Reflections on Stories 2021

As an organiser, I want to know the impact of Stories, whether it’s worth creating these gatherings.

What people told us:

Loved the stories and songs. The feast of food and ideas. It “fed” me in so many ways.

This [event] inspired me with the rich knowledge of presenters. I felt nourished by the creativity.

Joyful. connected, relieved and affirmed meeting up with like minded people sharing thinking, reduced alienation.

Wonderfully polished performances. Jan’s workshop and musical events were gold standard.

Whether hearing the stories changed their views and relationships.
Jan Wositzky’s response in song to Grattan Mullett’s Welcome to County

Lovely, warm gathering of diverse people including Aboriginal people which almost never happens

The great value of the very land we live on.

Sense of connection with local community: indigenous and non-indigenous. With place. Lake Tyers and Gippsland.

Robyn and Friends of Oneonta sharing insights on the value of this land

Aviva’s talk on micro-organisms and how life is all around us all the time – the cycles.

Cultural stories are important. Made me have strong feelings to do something. There was attention to reconciliation.

Wonderful space to be stirred up, to let ideas presented deepen, coagulate and ponder. Thank you for your stewardship and solidarity to Gunaikurnai and the hope and direction you bring to connection and protection of this land in our backyards.

Uncle Alan Coe. Sharing his story and speaking of his work with Aboriginal men leaving prison
If new partnerships and opportunities resulted?

Brilliant event. Have more. I will help in any way I can.

Welcome to Country. Jan’s song in response to the Welcome to Country made me cry.

This was my first connection to community and connection to Gunaikurnai people.

It was perfect. But more Neil Murray.

Unscripted musical conversation with Neil Murray and Jan Wositky.

Stories are so important. Endings or spirals. I will definitely come back.

A connection to Lake Tyers which I want to continue – a flow along Croajingalong to Mallacoota and back. The priveledge with artists and locals.

In the closing panel presenters reflected on what the gathering meant for them.

Storytellers, musicians and artists welcomed this gathering space

For Jan Wositzky the mix of storytelling in art, print and performance , the attention to ecology and culture leading to action for inclusion are familiar and he welcomes the opportunity to contribute.

Neil Murray not only entertained us but soaked up the experience and is keen to return. Rachael Taylor took our tired souls to a peaceful place with her fragile and powerful forest song. Uncle Herb Patten played gum leaf and thanked us for sharing a white perspective on reconciliation.

Di Deppeler: artist, organiser and resident of bushfire impacted community welcomed the opportunity to connect, to listen to others and speak of the Gippsland Women’s Network stories told in the ebook Artbeat of the Country. Visual ecologist Aviva Reed filled our minds with dramatic images of mutualism constantly engaged within the life in soil and water. Her book Eons on the life of fossils is a delight for all ages.

ABC Journalist Rachael Lucas interviewing Chris Flynn author of The Mammoth

ABC journalist Rachael Lucas interviewed many presenters prior to Stories. Interviews with Neil Murray, Todd Cook, Alice Ann Pepper, Di Deppeler and Chris Flynn and Aviva Reed are on this site. Others will be available in coming weeks.

Aviva Reed – stretching our imagination to envisage dynamic life all around us


Feedback included requests for more Aboriginal presenters. Between 2020 and 2021 there was constant change with dates, times, venues and presenters. Aunty Aileen (Mongta) Blackburn had agreed to speak about growing yam daisies at Onenta but change of dates conflicted with family events.

Aboriginal writer and playwright Leah Purcell was a keynote presenter on her book ‘The Drover’s Wife’ but with covid leading to border closures could not make the trip. Tony Birch, Aboriginal writer and academic was an enthusiastic participant until a family crisis led to him cancelling involvement. Tyson Yunkaporta author of Sand Talks: how indigenous knowledge can save the world was keen to participate but couldn’t straddle time and travel between events in Sydney and Lake Tyers. Not all is lost and there is an open invitation for future involvement.

Locals Wayne Thorpe: author of A story of Bung Yarnda (aka Lake Tyers) had prior commitments in Melbourne and Alice Ann Pepper artist and designer of the Vixen’s Indigenous round frock had treaty commitments. We encourage people to access their interviews and books. Local poet Andrew Spiker was to share his poem A Bush Poet in memory of Sue Fraser. As Andrew was unwell a verse is included.

 Bush Poet
I remember that afternoon, standing in the car park
of the Memorial Hall, we talked about writing poetry
with you readily producing Bush Verse
for the twenty-first century
and me following the Modernists.
We agreed
that the act itself is what transports,
and, on saying this, how your face lit up and shone.
Andrew Spiker 2020

At one stage the whole event was to relocate to Forestec now the home of Gunaikurnai Land and Water Corporation.  Reconciliation East Gippsland organisers continued to raise awareness of lack of attention to past history and steps to overcome barriers in all aspects of policy that impact on Aboriginal people. 

The continuing contact by the Stories team and Reconciliation East Gippsland is changing understanding of what is possible if we work together.  More people of Aboriginal heritage were comfortable to attend over the weekend and some spoke of their journey of moving from marginalised lives to being active in the wider community. 

Grattan Mullett Snr. And Uncle Alan Coe shared their stories as did Mayor Mendy Urie who spoke of attending a cultural camp organised by Uncle Max Harrison on Mt. Gulga to learn more of the ceremony and culture that transformed her views.  This was a story of people’s relationship to a mountain. 

Community engagement at Stories of Influence

Stories is about our lake and we are delighted that people travelled from Mallacoota, Bruthen, Clifton Creek, Phillip Island and Melbourne to be part of this gathering that shared different yet equally influential stories.  Josie’s textiles and stories of lake life have led to return invitations being accepted from writers, singers and artists.  She is delighted.  Chris Flynn learnt of ancient life recently discovered in Coggs Caves at Buchan.

Our capacity to link with the Lee McGowan and Fiona Crawford authors of Never Say Die: Hundred year overnight success of women’s football being interviewed by Claire Flynn was a failure due to high internet use on the holiday weekend.  The presenters recorded this interview which unpacks the same pattern of damage that occurs when one group assumes superiority over another and the ways the strength of community chipped away to overcome those imposed barriers.  It is a story with connections to Todd Cook’s songs of the first Cricket Team to tour the United Kingdom in Silent Boat.   

When we make the space people bring their stories and we all learn.

Todd Cook
Todd Cook taking us to different times and places
March 24, 2021
Stories of Influence 2021