Over the past 35 years CAN has been building relationships that create opportunities for people to determine for themselves what stories best express the diversity of experience, aspiration and imagination alive in Western Australians.
Bush Babies was a multi-faceted community arts project that preserved and celebrated the stories of Noongar babies born in the bush and the midwives who delivered them.
In 2010 a group of local Quairading community members came together for a reunion at the Badjaling Noongar Reserve in the Central Wheatbelt, sharing photographs, stories and memories of the Reserve. This reunion sowed the seeds of the Bush Babies project, which ran until 2016 with a total of 8 phases held across regional WA. While each community was unique in its approach to the storytelling, arts and research process, the sharing, recording and celebrating of Noongar stories were at the heart of each project phase.
Bush Babies culminated in a range of arts outcomes including publications, exhibitions and precious memorabilia, all celebrating Noongar culture and history. Thanks to participants who generously shared their stories, the Bush Babies project preserved Noongar history for future generations and facilitated community healing.
The Bush Babies project was produced by CAN and funded by the Federal Government.
In 2016, a group of Aboriginal young people in Narrogin participated in a series of CAN workshops where they wrote and recorded the song 'Djarliny', which means 'listen' in Noongar. The group, who call themselves Burdiya Mob, also starred in the song's music video clip and behind the scenes documentary produced by CAN.
Filmed in and around Narrogin and featuring culturally significant sites, the music video is a celebration of contemporary and traditional Noongar culture.
Throughout this project, CAN gave the young participants access to an incredible line-up of professional artists: singer-songwriter Gina Williams, actor Ian Wilkes, hip hop artist Scott Griffiths, filmmaker Poppy van Oorde-Grainger and music photographer Matsu.
Elders and parents in Narrogin were also an integral part of the project, teaching the young people cultural practices such as tool making, kangaroo skin tanning, fire making, eco-dyeing, language and dance.
The Burdiya Mob project promoted language revival, cultural pride and creative skill development for this talented young group in Narrogin.
'Djarliny' had its national debut on Triple J and received rave reviews from the station’s hosts.
In 2011, a small group of community members in Quairading and Kellerberrin got together for some musical workshops. Elders in both towns had long considered running a music project as a means to share stories, develop their singing skills and facilitate healing. These workshops brought this aspiration to life, evolving into the Healing Songs project.
Three years later in 2014, the album Shine: Healing Songs from the Heart and the Land was released, a soulful collection of ballads that tell stories of love, loss, life, culture and the magic of Ballardong Country.
Award-winning Noongar singer-songwriter Gina Williams, with musicians Guy Ghouse and David Hyams, guided the group from the beginning with singing and songwriting workshops. The workshops focused on developing new songs, co-creating music and honing the group’s performance skills.
This album of professionally recorded music and lyrics was launched at the Midland Junction Arts Centre.
The Noongar Pop Culture project involved 2 phases that ran from 2013-2015. Project workshops empowered young Noongar students at Narrogin Senior High School to explore creativity and celebrate culture through engaging with a range of art forms, including contemporary music, dance, fashion design and photography.
The first phase of the project focused on language revival, aiming to inspire students to learn their critically endangered language – Noongar. A team of Aboriginal artists, performers and role models met with students for workshops involving hip hop, creating original tracks with the Noongar language and translating contemporary pop songs. The students filmed and starred in four music videos which were compiled into a CD/DVD pack, and the project gained widespread media coverage on SBS, NITV and ABC.
The second phase of Noongar Pop Culture aimed to motivate students to attend school by empowering them with creative skills. A series of fashion design, dressmaking, upcycling, eco-dyeing, weaving, photography and dance workshops were held for the 17 students who participated, and their new skills were showcased through a photography shoot, fashion parades and exhibitions featuring their handcrafted designs. Curtin University’s current affairs program, Noongar Dandjoo, produced a documentary about the project that aired on NITV in 2015.
Both phases of the Noongar Pop Culture project not only improved students' school attendance rates but also increased their confidence, nurtured their creativity and strengthened their pride in culture.
The Voices of the Wheatbelt project ran from 2008-2014 and involved 8 communities from across the Eastern Wheatbelt, aiming to give them a voice through projects in photography, film and audio-documentary.
