Indigenous Community Stories

Indigenous Community Stories is a project that records Western Australia's Indigenous heritage, cultural and historical stories using high definition digital video technology and professional film crews.

The aim of ICS is to record 100 oral histories, so they can be viewed by future generations as well as creating invaluable records of Australia's national cultural identity.

Our very own Dr Mary Anne Jebb is an ICS panel member, but has been involved with the project in a variety of ways for five years now. Dr Jebb shared her ICS story with us…


Peace Dodd being interviewed by Jason Thomas. Image courtesy of Indigenous Community Stories.
Peace Dodd being interviewed by Jason Thomas. Image courtesy of Indigenous Community Stories.


As a panel member for ICS I help select applications from Aboriginal communities in WA for filming their stories. But I've been a director for communities, a researcher and a cultural liaison person, as well.

I came across ICS in 2009 when I was working for Community Arts Network WA as an oral historian and story recorder with Noongar people of the eastern wheat belt for a project called 'Bush Babies'.

We were organising a series of interviews with people born at Badjalling reserve east of Perth and decided to have a big 'back to Badjalling' event to celebrate everyone's connection to Badjalling and honour the Noongar midwives.

The strategic advisor from CANWA for the eastern wheat belt, Ivy Penny, suggested we supplement our sound recordings and the community successfully applied for an ICS grant to have a film crew come to help record stories.

The crew were fantastic and over five days we recorded hundreds of people at a 100th birthday event, the back to Badjalling event, as well as individuals and the Seven Sisters story that extends across the desert into Noongar country.

I had been recording sound or oral histories for years but this was my first experience recording audio-visual footage with high production quality equipment.

In 2010 I was curating the new Gwoonwardu Mia art and culture centre in Carnarvon (1000kms from Perth) for five language groups, and we decided to apply for a grant to record stories for the people of the Gascoyne.

We also decided to make a film from the stories about the burrowing bee to put in the new art and culture centre permanent exhibition. This time I was researcher and director. The ICS crew made sure we had fantastic quality footage that will be stored at AIATSIS for the future.

The bee film is eight minutes and an important part of the exhibition. It is collaborative and starts with people deciding they want to have their stories recorded. It is different from many films in that it is community driven, the 'script' develops after we work out who wants to talk, about what and where, and there is only community voices - no narrator.

In 2012 I was adviser for an ICS visit to the north Kimberley. We worked with Ngarinyin and Worrorra women I have known for 25 years. We recorded a 93 year old lady I had worked with before in her country as she walks toward her waterhole talking to the spirits of her country.

All footage comes to AIATSIS with no strings attached. Each Participant or storyteller continues to control their intellectual property and knows that their knowledge will be stored safely at AIATSIS.

This program means they do not have to make a film straight away, produce a book or be 'researched', the recording is high quality and for community.

I hope the ICS program will one day be national. The footage is priceless.

Last reviewed: 15 Jul 2016