In summary

  • Swinburne has teamed up with the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School and Australian Chamber Orchestra to create stunning animations ‘A Land Far Away & Close to Home’
  • It features the films 'Our Journey' and 'Planet MITS', which is  showing at ACMI from 7–13 August 2021
  • Swinburne’s project coordinator, community-based design researcher, digital media artist and educator, Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek, says the program is ‘deeply collaborative and moving’

Swinburne has teamed up with Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS) to produce a series of Indigenous students’ stories for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) next gen_now exhibit Running in August.

'A Land Far Away & Close to Home’ consists of two short films conceived, animated and narrated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from MITS. ‘Our Journey and ‘Planet MITS’ highlight the students’ experiences of living in Melbourne and the challenges of being away from their families, community and country. 

Swinburne Centre for Transformative Media Technologies senior lecturer and researcher Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek is project coordinator of the MITS digital storytelling program, Marngo Designing Futures. She says it is a ‘wonderful, deeply collaborative and moving program to be a part of’.

The Moondani Toombadool Centre has provided funding to support Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek’s work

Students from the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School work with Swinburne, particularly Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek, to create the films

Creating space for important stories

Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek approached MITS about opportunities to help students to develop creative skills and share their stories three years ago. Since then, the program has made the students feel like they have a voice with the help of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

‘The transformative agency of place-based and culture centred storytelling gives voice to their experiences and it validates their lives, enabling themselves to see themselves on screen through the animated characters they’ve developed,’ says Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek. 

The students, who are aged around 12, travel from all around Australia to participate in the year-long school boarding program at MITS. Many have never lived away from their homes or in a large city like Melbourne. 

‘It can be a bit daunting to be away from their family, extended communities and culture, as well as adjusting to moving from their own country to living in a big city,’ Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek says. 

After such a drastic change, the animation program facilitates a culturally safe co-creation space, which Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek says has ‘brought out a number of strengths in them that they didn’t know they had’.

The stop-motion animated films are created by the students and tell their stories in their native languages.

Animating reality

Teacher at MITS, Sarah George, was heavily involved in the creation of the films to be shown at ACMI. ‘The students bring great cultural and linguistical capital to the classroom,’ says Ms George. 

‘Developing the narrative, story boards and props is a way of using their own culture and language to make sense of their new cultural experiences and language. Telling these stories teaches them teamwork, research, IT and language skills with content that is meaningful to them.’

Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek feels that including the films in the ACMI exhibition will only further students’ pride and confidence.

‘I hope that these films have afforded these students the opportunity to feel proud, strong and empowered, and that their stories mattered, they have agency, and are creative,’ she says. 

 ‘A Land Far Away & Close to Home’ will be at ACMI from 7-13 August 2021. Entry is free and does not require a booking.

Following the latest advice from the Victorian Government, ACMI will be temporarily closed from Friday 6 August. Unfortunately, next gen_now is postponed. 

Swinburne and ACMI look forward to rescheduling this event showcasing exciting digital experiences, films, games and art. Check the ACMI website for updates.

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