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Oral storytelling has enjoyed a major resurgence in the last few years, with the massive popularity of The Moth, This American Life and even TED, and an explosion of breathless announcements about ‘the power of storytelling’.
But for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the power of storytelling is not exactly breaking news – it’s knowledge that is tens of thousands of years old. Australia has many rich oral traditions, and the endurance of these traditions to the present day says more about the value of storytelling than anything.
In 2013, the Wheeler Centre hosted a popular series of Indigenous storytelling events, co-curated by Genevieve Grieves. We’re bringing it back for one night as an intimate, entertaining bookend to our week-long Outbound series of events about life in regional Australia.
Curated and hosted, once again, by Genevieve – with new and returning guests including actor and filmmaker Pauline Whyman, elder and storyteller Larry Walsh and writer Hannah Donnelly – this night of yarns will explore the theme of country through storytelling approaches old and new.
Genevieve Grieves is an Indigenous educator, curator, filmmaker, artist, oral historian, researcher and writer who has accumulated nearly 20 years experience in the arts and culture industries. She is Worimi – traditionally from mid-north coast New South Wales – but has lived and worked on Kulin Country for many years.
Genevieve has a role as a public intellectual and speaker and teaches at the University of Melbourne, where she is also undertaking her PhD.She was the lead curator of the First Peoples exhibition, Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum, which opened in November 2013.
Uncle Larry Walsh is a local Aboriginal cultural leader and storyteller. He particularly loves working with the younger generation as he sees them as the torchbearers of the future. Inspired by his local Aboriginal community, plus his own Kulin ancestral blood connections to his country, Uncle is one of the only senior Elders in Melbourne who focuses specifically on storytelling, ensuring the cultural continuity of his ancient oral traditions.
He has contributed to many organisations and cultural events over the years – Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC); the First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum; and the Tanderrum celebration at the Melbourne Festival, to name just a few.
Hannah is a Wiradjuri woman from NSW who grew up on Gamilaroi country in Tingha and Inverell. She is the creator of the Sovereign Trax music blog, which aims to foreground the creation and consumption of Indigenous music ‘through our own paradigms that speak to collective stories, identities and resistance’.
Hannah is co-editor of the Sovereign Apocalypse zine focussing on emerging artists and storytellers. She also writes for Canadian Indigenous music culture website Revolutions Per Minute. Hannah’s personal work experiments with cli-fi and future imaginings of Indigenous responses to climate change, particularly through stories of our cultural flows and water management. She has worked for a number of years in Indigenous social justice at the Australian Human Rights Commission and other community-controlled organisations.
Pauline Whyman is a proud Yorta Yorta and Kulin Nations woman.
Pauline’s work as an actor, writer and director includes verbatim theatre for La Mama’s Minutes of Evidence, proudly playing roles of the women of Coranderrk and their fight for structural justice. She played the role of Aunty Cath for the Australian/Canadian TV series Hard Rock Medical, and Miss Prism in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest for Black Swan State Theatre Company. In her Australian feature film debut, she played Skinny in Beck Cole’s feature film Here I Am.
A Week in the Country
Life in the country has a lot going for it. There’s the solitude, the scenery, the extra brain space available when your mind is not jammed with parking and public transport-related neuroses. Many of Australian literature’s best loved writers, from Henry Lawson to Miles Franklin to Colin Thiele, have taken life in the bush as their inspiration.
In a week of events with a special regional focus, we’ll get past the romance – and past the past – to focus on the realities of contemporary country Australia. We’ll find out from writers, regional leaders and political figures about what matters in regional areas, from infrastructure and innovation to creative expression, cattle exports and climate change. In the heart of the city, join us for some conversations about life in the regions.
Stream it from the regions
By popular demand, we're offering everybody the chance to contribute remotely to Question Time: Regional Focus. We'll stream the event live via Periscope (download the app to your Apple or Android phone or tablet), and relay some of your questions to the panel in Melbourne on your behalf. Follow @wheelercentre or keep an eye on our Twitter feed to see when it's getting started.