Yiriman Project - Sharing our Stories
Recently I sent an email detailing a project in which, and in a very small way, I had the opportunity to participate. The Yiriman Project was "conceived and developed by the elders from four Kimberly language groups: Nyikina, Mangala, Karajarri and Walmajarri. These old people were concerned for their young people about issues of self harm and substance abuse, and saw the need for a place where youth could separate themselves from negative influences, and reconnect with their culture in a remote and culturally significant place. Through this reconnection young people would gain strength and resilience, and build positive stories which they could take with them back to their towns and communities."
My engagement with the Yiriman project was not the primary reason for my visit to Jarlmadangah community. Some years ago Simon Coate discussed with me a potential for me to be able to assist that community, and the possibility of a mutual benefit in a meeting with John Watson, who founded Jarlmadagah with his brother Harry Watson in 1987. John is a respected elder in the region, having co founded the Kimberly Land Council and numerous other indigenous community organisations.
I saw the veracity of Simon's perspective, but an opportunity to visit the community did not present itself until 2009. I had been working with award winning author and film maker Liz Thompson on a number of film and radio projects, as well as offering technical and conceptual consultation on a number of her many projects.
She offered me employment for a week on her digital story telling project, Sharing Stories, to provide technical support during the course of that projects realisation at Jarlmadangah community. When it became obvious that many of the community leaders, young men and boys would be in country on a Yiriman Project walk, it was determined that I could best serve the interests of all there by participating in the walk and collecting various forms of media to document the event for a proposed film documentary Liz in planning.
As there were many members of the Jarlmadangah community present on the camp, there was a good deal of cross over of the two projects and many of the young men enthusiastically documented the event with equipment generously provided by Liz and the Sharing Stories project.
I was struck by the merit of these projects, their benefit to the communities they supported. This is not a story regularly received in the Australian corporate media where stories of intervention, dysfunction and abuse abound.
The purpose of this post is to recognise the efforts of all who make these projects work, both named and unnamed. A huge amount of time and effort is given by many, working with a fraction of the budgets that are thrown at Federal policies of intervention and control, and with a seemingly greater rate of success.
It was my great pleasure to meet and sit down with all the people I met in the course of my short time in the Kimberly. Thank you one and all. To John, Harry, Annie, William thank you for welcoming me into your Community. To Peter Clancy and Joe Green thank you.To Liz and Simon for making such a meeting possible, thank you. To Travis, Josh, Kenny, Hanky thanks. To Simon Keenan and Dave Palmer, to Julun thank you. To all the boys, all the men thank you. To all who's names I have not mentioned for lack of information about correct spellings and for any who's names I have spelled incorrectly apologies.