Using photography to explore and express their identity and sense of belonging, the project allowed participants to form and rediscover relationships with environment, family, community and each other. Voices of the Wheatbelt resulted in individual and community growth and empowerment, increased awareness of social and cultural spaces and stronger relations among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Photographs taken by the students and adults across the towns were combined in an exhibition that appeared at significant events in the Wheatbelt, including the Unity Walk during NAIDOC week in Quairading, the Badjaling Noongar Cultural Festival and the Wheatbelt Cultural Festival in Northam.
Voices of the Wheatbelt was funded by the Department of Families and Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
In 2014 CAN teamed with artists Lady Bananas and Tomahawk to deliver graffiti and stencil art workshops that explored the history and medium of urban art to young locals (aged 5-17 years) at the Tanami Youth Park.
Younger participants created their own paste-up/stencil art piece to take home, while the older kids worked with the artists to design and paint bright statement pieces on walls around the park. These workshops gave the new young residents of the estate a sense of ownership and connection to the youth park, which includes facilities such as skateable ramps, climbing walls and a staging area for performances.
This project was supported by Landcorp and Place Partners and was part of a series of events in Waranyjarri Estate’s three-year Community Building Plan.
Head Tales was a storytelling project designed to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and ignite the inner storyteller in participants.
Starting in 2014, a series of storytelling workshops were held for clients of mental health services across regional WA in Margaret River, Bunbury, Busselton, Geraldton and Narrogin. Along the way, CAN expanded the program to involve digital animation, visual arts and audio recording.
Professional actor and comedian, Andrea Gibbs, ran each of the workshops which were designed to allow participants to explore issues of mental health in a safe, friendly and inclusive environment where they could build their confidence and self-esteem by sharing their stories.
Head Tales was supported by the WA Mental Health Commission and CAN worked with various organisations to deliver the program in each town, including Pathways, Lamp Inc and True Colours Bunbury in the South West and Arafmi WA and Regional Home Care Services in Geraldton.
The Gnarojin Creek Public Art project comprised of a series of community arts projects that ran between 2010-2013, resulting in the installation of 4 public artworks in Gnarojin Creek. The finished pieces revitalised the public space, highlighting the significance of the creek’s walking trail held dearly by the local Aboriginal community in Narrogin.
The project's 4 phases each connected professional artists with community participants in order to work together on the design, construction and installation of a unique public art piece.
Each piece embodying a significant part of Noongar culture, the finished works consisted of: The Rainbow Serpent, a 3m tall concrete sculpture reminiscent of a Noongar shield, seed pod and flame; Boomerang Seats, 3 boomerang-shaped seats each depicting the 6 Noongar seasons; Narrogin Poles, culturally inspired paintings and carvings on a series of poles that were originally installed in 1993-1994; and The Charrnock Woman, beautiful mosaic works placed on natural rock formations that tell the story of 'The Charrnock Woman' from the Dreamtime.
In 2013, CAN worked with Newmont Boddington Gold and Sodexo to deliver a community and public art project that would represent the local Noongar culture, create cultural dialogue and enhance the Newmont Boddington Gold site.
Noongar artists Lance Chadd and Donna Beach worked with community members and mine workers to prepare, design, paint and carve six wooden poles. Installed throughout the landscape at the mine site, the Noongar Boddington Poles formed a bold, bright and engaging art piece that represent the Noongar seasons, in both Noongar and English, and feature the flora and fauna of the area.
The Noongar Boddington Poles were well received and the project created strong cultural dialogue between Newmont Boddington Gold, Sodexo and the community.
In 2013, CAN worked with Quairading District High School to celebrate its centenary through a series of animated short films that told stories from its history. After engaging the wider community to share their stories, students brought them to life with animation artist Steven Aiton.
The animations portrayed Noongar Dreamtime stories, experiences of students throughout the school’s 100-year history, and the moving and historical account of local Noongar Elder John Kickett, whose efforts helped end segregated education in Western Australia.
The process of gathering and animating these stories strengthened the relationship between local Elders and the school. In turn, students learned the depth of their town’s history, acquiring a real sense of how important these stories are to their community.
The project also gave students and teachers new digital animation skills, enabling them to use the iPads, digital cameras, light boxes and other technology already available at the school with more versatility.