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Ngukurr Story Project – telling our stories in our language

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Elderly Aboriginal man sits back to back with young Aboriginal boy on grassy ground. Immediately behind them are three film-makers and further back are more Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal film makers another Aboriginal actor, lights, trees and grass.
‘Lights, Camera, Action’ in Ngukurr (Photo by Norman Wilfred and courtesy of Ngukurr Story Project.)
19 Jul 2018

Everybody has a story to tell. Sometimes it’s about you or somebody you know of, but often it’s a story that only exists inside you and needs to get out.

The community of Ngukurr in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, is telling lots of stories. They are telling the stories in Roper Kriol or in one of the 9 traditional languages once spoken fluently in the region.

Local people are being supported to tell their stories through the Ngukurr Story Project, a collaboration between Ngukurr Art Centre and Ngukurr Language Centre.

Courtney Collins is the project producer who has resided in the community for the past 3 years.

‘The aim of the project is to provide people the support they need to tell the stories they want to tell and develop their skills in the process,’ Courtney said.

‘So far, all of the works have been for the screen with people learning skills in researching, scriptwriting, editing, presenting and sound production.’

‘There is also the possibility of people making books and podcasts, if people want to develop their skills in those mediums.’

The project has been going for 12 months and has involved 20 members of the community working in paid roles such as writer, director, assistant director, presenter, performer or camera operator.

‘Each project has an experienced filmmaker/mentor involved to support the skills development of local people,’ Courtney said.

‘Eventually, it is hoped that people being mentored now will mentor other people in the community to tell the stories they want to tell.’

There are no limits on their audience either. After targeting the community itself and the Roper Region, Ngukurr storytellers want to take their stories to the world.

One of the projects, the short film I am Numamurdirdi is a collaboration between senior culture man Walter Kolbong Rogers and filmmaker Naina Sen (The Songkeepers). Mr Rogers tells the story of his life as a ceremony leader and dancer. It currently sits as part of an exhibition called Melabat Wanbala showing at the Godinymayin Centre in Katherine NT.

Another project, Lil Bois, is the first short film in the traditional language of Ngandi. Director, local Ngandi man Grant Thompson is hoping the film will be selected as part of Darwin International Film Festival in September.

Courtney is clear about what will determine the success of the Ngukurr Story Project.

‘The project works because local people are driving the stories and the way they are told. They have ownership over the stories they are telling.’

Find out more

Financial support for the project is provided through Indigenous Languages and Arts and Stronger Communities for Children.

The Australian Government Stronger Communities for Children program aims to give children and young people in the NT the best possible start in life through services and activities that create safe and positive environments.

You can find the stories on their Youtube page or on their website Ngukurr Story Project.

For information about the project contact: ngukurrstoryproject@ngukurrarts.com

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