Run by Cathy Craigie, First Nations Australia Writers’ Network supports Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander writers, poets and storytellers, advocating on their behalf and supporting ongoing development opportunities. Set up only a year ago, the organisation has already made great strides in enhancing First Nations Australians writing and storytelling.
Cathy shared details of many older writers and projects, and talked about how valuable it is to seek out stories from Aboriginal individuals to ensure the details of their lives aren’t lost.
Given the hidden history of First Nations in Australia, the balance between using memory and imagination in a community literature project is particularly sensitive. In this case, writing life stories – and encouraging them to be told in the most open way possible – must take the priority. That said, Cathy detailed projects where artists and individuals were encouraged to respond the the real life tales and create new pieces of work. So, there’s a place for both.
An initiative which really captured my imagination was the ‘Home Project,‘ a year-long community writing project , run by the Sydney Story Factory. Residents of Redfern and Waterloo – young and old, Indigenous and non-Indigenous – contributed experiences about the area as it moved through a period of change. These were collected in a book and plotted on an interactive online map. It seems to me a super way to highlight marvellous and unexpected details of strangers and neighbours, bringing together a huge, vibrant range of perspectives.