Finding unity through storytelling

Friday, 9 December 2016

Narratives of Hope community engagement project

Staff, students and the local community gathered at ACU to hear the voices of those who have struggled and overcome hardships, to share their stories of resilience and hope.

There were tears, laughter, smiles and hugs as children and adults from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds shared their life stories at a community celebration of the Narratives of Hope project at Australian Catholic University (ACU).

Over a seven-week period, 23 participants from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Iranian, Philippine, Iraqi, Afghani, Pakistani, Rohingya, Indian, Sri Lankan, and other backgrounds came together with 18 ACU staff and students who acted as mentors.

Relationships were built and short digital stories, poems, art and speeches were developed together to reflect their personal journeys. Narratives of Hope provides an opportunity to change public perceptions through storytelling, while ensuring participants also develop literacy skills and knowledge around storytelling, technology and performance.

ACU Community Engagement Facilitator Janine Quine said stories were a powerful way to connect with people.

“I think a lot of the problems in the world today are caused because we don’t know each other’s stories and that is why this project started,” she said.

“At the moment we are in a world where there is a lot of fear. There is one girl involved in this project who spoke about how she didn’t want to stand out too much because of her language. She worried what other people might think of her and make judgements about her and her family because of their culture. This girl was only 10 years old. That says to me a lot about what is going on in our communities, schools and society at large.

“Telling stories is so important for people from migrant, refugee and other marginalised backgrounds because it gives them a voice to share their thoughts, fears and hopes for the future, and take away some of the fear or misunderstandings that occur in our community”.

ACU Equity Pathways Officer Mel Seal Moradi said the participants and learning partners are from diverse backgrounds and have experienced different challenges. This project and the presentation is a celebration of their stories of strength, of resilience and of hope.

“ACU is committed to projects and programs that not only build capacity for marginalised groups, but also to broaden our staff and students’ world view, and build their capacity for meaningful engagement that enhances the dignity and wellbeing of others,” she said.

Principal of Mary MacKillop College Christine Clarke is a huge supporter of the project.  One of her students who participated last year implemented a similar project in the school and this is having a significant impact on teachers and students who attend the weekly story sharing.

“I want to commend ACU for this on the ground initiative,” she said.

“I think initiatives like this are where we find unity – to share stories is where our greatest understanding comes from.”

Narratives of Hope is a joint initiative between ACU’s Institute of Community Engagement (IACE) and Equity Pathways, with input and support from the Library, The School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, The School of Psychology, Brisbane Associate Vice-Chancellor’s Office and the Multicultural Development Association.

Find out more about community engagement at ACU.

Find out more about Equity Pathways.