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First Nations storytellers pave pathways to sleep

Rachael Knowles -

First Nations-led not-for-profit Common Ground has partnered with Snapchat to create 'Dreamy', a collection of stories for the magical moments before sleep.

For Snapchat users logging on late at night, the platform will pathway them to the 'Dreamy' hub where they'll hear original stories from First Nations creatives.

In the midst of COVID-19, young people are experiencing higher levels of stress and poor sleep quality.

According to The Sleep Health Foundation, people aged between 18 and 35 are experiencing disproportionate effects on their mental health. Many turn to their screens, with an estimated 5.5hours of screen time per day.

In response, Common Ground, working with Snapchat, psychologists, and storytellers, produced the five stories to evoke restful and stress-free sleep.

Each story is spoken by the storyteller that created it, and has an individual illustration created by Carmen Glynn-Braun.

"We're incredibly proud of this series," said Common Ground CEO and Founder, Rona Glynn-McDonald.

"From the beginning design of what it would look like, to really co-creating it with the storytellers and artists involved and now putting it out into the world. It's been a special process.

"Looking at feedback ... it's really striking a chord in a moment when we need connection, and we need to unplug from our phones and screens. It could not have been launched at a better time."

Glynn-McDonald described the creation as "centring the lived experience, knowledge and language of each of the artists" and said it's an opportunity to connect people to Country.

"It is really important right now, in the crazy world we live in, to have opportunities to connect to Country," she said.

"Right now, people are locked in cities and can't get back to their Country, so stories like this are incredibly special."

The five First Nations storytellers involved in the project include Wirdajuri woman Jazz Money, Arrernte and Jamaican woman Aurora Liddle-Christie, Bundjalung man Dakota Feirer, Torres Strait Island woman Ghenoa Gela and Goenpul Yagerabul Minjungbul Bundjalung woman Dr. Romaine Moreton.

Feirer, an established storyteller and poet by nature, created Living Echoes and described the process as "joyful".

"I had to put things aside and get lost in it. It was actually nice ... and it felt good to bring it alive," he said.

"I listened to a few of the other stories last night, and I think they're each an extension of us and where we're at in life. But also, the Country and Old People we come from."

Bundjalung storyteller Dakota Feirer. Photo Supplied Common Ground.

Feirer notes the importance of language in connection to Country and connection to self.

"I feel that a lot of the words we use today, they lose meaning. But by slowing down, we realise how powerful language and words are - I think that is what our Old People knew.

"For me, I know that I tend to lean into the drawn out and slower delivery. With Dreamy, we were consulting with psychologists talking about how we could construct this to encourage that slower feeling and vibration that would hopefully be soothing like a bedtime story or meditative."

The stories urge the reader to unplug, to slow down and to just simply be.

"It's been a time of introspection as well as a lot of raciness on our screens ... But we can choose to switch off from that or just unplug to have that internal dialogue - which is so healthy," Feirer said.

"It is a privilege to switch off, but I do think it's necessary for growth. It's important, not just to Country, but to ourselves and how we feel."

A project created primarily by women, Feirer is one of the few masculine voices featured.

"Out of the five of us, four are strong women. The people behind Dreamy, the creators, editors and psychologists, they're all First Nations and Second Nations women. Without them none of this would be a possibility. They are the heroes and I want to acknowledge and thank them," he said.

"I hope this is a step in a direction where we start to place seeds in this online camp, that's what I've been calling it, that has a lot of detriment at times - but also is a site of creation, communication and conversation.

"I hope Dreamy is the precursor to a deep, enriched space where voices and wellbeing and Country are learnt about and engaged with."

Living Echoes written by Dakota Feirer. Artwork by Carmen Glynn-Braun.

Dreamy was launched on September 6, and is available on Spotify or Apple Music and online at dreamysleep.com.au

By Rachael Knowles

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