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Aboriginal tradition of elders sharing stories being lost or forgotten

From the age of nine, I listened with great interest to my Elders, especially when they shared stories of our creation known as ‘Our Dreaming’. Source: Corbis Historical/Getty

There are concerns the tradition of sharing stories, passed down by Aboriginal elders, through the generations, is being lost or forgotten.

There are concerns the tradition of sharing stories, passed down by Aboriginal elders, through the generations, is being lost or forgotten.

But a new initiative is seeing young Indigenous students teach older generations how to use technology to preserve their history.

In Sydney's inner-city suburb of Redfern, Aboriginal elders are proving you're never to old to learn.

They're taking lessons in how to use computers, tablets, email, and smartphones - foreign concepts for many here, including 80-year-old Muriel Brandy.

"Nothing like this was around when I was coming of age (laughs)We lived in the bush - you could hardly get a wireless, a radio."

But she and the other participants, like Aunty Bryl Van Ovloo, are determined not to be left behind

"We have to be connected in this way because that's the way of the world today, no matter where you go. Everything is modern technology."

And who better to learn from than the experts.

The lessons are being taught by young Indigenous school students.

Cindy Berwick, the program's coordinator says they're well versed in the digital space.

"There's always a reluctance from older people to learn new things but the relaxed atmosphere  - I think they really enjoy learning off the kids. And I think the kids really enjoy spending time with the elders. And I think, what it does is possibly give them a little bit of confidence, to actually go out and learn a little bit more, perhaps enrol in a small course. "

Muriel Brandy says she's amazed by the students' skills.

"They're real amazing. They was trying to learn me and I was going 'does it go this way? And they laugh their heads of and say 'no you're doing it the wrong way. (laughs)"

The program will visit ten locations across New South Wales over the coming months.

The state's Minister for Ageing, Tanya Davies, says the focus will be on regional communities, where the digital disconnect is more acute.

"Simply being in a rural or regional part of NSW, the tyranny of distance can have some big impacts, particularly on getting access to services and resources."

And while elders are learning how technology can improve to access to certain services, Ms Berwick says the program has another purpose.

"There would be a concern that older people are passing on and their stories aren't being captured and for our communities to stay strong and for our young people to know who they are and where they belong, those stories need to be captured."

The tradition of sharing stories is usually passed on orally or through song, dance and art.

But here, the students are recording their elders stories on an ipad and uploading them onto a community website.

For Aunty Bryl Van Ovloo it's an important way to preserve culture.

“I think it's great, because I know with my own grandchildren, they'll have access to it and many other families which is really great.”

Student Malila Crystal Hau agrees.

"Sometimes some stories might be forgotten but if you go back onto your ipad or your phone, like if you forgot  the story, you could pass it down to your grandchildren."

And for program coordinator Cindy Berwick, it's vital in a changing world.

"As the world evolves you know you've got to evolve with it and the use of technology is the one that we're using now to make sure that our culture is strong and is passed on to our young people from the elders."

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