SLQ Project Manager
  • Eva Ruggiero - SLQ Project Officer

Financial contribution

State library contributed $5,000.00 towards the project, which provided for employment of the mentee during the 16 week period.

Beaudesert Library contributed in-kind support, which included mentee supervision and resources (including iPads and craft materials for workshops).

The Voice Story workshops

Zane was supported to develop a program for young people based on a special interest and new skill – filmmaking and digital story telling using Adobe Voice app.

Zane learned how to work through each stage of a project, from an idea to a finished product – workshop size, timing, scheduling, advertising, booking sheets, session plan, consent forms and resources.

The first workshops with the Mununjali House JJ Homework club (made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary school children) took place over two 45 minute sessions. Staff from Mununjali House, Claudette Fogarty and Bevin Moran, were on hand to assist with the story making process. Mununjali staff also pre-arranged consent forms so State Library could photograph the activity.

Session One covered the principles of story-telling including the concept of storyboarding. The participants worked in two small groups to write a short story each.

Session Two involved the participants making the characters and backgrounds to the stories using craft materials. Participants worked in pairs to create visual interpretations of their part of the story. The artwork was then put in order to tell the story. The participants took turns recording the narration to their part of the story using the Adobe Voice app. The audio recordings were matched to still shots (photos) of the characters and story lines.

Lastly, after all parts of the story were recorded, the final touches were made using background music and themes available on Adobe Voice to create the final stories. Two digital stories were recorded during workshops with JJ Club kids.

Due to the success and popularity of the activity, another four workshops (called Voice Story) were held at Beaudesert Library over the winter school holidays with an additional 20 children. The process was refined to creating one digital story using Adobe Voice app in one hour (workshop outline provided in Project Documents).

What we made

Over a series of Voice Story workshops at Beaudesert Library, the five digital stories were created by young people on an iPad using Adobe Voice app.

Watch the other digital stories:

The wins

Success measures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Mentorship project included:

  • One Aboriginal male in the age range of 16-25 was employed in the library for 16 weeks.
  • Two blogs were posted on SLQ’s Indigenous Voices blog to celebrate and promote the work experience and outputs of the mentee (Zane’s blogs were also shared via social media and the Public Libraries Connect and Indigenous Voices newsletters through SLQ).
  • Six digital story telling workshops were held at the library.
  • Approximately 40 young people attended the workshops, and at least half (50%) were Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander children.
  • Five digital stories were created in groups by young people (see links above).
  • The library’s connections were strengthened with Mununjali House, State Library of Queensland and The Centre, Beaudesert.
  • A range of Scenic Rim Regional Council, and specifically library, staff were involved in the project and were influential mentors for the mentee.
  • The library’s environment was enhanced as a welcoming place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at Beaudesert Library (artwork made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was displayed at Beaudesert Library).
  • A new career direction for the mentee. Zane found a new passion for working with children and for filmmaking. Zane explored his new interest by creating a documentary about local artist Melissa Brydon. Her artwork appeared in the Black Diggers exhibition at The Centre in Beaudesert as part of the War Stories and Our Town series. View Melissa’s story below.


Beaudesert libraries fostered new connections within their community particularly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Mununjali staff described this relationship, “The children are now attending the library’s holiday program and library staff has attended our holiday programs, which means parents can put a face to a name”.

Staff from Mununjali also stated “The activities that the library staff did were loved by the jarjums. The relationship they developed with the children through the activities was genuine and meaningful. Jarjums and their families have now joined the library.”

With membership increasing, the library has an opportunity to develop new services that respond to member and community needs. An unexpected outcome following the project is a new interest in addressing a target group need relating to literacy development. “The library is now actively searching for opportunities (skills and resources) to hold adult literacy classes in the library”. – Tatjana Koczanowski, Regional Librarian.

Library learnings

Young People's Librarian, Catherine, engages JJ Club participants in digital storytelling

Beaudesert library enhanced its service provision to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members by providing an employment opportunity to a member of that community. Further to providing employment, the mentee was supported to develop and share a new skill and talent.  The library staff learnt the importance of knowing the target group and setting expectations accordingly.

When designing an initiative that allows a mentee to develop a program for young people based on special interests or a newly learned skill, it is important to be flexible and ensure you provide time for the mentee to explore the range of library activities and to develop a new skill prior to planning a project.

The Young People’s librarian, Catherine, was flexible and provided Zane a blend of set daily duties and responsibilities whilst also allowing for self-managed time for Zane to explore his interests and project work. A useful management strategy was to check in at the start and end of each day to offer help, share progress, make sure the project was on track or assist with changing direction if necessary.

Tatjana Koczanowski, Regional Librarian at Scenic Rim Regional Council, shared her reflections, “The mentorship has, I believe, engendered community goodwill that can only be beneficial. I also believe that Zane gained a glimpse of something different, something he would never otherwise have experienced and which may expand his view of the world. I am certain that despite being placed out of his comfort zone, Zane really enjoyed the experience.”

Top five tips for running a project like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Mentorship

  1. Gain the endorsement of the project by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and community members before commencing.
  2. In choosing a mentee, explore the applicant’s reasons for wanting to work in a library, their willingness to try new things, and their current skills and abilities that relate to the role.
  3. Think about engaging a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elder or community member as a mentor in addition to library staff to support the transition to employment of the young person.
  4. Ensure you provide time for the mentee to explore the range of library activities and to develop a new skill prior to planning a project.
  5. Plan ahead for the end of the mentorship, either engaging the young person in continued involvement at the library (voluntary) or assistance in developing a plan for further training or employment.

Project documents

Below are links to tools used for this project. You may like to use these or adapt them for a similar project.

Advertisement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Mentorship (PDF 76.1 KB)

Workshop Program for Voice Story (DOCX 16.6 KB)

Voice Story Flyer (PDF 298.3 KB)

Consent Form (photos, videos) (PDF 70.9 KB)

Useful links for libraries

Forever Stories
The hyperlink to Bundaberg Libraries’ YouTube channel where you can view the three digital stories created by Forever Stories participants, and The Making of Forever Stories video made by Sue Gammon. These stories prompted ideas for creating Voice Story workshops.

SLQ Welcome Toolkit
The hyperlink to an online tool kit that has been developed by the State Library of Queensland to assist public libraries to create a welcoming environment, provide information and develop services for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their communities.

NSLA Working with community guidelines
National and State Libraries Australasia Working with Community: Guidelines for collaborative practice between Libraries and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities publication.

Storytelling resources
Storytelling resources available for loan to public library staff to supplement their own resources and storytelling programs, including storytelling kits and big books. These resources can be used in conjunction with digital tools to create digital stories.

SLQ Literacy Resources
A short video about the variety of literacy support resources available for loan from the Public and Indigenous Library Service.

Last updated
10th November 2016