How has this app come about?

When a young man committed suicide in 2005, in the remote community of Lajamanu, local Warlpiri elders said ‘Enough is enough’. Decades of western medical intervention have failed to stop the steady increase in indigenous suicides and, in 2005, Lajamanu’s elders took matters into their own hands. With help from friends, Lajamanu’s elders established Milpirri festival to spread the traditional idea of ‘Kurdiji’ among their young people and to foster a sense of belonging. They began to fight for every single young indigenous life in their community. Despite steadily increasing suicide rates across Aboriginal Australia over the past decade,  there hasn’t been a suicide in Lajamanu since 2005.

Now those same elders want to bring Kurdiji into the digital age, with a community created app based on stories, ceremonies and law. They want to fight for all indigenous lives, not just those in remote or traditional communities. The ideas of Kurdiji belong to an initiation ceremony of the same name. For most of Aboriginal history these ideas were only accessible through Kurdiji ceremony or directly from elders in community. Warlpiri people are changing their laws, giving wide public access to these ideas for the purpose of saving lives.

What do you mean by Community led?

The Warlpiri Elders are the guardians of their cultural history and knowledge. The idea to place those ideas, concepts and philosophies into a mobile platform application (app) originates with them. All the content provided for the app will be derived from the Elders and Community members either directly or with their collaboration and permission. The Project Team has been invited by the Elders to work with them in creating the app.

Wherever possible and practical the Kurdiji Project will involve, encourage, mentor and support Community members in the creation of the app as part of our commitment to a fair and genuine knowledge transfer between the Community and the Project Team. Most of the work done on this app – the creation of content and development – will take place in Lajamanu community.

Why are you crowdfunding?

There are a number of reasons for crowdfunding.

  1. There is an urgency to this project in terms of helping to prevent suicides and in capturing the wisdom of the Warlpiri Elders the majority of whom are elderly and want to see this knowledge recorded, preserved and passed on.
  2. We want to allow ordinary people, like you, to show their commitment to reducing the appalling rates of suicide in Indigenous Australia. We know that there are people who want to help and this provides a way for them to help.
  3. If we can show that there is a popular mandate by reaching our total and being able to create a pilot app then we will be able to demonstrate to funding bodies both public and private that there is a commitment to help solve this problem.

We are and will continue to seek funding and appropriate partnerships for the project but the processes involved takes time, effort and money.

Is it just for the Warlpiri?

No. While the pilot will focus on the Warlpiri communities and those outside of their communities the fundamental philosophies of Kurdiji belong to all Indigenous nations. There are, of course, people who have lost their connection to community because of past Australian policies that removed them or their parents into white care, but Kurdiji belongs to them too. The underlying ideas of Kurdiji, to do with belonging, caring for country, respect and dignity, will benefit everyone who has struggled with feelings of isolation, depression or hopelessness. The Warlpiri Elders also believe that this knowledge should be shared with all Australians whether Indigenous or not and it is their hope that by sharing their wisdom it will help everyone understand their connection to Country better and build bridges between cultures.

Why build an app?

The question is a good one and the answer is simple. Warlpiri lands and communities are remote. As the crow flies, Lajamanu, the base for this project, is 686km north east of Alice Springs and 654km south of Darwin. Lajamanu’s Elders want to share their knowledge as widely as possible and the pervasiveness of mobile devices within both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people offers that opportunity. In remote communities, which may only have a handful of computers for everyone to share, most young people have a phone. To get the ideas out across Aboriginal Australia, to the remote communities and to young people in the cities, wouldn’t be possible without technology.

Figures for smartphone use for the whole of Australia estimated a 89% penetration in early 2016 and anecdotal evidence supports that mobile device use within Indigenous communities is high especially – and crucially – amongst young people.

Will the app work in remote communities?

Reception inside most Indigenous communities is average to good and normally limited to larger telecommunication providers such as Telstra – reception in the cities is not an issue.

Like most of the more remote parts of Australia, reception outside communities can be limited or unavailable. We are looking to get as much data encapsulated in the app itself so that the core information will not require a mobile data link, additional data will be available however if a connection is present.

Will I have to pay for the app?

No absolutely not, nor will there be any in app purchase or ‘pay to view’. The Warlpiri are offering this knowledge to benefit everyone not just those who can afford to buy it.

What will the app do?

Kurdiji 1.0 will be an interactive, bilingual (Warlpiri-English) app to help people connect with culture and understand the central importance of language, ceremony, skin name and law to a strong sense of self, identity and sense of belonging.

This is a two way street; for non-indigenous people it will give insights into Aboriginal culture, philosophy and approaches to mental health, and promote a better understanding of what it means to be part of a multicultural society with a rich and ancient Indigenous history at it’s core. For Aboriginal people, those in community and those in urban areas, it will reinforce cultural pride, reconnect them with traditional ideas and build self esteem and resilience by emphasising the links between the individual, family/kinships networks and community

What will the app look like/how will it work?

The pilot app will concentrate on the four pillars of Kurdiji – ceremony, skin name and law – and how these relate to each other, to the individual, community and country. We are also working with Black Dog Institute to ensure that the app is fit for purpose as a tool for building resilience and suicide prevention. We have the technological know how and the design skills necessary to create the app. It is critical however that the Project Team work out of Lajamanu, as the real directors and designers of this app are Indigenous Elders.

The app will be structured around a menu depicting the four pillars of Kurdiji. Clicking on one of these items, say, for instance ‘Ceremony’, will take you to a collection of material that provides information about ceremony. This might include video, audio, clickable links or interactive elements.

What information will you be collecting for the app?

The project will be using photographic material, video, audio recording, 3D scanning and motion capture to gather together the resources to make the app. This will be determined by the Elders and Community, as it is their culture they are choosing to share and there are many different forms of artifacts, practice, stories, songlines, places and knowledge some of which are culturally sensitive.

What will happen to the resources you gather?

We will use some of those resources to build the content for the pilot app of course. However all primary resources approved by the elders and community will be lodged in a national archive available to the public.

What will happen at the end of the pilot?

Hopefully we will have demonstrated that the app is a useful tool in building resilience and helps to save lives.The cultural information we will have recorded will be safeguarded and the clinical research will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of a community-led approach to suicide prevention. This will form the basis for new versions of the app that we hope to create over the next 4-5 years. These versions would be translated into as many indigenous languages as possible and would reflect the mental health related approaches of many aboriginal nations. We hope, in addition to tackling the issue of aboriginal suicides, our series of apps will engender a deeper understanding of Indigenous Australian culture as a whole – but an understanding shared by Indigenous peoples themselves, rather than one imposed, however well meaning, by non-indigenous scholars and politicians.

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