Bourke Elders Yarning Online OnCountry

Aboriginal Elders will be Yarning Online OnCountry as part of a new creative project that will provide a culturally safe place for sharing knowledge, stories and skills, while aiming to improve Elders’ health and wellbeing by minimizing the impacts of social isolation.

“Opportunities to gather in person, have been drastically limited due to COVID-19 restrictions,” said Yarning Online OnCountry Project Manager, Lorina Barker.

“While the restrictions are necessary to ensure the safety of our Elders and our communities, the increased isolation has impacted health and wellbeing. Elders are missing the chance to participate in their usual activities – and to gather with extended family and friends.”

Dr Barker is a Wangkumara/Muruwari oral historian, filmmaker and storyteller from Bourke. For many years, she has worked alongside Elders in community projects OnCountry. COVID-19 has forced them to devise new ways of working.

Yarning Online OnCountry provides a culturally safe place for Elders, and others in the Bourke community who have a shared history and experience, to gather online,” she said.

Online creative workshops will be offered to mitigate the social isolation and loneliness being keenly felt due to COVID-19 restrictions; and enable the transference of cultural knowledge between Elders and extended family.”

It is hoped that this creative project will promote wellness, and relieve anxiety, depression and loneliness. And that it will support the maintenance of Elders’ connectedness to people and place, with stories and memories.

The activities of the project will be facilitated by Elders who will be able to teach the next generation in their households the skills, traditional practices and stories of Country. They will be supported by specialist artists and OnCountry Coordinators.

“Yarning Circles, Deadly Feeds and Campfire Yarns will use weaving, artmaking, and bush tucker preparing/cooking led by individual Elders, to share skills and knowledge,” Dr Barker said.

“Extended families will support Elders to share their stories of growing up in Bourke, with its racial discrimination and enforced separation of Aboriginal people under colonisation. In this way, the project will support the re-establishment of the kinship networks that remain – while sharing and preserving creative and cultural skills/knowledge. It will contribute to reframing the contemporary narrative of Bourke – replacing it with a cultural history and the living histories of Aboriginal people.

‘Yarning Online OnCountry’ has been created in partnership between Community and Taragara Aboriginal Corporation. This project is funded by the NSW Government through Create NSW and supported by the University of New England.

Special thanks to local partners Maranguka Community Hub, Bourke Aboriginal Health Service and Morrall’s Bakery for their support of this project.

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