Monday 28 November 2016 will go down in history as a significant day in the lives of the Warlpiri people from the Tanami Desert, as it marks the moment when – thanks to an innovative and engaging digital storybook – they took charge of the management plan for the vast Southern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) near the Northern Territory’s southern border with Western Australia.
That’s when the digital storybook and brainchild of Warlpiri speakers was launched in the remote community of Yuendumu and a day later, at Nyirrpi, with the Willowra launch to follow in early December.
Warlpiri speakers were intimately involved in filming, directing, editing, translating, designing and scripting the end product and now, with the backing of the Central Land Council (CLC) and financing from Newmont Mining Corporation, the template is poised to be made available to Indigenous people across the globe.
The CLC is a Commonwealth corporate entity governed by 90 elected Aboriginal representatives from communities in the southern half of the Northern Territory, while Newmont operates the local Granites Mine.
Newmont’s Ken Ramsey explained that as one of the world’s leading gold mining companies they immediately recognised the global potential of the digital storybook and will share the exciting initiative with all its global operations.
“Newmont has always sought to serve as a catalyst for long-term socio-economic development and empower people in the communities where it operates,” he said.
“As such, we see enormous benefit in the digital storybook and look forward to sharing the Warlpiri model and introducing it to other Indigenous communities around the world.
“It takes wordy and complex language and turns it into an engaging communication piece that, in Warlpiri language, tells the story of the management plan.
“It allows the traditional owners who are responsible for looking after the land to understand its content, puts them in control and assists them to take the right decisions, for the advancement and betterment of their communities.”
The interactive web application can be found at www.walyaku.org.au and requires neither literacy nor English skills as it replaces the text with short videos, audio and animation in Warlpiri. The viewers are then able to move through the management plan by following voice navigation prompts and icons.
CLC Director David Ross added that the storybook overcomes the digital divide between remote communities and mainstream Australia as it doesn’t even require an internet connection.
“Who said innovation and agility are only for cities?” he asked.
“The product of more than two years of research, trial and error, the storybook can also be accessed through a desktop application in community learning centres and home computers, as well as through USB sticks for TVs and game consoles.
“We’re now evaluating the project to see if it inspires people in the Tanami, especially young people, to become more involved in ranger group activities such as seasonal burning, feral animal management and the protection of threatened species before rolling it out to other groups.”
The digital storybook was first presented at the Natural Resource Management Conference in Darwin on Wednesday 23 November by Enid Gallagher from Yuendumu and the CLC’s Julia Burke.
“I hope the storybook will become a valuable tool for empowering Indigenous people everywhere, no matter how remotely they live,” Mr Ross concluded.