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Story Ground: using oral and written story practices to engage Indigenous community members with university

The project explores the meeting of Indigenous Australian story practices with the teaching of creative writing, and how this meeting can be used both to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and to lift cultural competency across the university community. To do this, the project entwines creative and traditional research with teaching and community outreach. As well as connecting First Nations community members with the university through on-campus workshops, it provides a research basis for the integration of Indigenous Australian content and epistemology in mainstream creative writing classes. It supports the development of new Indigenous Australian writers, funds the creation of new works and investigates best practices for teaching creative writing to both mainstream and Indigenous Australian cohorts.

From 2017–2019 this project is funded by a grant from the Indigenous Languages and Arts Program, Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts. The project team will host visiting Indigenous Australian writers across the grant period, including for a national symposium on April 6, 2018. A first paper emerging from the research was published in TEXT Journal, November 2017.

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Project Team:
Dr Jen Crawford
Dr Paul Collis
Ms Lisa Fuller
Associate Professor Jordan Williams

Story Ground: A National Symposium on Indigenous Australian Story and Creative Writing

Friday, April 6 2018
Building 6, Level C, Rooms 6C10 and 6C12
University of Canberra
Symposium: 9am-5.30pm
Evening reading & stalls: 5.30-7pm
UC parking and transport maps

Visit Eventbrite for free registration.

Email to join the Story Ground mailing list.
All are welcome to the symposium and/or the evening reading.

Australia is home to the world’s longest living story traditions, but are our creative writing classrooms a place where Indigenous Australian story can be shared? How might the teaching of creative writing be changed through ongoing relationship to the knowledge and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? What can creative writing as a discipline offer in return? The symposium will engage these questions through panel discussions, yarning circles, and creative readings from leading Indigenous writers, academics and storytellers, including members of the university and local First Nations Australian communities.

Speakers on the day include Professor Tony Birch, Dr Paul Collis, Samantha Faulkner, Lisa Fuller, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Ellen van Neerven and Lionel Fogarty. Their discussions will jump off into yarning circles where participants can explore the issues they raise in depth.

There will be an evening reading event with stalls. Come along for the day, or drop in after work for some wine and nibblies, browse the books and other items, and get a book signed by the author.


9.00 am Tea and coffee reception

9.30 Welcome from Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Roslyn Brown

9.40 Welcome from Distinguished Professor Jen Webb, Director of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research.

9.50 Orientation from Story Ground team: Jen Crawford and Paul Collis

10.10 Celebration of Country

10.40 Morning tea

11.00 Panel 1: ‘Writing While Black’: our own stories, our own words
Panelists: Ellen van Neerven, Paul Collis, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Lionel Fogarty
Chair: Lisa Fuller
This panel will be focused on writing as a way of telling ‘our own stories in our own words’ (Paul Collis), part of the experience of self-determination, creativity and cultural continuity for Indigenous Australian individuals and communities. How do we nurture those values in the context of cultures and institutions that may be uninformed, indifferent or hostile?

12.00 Yarning circle 1: Words in Public – writing, health, responsibility
Leaders: Paul Collis, Lisa Fuller, Becca Gosch
What responsibilities do we bear when our stories cross into public spaces? How do we care for our own wellbeing and others’ as we engage in research, writing, editing, publication and beyond?

12.45 Lunch

1.40 Story Ground project introduction and report
Jen Crawford, Paul Collis, Lisa Fuller, Jordan Williams
The Story Ground project looks at what happens when Indigenous Australian story practices meet the teaching of creative writing. Can this intersection be used to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and to lift cultural competency across the university community? The project entwines creative and traditional research with teaching and community outreach.

1.55 First Nations Australia Writers Network introduction and report
Kerry Reed-Gilbert and Sam Faulkner

FNAWN is the peak body for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander writers, poets and storytellers, advocating and lobbying on their behalf, supporting ongoing development opportunities, in order to sustain and enhance First Nations Australia writing and storytelling. We believe in the sovereignty of First Nations writers and their communities, and work to foster writing from around the continent.

2.10 UsMob + UC Write Yourself writers read
Us Mob Writing group are made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers based in Canberra. They have previously published By Close of Business, a poetry anthology, in 2013.  Too Deadly: Our Voice, Our Way, Our Business was published in 2017 with funding assistance from the Australia Council for the Arts.
Write Yourself is a series of creative writing intensive workshops for new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers conducted by the Story Ground team at the University of Canberra. We’ll hear some of fruits of the first of these intensives.

2.40 – 3.00 Afternoon tea

3.00 Panel 2: Story as Living Connection: sharing and teaching story and writing
Panelists: Tony Birch, Lisa Fuller, Sam Faulkner
Chair: Jordan Williams
This panel will focus on the sharing of story as a form of education that encompasses many different kinds of connection between generations, communities and entities (including connection with country). What opportunities and problems come up when we bring Indigenous Australian story practices and creative writing education together? What could it look like?

4.00 Yarning circle 2: ‘Making Space': possibilities in creative writing education.
Leaders: Lisa Fuller, Becca Gosch, Paul Collis
This discussion will explore participants’ experiences with the sharing of story and various forms of creative writing education.

4.45 Drinks, book signing, UsMob stalls

5.30-7.00 Story Ground evening reading
Readers: Paul Collis, Lisa Fuller, Tony Birch, Ellen van Neerven, Lionel Fogarty