This 3-year project started in 2013 and is funded by the Australian Government Indigenous Support Program. The aim is to support transmission of Aboriginal cultural knowledge by Aboriginal women in Central Australia to younger generations. This year Waltja ran workshops in Bonya, Areyonga, Mt Liebig and Willowra that focus on connecting babies to their cultural heritage and also show culturally appropriate child-rearing practices. Workshops in language were also run with young people focusing on personal safety and renewing language. Christine Armstrong, Iria Kuen and Cheyne Robertson have been the main Waltja workers for this project.
A big focus in the project is on collecting stories with grandmothers. This takes time, because after the story is recorded in some way, it needs to be reviewed and check by the storyteller before Waltja can publish it. Community members have received training and mentoring in documenting stories using voice recorders, camera and computers.
The greatest benefit is that it supports the maintenance of Aboriginal cultures in remote Central Australia. This in turn promotes well being and helps people to feel strong and proud about who they are.
The project is about the knowledge our Elders have, and we value and respect the Elders. This helps to encourage young people to respect and value their Elders more as well.
Young people are some of the documenters of stories. They are connecting their skills in using new technologies with traditional knowledge, showing that access to mobile phones and Internet doesn’t automatically mean young people will lose connection with their language and culture.
Community members talk about the Grandmothers Stories being important work because the project places value on Elders’ cultural knowledge. Everyone involved is really happy and excited to be part of it. It gives people the time to share their knowledge and it helps to grow up children strong in culture.
For the project we have one 8-seater vehicle without child safe seats. Most communities don’t have buses. This means we are limited in how many people can go out for workshops away from the community, and how we can run workshops which focus on connecting babies to their culture.
The Elders, the grandmothers, often have many community commitments and family responsibilities. These pressures make it hard for them to have time to be involved.