• Warlpiri Elder Robin Japanagka Granites shares a story about a joey (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Families are being encouraged to listen to five different First Nations bedtime stories next week, as part of a challenge aimed at sharing Elders’ knowledge with the next generation.
Rachael Hocking

11 Nov 2020 - 2:35 PM  UPDATED 11 Nov 2020 - 3:03 PM

In mid-November five First Nations stories from central desert communities will be shared with the world.

The idea is the brainchild of Kaytetye woman Rona Glynn and a person with storytelling in her blood: she's the granddaughter of Freda Glynn and daughter of Warwick Thornton.

“I remember my dad sat me down when I was young and he said, ‘The camera is a weapon and that's what we're going to use against Australia to change the narrative and really share our own perspectives and stories and our own voices,’” she told NITV News.

Ms Glynn said it was the stories she grew up with – as well as her parents’ filmmaking - which shaped her passion for sharing Elders' knowledge and inspired her to create the First Nations Bedtime Stories Challenge.

The 'challenge' is simple: every year Ms Glynn and her team at not-for-profit Common Ground record five stories with different communities and produce them as short films. 

Families and schools are then encouraged to listen to each of the stories for five days in November: from creation stories about sacred sites, to important lessons in "scarier" yarns about a 'Devil Eagle'.

“Stories have so much power in shaping your perspectives of the world,” Ms Glynn said.

“There were stories about scary things and stories that really taught you to think about the importance of community and think about the importance of Country.

“[The challenge] really came out of this moment where I was recognising that there's so many old people that have so many incredible stories and very few opportunities for young people in schools to learn them."

The challenge comes with learning resources for teachers, and has options to fundraise for Common Ground to support their work in collecting and archiving stories. 

"From the voices of Elders"

This year the short films feature yarns from across the central desert: Eastern Arrernte, Arrernte and Warlpiri language groups. 

In one of them Warlpiri Elder Robin Japanagka Granites shares a story which has been taught to kids at Yuendumu school for years - about a joey that gets lost in the bush and goes searching for its mother.

“I think that's a really gorgeous one that we know that pre-schoolers and really young bubs are going to enjoy learning about,” Ms Glynn said.

“A joey that gets lost in the Bush and is looking for its mother: so that's a beautiful way for people to think about community and the importance of staying with your family and knowing your Country.”

The other four stories featured are told by Kathleen Kemarre Wallace (Eastern Arrernte), Ricky Orr (Arrernte, specifically Twertentye and Pertame), Doreen McCormack Mokarenge (Arrernte) and Peter Paul “Coco” Wallace (Arrernte).

Ms Glynn’s long-term vision is to create an archive of hundreds and thousands of Elders' stories and connect them to the next generation.

“Through that I hope that every young person in 50 years’ time steps into a world that really values their diverse cultural identities, their unique history, and the lived experience that they hold,” she said.  

“I think growing up, when you connect to those stories, you feel such power and strength in your identity in who you are... it's so important that we provide more opportunities for young people and old people to engage in sharing our stories - from the voices of elders."

The First Nations Bedtime Stories Challenge will be held from November 16 to 20. 

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