Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

The Stories We Need to Tell: Using Online Outsider-Witness Processes and Digital Storytelling in a Remote Australian Aboriginal Community

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

The Stories We Need to Tell: Using Online Outsider-Witness Processes and Digital Storytelling in a Remote Australian Aboriginal Community

Article excerpt


The usual academic protocols about authorship can understate the role played by non-academic contributors. This project and subsequent paper would not have been possible without the generosity, participation, cultural guidance, judgment and wisdom of members of the Tramalla Strong Women's Group - in particular, Mercy Fredericks and Doreen Unghango. The project commenced at their invitation to record stories of hope and survival and their contribution as co interviewers and leaders meant these stories could be documented and shared. They also reviewed and improved the draft during the writing process. They join Clare and Beth as co-authors who express their gratitude and thanks with this acknowledgment. Clare and Beth would also like to acknowledge Kalumburu community members, Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation, Kalumburu remote community school, Kalumburu Mission, and artists from Kira Kiro Art Centre for their collaboration. Clare would also like to acknowledge Beth Neate at ABC Open for her willingness to tackle this challenging project with the spirit of adventure, creativity, and rigour and her skills in involving community members in the use of equipment in the co-creation of these stories.


This paper outlines a narrative therapy project in a remote Aboriginal community, Kalumburu, in the Kimberley region in the far north of Western Australia. The project is a collaboration between a group of senior women from Kalumburu community known as the Tramalla Strong Women's Group, myself [Clare Wood] as a narrative and community practitioner, and ABC Open1. The project incorporated digital storytelling and narrative therapy practices to document and reclaim stories of survival and resilience, and speak of future hopes and dreams. Narrative therapy practices such as re-authoring, remembering, and definitional ceremonies provided the setting to unearth these stories. The paper also explores the outsiderwitness practices adapted to fit this remote context.

The original intent of the Strong Women's Group, discussed below, was to record their efforts in protecting and caring for children and stopping violence in their community. However, it became clear there were stories related to significant historical events during colonisation which needed to be told first while the memories of old people2 were honoured and documented. The process of documenting stories was enriching and surprising.

'I am from Kalumburu, and this is my place and my Mum and Dad place; we all born here, we grow up here. We love our place, camping, fishing. This is where we live. Kalumburu is not a bad place like town; we don't have grog or that much drugs here.' Levina Unghango, Kalumburu Community

Kalumburu, which means path by the river, or river crossing, is the northernmost settlement in Western Australia, with a population of about 400, made up of Aboriginal people mainly from the Wunumbal-Gambeera and Kwini tribal groups and gudeah3 who work in the community school, clinic, police station, or shop. Kalumburu is an extremely remote place: the access road is often cut during the wet season. The closest town, Kununurra, is an hour flight by light plane or approximately a nine-hour drive, depending on road conditions.

I have had a professional relationship with Kalumburu for the past eight years, working with the community on child and adolescent mental health and child protection. Kalumburu is a place where your senses can be overwhelmed by the heat, humidity, and the stories you hear. Stories of injustices, genocide, survival, love, grief, and loss swirl through your mind as you fly out of the community. Narrative therapy practices have uncovered stories of hope in Kalumburu in the face of overwhelming despair and significant adversity. The coresearch of problems has made visible hopeful stories which have previously been hidden and submerged. In Kalumburu, I have listened to stories told by remarkable men and women who protect, love, and care for their children. …

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