Table of contents
Forever Stories was developed in response to a need to record local stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members of the Wide Bay region. Gureng Gureng Elders had previously approached Bundaberg Library to undertake storytelling sessions to be archived and to ensure the preservation of local knowledge and culture. It was agreed that these stories would be included in the library’s local history collection and shared online through the Council website.
With support from SLQ, Bundaberg Libraries were able to expand on the project to develop a digital storytelling workshop program for children and/or young people. Participants learnt how to make their own digital stories during a week–long workshop using technologies such as iPads, inspired by stories told by the Elders.
Bundaberg Library had an existing strong relationship with the ABC Wide Bay team and therefore invited one of the local ABC Open producers, Brad Marsellos, to facilitate the digital storytelling workshop. Damein Aidon was approached and agreed to come on board as the project Indigenous Liaison Officer, having an integral role in promoting the project across community networks.
- David Cornwell - Regional Operations Supervisor Libraries, Arts and Theatre
- Sue Gammon - Youth/ Community Services Librarian
- Josh McCullough – Production Technician
- Merv Johnson - Gureng Gureng Elder and Storyteller
- Damein Aidon - Project Indigenous Liaison Officer
- Brad Marsellos - ABC Open & ABC Wide Bay Producer and Workshop Facilitator
- Colin Crosbie - SLQ Project Manager
- Victoria Carless - SLQ Project Officer
State library contributed up to $5, 000 towards the project, which covered project contract staff wages, material costs, SLQ staff travel and catering.
Bundaberg Libraries estimated an in-kind contribution of $6, 700 and 100 staffing hours.
What we did
The core project team held regular planning meetings and allocated tasks between catching up. Sue Gammon got in touch with local organisations such as the Integrated Wellbeing Centre and local schools such Kepnock High School through Craig Currie, the Community Education Counsellor for Indigenous students, to promote the project and the library’s initiatives.
The goal was to record traditional stories told by Elders and Storytellers in the local community to preserve them for future generations. Five stories were recorded prior to the workshop by Sue Gammon and three were selected and transcribed by the library in preparation for the workshop.
During the April 2014 school holidays, young people aged 9-14 were presented with these stories and invited to illustrate them with their own artwork and narrate them in their own words. In small teams they then used their illustrations and narration to put together a digital story using iPads. Participating storytellers were on hand throughout the week to provide advice to the young people.
On the final morning of the program, a Community Show and Tell Morning Tea took place, attended by Councillors, school groups and Elders as well as local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, media, families and community members. The event included a Welcome to Country by Traditional Owner Merv Johnson, a screening of the digital stories and participants were awarded a certificate and USB containing their work. One lucky participant won an iPad through a random draw, awarded by Bundaberg Library to encourage the participants to continue with their storytelling and build on their skills. Afterwards new community members were welcomed to the library at an informal morning tea.
What we made
The project developed three short stories (one to three minutes each), retold digitally by program participants. These were based on Why the Sea Turtle Comes to Mon Repos and Why the Men Have Beards both by Merv Johnson, and The Creation Story of the Butterfly, told by Mr Damein Aidon and authorised by custodian Nai Nai Bird.
Accompanying materials include transcriptions of the stories as told by the Elders, used as scripts when recording the audio by participants, as well as the artworks used as illustrations in the stories. The young peoples’ artwork was displayed at the Show and Tell morning tea.
Sue Gammon also developed a documentary entitled Making of Forever Stories, using images and video footage from the week, alongside interviews from the participants and the project team.
The Forever Stories Workshop
The workshop took place over four two-hour sessions, broken into four distinct skill building areas where participants completed tasks in groups towards their final digital story. Session One covered the principles of story-telling with examples provided. This session also covered the elements of storyboarding and the selection of the story participants would be working on in three groups. Transcripts of the recorded stories told by Elder Merv Johnson and Damein Aidon had been prepared earlier by the project team. Session Two involved the participants making the characters and backgrounds to the stories, either though drawing, collage or sculpting. Session Three covered audio recording, where participants narrated their stories and took stills of their characters and settings. Session Four encompassed putting it all together in iMovie to create the final stories.
Elder Merv Johnson and Damein Aidon were on hand over the week to support the development of the stories, by assisting with the narrative, creating the background illustrations and demonstrating music making, all of which were incorporated into the movies made by the groups.
To promote the workshop and get the word out about the Show and Tell Morning Tea we wrote a press release and Bundaberg Library staff attended a radio interview with ABC.
Following the on-site workshop SLQ sought feedback from all partners through a written evaluation and the videos were shared on the library’s YouTube channel.
Success measures of the Forever Stories project included:
- Eight participants consistently attended the workshop throughout the week
- Three digital stories were created in groups by young people, as well as a documentary sharing the process
- Storytellers Gureng Gureng Elder Merv Johnson and Damein Aidon had a total of five traditional stories recorded for the library archives between them
- Sixteen people attended the library’s Forever Stories Information Evening
- Connections were fostered with two local schools: Kepnock State High School and Thabeban State School as well as with the Integrated Wellbeing Centre who supported the week with transport for participants and brought a group of children to the Show and Tell Morning Tea
- The library’s connection was strengthened with their Local ABC and ABC Open team, through the in-kind workshop facilitation support provided by ABC staff member Brad Marsellos
- Four library staff were involved in the project over the week
- Fifty five people attended the Forever Stories Show and Tell Morning Tea
Sue Gammon Youth and Community Services Librarian describes Bundaberg Library as “an inclusive facility that not only celebrates diversity in our community but is committed to preserving our history”. For Sue, Forever Stories “gave us the opportunity to work with a sector of the community we have not engaged to date”. For David Cornwell, Regional Operations Supervisor Libraries, Arts and Theatre, “the project enabled us to add value by introducing what the library offers to a section of the community that traditionally has low visitation”.
Throughout the project the library accessed online resources available such as published guidelines and protocols around best practice community engagement, as well as SLQ resources such as the SLQ 2013-14 Reconciliation Action Plan (PDF 634.5 KB) and the SLQ Welcome Toolkit.
One challenge was not knowing who would be interested to come to the workshops, and so Damein Aidon was approached and subsequently engaged to provide advice on the project. Damien felt strongly that “we would hope that the core values expressed by Indigenous culture in Australia are retained by kids…and that’s why these programs are essential”.
In his role promoting the project to community members, Damein reported that there were questions about how the stories would be shared. In response, Bundaberg Library held a community information evening where community members were invited to tour the library, hear about the project goals and ask questions, as well as register their interest in recording their own stories.
A suggested improvement for the project might be for a longer lead time to assist with project planning.
Bundaberg Library’s Top Five Tips for running a project like Forever Stories
- Employ a specialist cultural advisor who can champion your project across the community and who is respected generally as part of your project team.
- Ensure the project is culturally appropriate through regular consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander facilitators, Elders and community members.
- Ensure you have enough planning time, so all voices are heard.
- Look around your community and at your libraries’ existing relationships to see who has the skills to support your project.
- Think about partnering with a school or local organisation, who may be able support your initiative with participant numbers, transport and other logistical items.
Useful links for Libraries
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.
SLQ Welcome Toolkit
The hyperlink to an online tool kit has been developed by the State Library of Queensland to assist public libraries 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.
The Greedy Net
A video of the Hammond Island Culture Love project with children from the Torres Strait.
Animated stories from Cape York
Cape Treasures animations: a collection of stories by children in Cape York.
ReTold – Songs and stories from Myths and Legends of the Torres Strait (including a link to digital story about the workshop).