Making a dream a reality through a dreamtime story

On the banks of Broken Creek in northern Victoria lies the small town of Nathalia. It’s only minutes away from Barmah National Park – the world’s largest Redgum forest. Nathalia is home to the Yorta Yorta people, with European settlement occurring in the mid-1800’s.

The Bardi Gras Group, auspiced by Nathalia & District Development Corporation (NADDCO) recognises the importance of the Yorta Yorta people and wanted to increase community awareness of the local Indigenous culture and language, as well as some important environmental issues.

Storytelling through books, creative-arts and performance

Storytelling is an important part of Indigenous culture, and so the NADDCO applied for a small grant from FRRR. They received $2,899 for the Bardi Gras Group to develop an illustrated book and an audio DVD of an Aboriginal Dreamtime children’s story called Po-bank Bunyma Bapalwa Po-Bank Creates a Flood (based on Tiddalik the Frog), in both English and Yorta Yorta.

Julie Millowick ImagesPhoto by Julie Millowick

The Bardi Gras Festival, a local whole of community celebration focused on protecting local flora and fauna and strengthening relations between the local Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, was the perfect opportunity to launch the book. As part of the launch and to bring the story to life, they used the grant to create a giant frog, along with other artwork. This was created by a community artist, Gordon Dowell, and paraded down the street while the story was enacted by Nathalia Primary School students. It was truly a whole community collaboration and celebration.

Far-reaching frog

Since the launch of the book and DVD, word has spread and it has been highly sort after. Organisers were invited to set up a companion exhibition at the Grain Store Art Gallery and Performance Space in Nathalia, and received 120 additional requests for copies of the book.

The book is a great learning tool and has become part of one local Catholic Primary School’s curriculum. It has also been supplied as a resource for courses at the three Latrobe University campuses. It has been read at several local organisations, such as libraries, primary schools, a kindergarten, a special school and a nursing home.

Using different forms of art is a wonderful way of sharing a story and ensuring that the information is heard and understood by people of all ages. This project is an excellent example of involving different members of the community to share the culture of the local area to a broader audience.

The giant frog is now a showpiece within the Nathalia community, housed at Nathalia Primary School, and is a great talking point.

The Nathalia community was chosen to part of the Art Resides Here project because it brings an Indigenous lens and works at an inter-generational level, involving the whole community in this broad arts project.

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