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Abstract

This article discusses a pilot project that adapted the methods of digital storytelling and oral history to capture a range of personal responses to the official Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008. The project was an initiative of State Library of Queensland and resulted in a small collection of multimedia stories, incorporating a variety of personal and political perspectives. The article describes how the traditional digital storytelling workshop method was adapted for use in the project, and then proceeds to reflect on the outcomes and continuing life of the project. The article concludes by suggesting that aspects of the resultant model might be applied to other projects carried out by cultural institutions and community-based media organizations.

Introduction

On 13 February 2008, newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an official apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples.[1] It was an event that had been centuries in the making, and for many observers it was more than a decade overdue, coming 11 years after the Bringing Them Home report into the Stolen Generations,[2] which had strongly recommended that “all Australian Parliaments officially acknowledge the responsibility of their predecessors for the laws, policies and practices of forcible removal” (1999: 5a). The Apology was directed at all those who had been affected by these policies, and acknowledged the continuing loss and trauma that resulted from them. The question of the Apology—long awaited but never delivered—had been one of the most persistently divisive and hotly debated issues in Australian public life under Rudd’s immediate predecessor John Howard. When it finally came, it was broadcast live on national television, becoming one of the most widely shared common experiences in the Australian cultural public sphere.[3] In the media more broadly, it prompted intense discussions of related issues and a broad range of emotional responses. In this article, we focus on the ways the Apology as a shared national event functions as a catalyst for and continuation of public conversation via a range of mainstream and community media, and reflect on a co-creative media project that attempted to amplify and archive aspects of the event.

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