In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, storytelling around the campfire continues with Our Stories, presented by Adelaide Festival Centre.

Our Stories is part of Adelaide Festival Centre’s Something for Saturday program which seeks to entertain thousands of children in Adelaide each Saturday in winter.

The free online experience gathers three storytellers from Aboriginal language groups across South Australia. Viewers can engage in recordings of Senior Kaurna man Uncle Mickey O’Brien, Ngarrindjeri Elder Aunty Stephanie Gollan and young Adnyamathanha woman Ema Bovoro sharing knowledge and stories around a campfire.

A very cultural man, Uncle Mickey has been sharing knowledge, running programs and speaking at ceremonies for many years, and continues doing so in Our Stories.

“It is always great to share culture and share cultural stories … for our people we are largely an oral/visual society, so stories are so important—whether that be from a creation perspective, a teaching or guiding or informative perspective,” Uncle Mickey said.

“Stories can tell you many things and our people understood that. I hope that not only our own people have that connection to the stories, but I hope that non-Aboriginal people get a greater connection and understanding of the value that Aboriginal people had with the landscape.”

Our Stories was launched on August 4, to coincide with National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.

“When you understand what this day is about, it really stems from a sad day. It highlighted that Aboriginal children, when they were taken away … were all given a birthday on the fourth of August.”

“To turn that into a positive day, that is saying to all of us that we need to be more responsible in looking after our children, taking care of them and really giving them that sense of safety, connection and value,” said Uncle Mickey.

“Pass on the knowledge that one day they can share with their children.”

Our Stories also sees Aunty Stephanie, a celebrated artist and educator, share a basket weaving demonstration.

“We’ve been using this technique for thousands and thousands of years, so by teaching it to others online, it’s telling an old story in a new way,” Aunty Stephanie said.

“It’s still very popular, because it’s quite easy once you know how to get started with the first few stages.”

The stories that are shared are accompanied by illustrations created by Adelaide-based Yorta Yorta artist, Karen Briggs.

Our Stories can also be downloaded as a learning resource for schools, provided as part of Adelaide Festival Centre’s centrED program.

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and Artistic Director Douglas Gautier AM noted the privilege he feels working with the storytellers.

“For many thousands of years, Australia’s First Nations people have been telling stories as diverse in theme and character as the languages in which they’re told. They speak to the geography, environment, value systems and cultural protocols of the Country and people they belong to,” he said.

“It has been a great privilege to work with local storytellers to share knowledge from their countries to our screens.”

Our Stories is supported by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Development: Project Assistance grant from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The experience is available until September 25. It can be accessed here: https://www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/events/our-stories.

By Rachael Knowles