Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University required a series of short videos to be developed for an emerging unit. The unit would introduce students across all areas of the campus to Dharug perspectives on Country, spiritual concepts including human and non-human ancestors and the importance of connecting to place and belonging. The content of the unit was to be developed by Dharug people including JoAnne Rey, a Dharug woman who was about to complete her PhD at Macquarie.
Jo reflected on her thesis, Country tracking voices: Dharug women’s perspectives on presences, places and practices, in this recent podcast episode: Perspectives in Parryville, Ep08: JoAnne Rey, Teacher-Librarian, Author and Researcher.
I met with the academic team and Dharug community members to negotiate the creative and pedagogical approach, production formats and other aspects, elements and parameters. At our initial meeting at Staff Cafe, Jo and I were met by crow. This project presented unique set of design and development dynamics: I needed to take a lead role, guided by various protocols and processes, simultaneous to being open, sensitive and responsive to people, presences and events on Country.
During production I worked very closely with a range of Dharug community members including researcher Jo Rey to plan and negotiate video production. My role was split across different roles in varying capacities: educational consultant, video producer and learning designer. I coordinated community interview participants (including photographer) on Country to gather the required video, audio and photographs, responding to local conditions as needed. It became very clear that I would need to be responsive to Country and the knowledges with which I engaged. I was primarily a conduit within a much larger process, a deeper understanding of which would emerge as the project developed. On a practical level, I worked closely with Jo to develop a few video samples: biographical and other reflections, as negotiated and guided by Jo. We critically reviewed these sample video clips, as did key stakeholders, to ensure the production approach was viable and suitable for the project needs. I then went out on Country and coordinated production of additional videos with community members, which were, in turn, viewed and critically assessed. Once we had a useable collection of video and audio clips, photographs and other media, Jo viewed and identified the preferred excerpts. I edited the video and audio clips and Jo and I designed and developed the online unit over approx. two years, in collaboration with Macquarie university’s Learning Innovation Hub: a true collaborative and iterative approach.
The project generated over 50 video and audio clips (along with 100s of photographs and additional media from the Dharug and academic communities) embedded into iLearn, Macquarie university’s moodle-based learning management system. More information about the unit Dharug Country: Presences, Places and People is outlined in the article Learning and teaching on Dharug country. As the initial offering of the course was nearing its end, I participated as a guest speaker in a learning circle, where students could engage with community members and the various learnings they’d experienced with the unit. It was an unexpected, interesting and enjoyable project that allowed me to collaboratively practice various instructional/media roles and offered profound insights into culture, the nature of knowledge and new ways of learning.