Culture merged with technology at the Richmond Emerging Aboriginal Leadership (REAL) Program.

The program, a joint initiative between Richmond’s centre for Indigenous youth, the Korin Gamadji Institute, the University of Melbourne and other partners, used digital technology to express the participants’ cultural identity in an urban environment.

The eight participants, aged 15 to 21 years, explored alternative ways to use mobile devices and apps to create stories that are visually exciting and supportive of contemporary Aboriginal youth culture.

The group travelled to Jungai, near Eildon, and was immersed in cultural activities and workshops.

It marked the third digital storytelling program for Chamika Sadler.

“It gives us something to belong to,” Sadler said.

“Before these KGI programs I knew nothing of my Aboriginality. My first camp, I thought it felt good being around people who are the same as me. When I went home I asked family about where I’m from and the ball just started rolling.”

Over the four-day program, Sadler developed a story that was based on her identity.

“I based it around the questions ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Who do you think you are?’,” she said.

“I compared that to a young boy going on walkabout – the first couple of moments before he takes off and when he comes back a man.”

The University of Melbourne Research Fellow, Fran Edmonds, has been working on the digital storytelling project since 2012.

She said it gave the young Indigenous participants the capacity and power to voice their own opinions.

“The week was a total immersion in the storytelling process,” Edmonds said.

“We’ve tried to get the participants to creatively think of ways they could represent themselves, not so much through photographs or videos, but using design and transferring that to the digital.”

The Aboriginal young people and Digital Storytelling project is an Australian Research Council Linkage Project. It is conducted in collaboration between Richmond Football Club’s centre for Indigenous youth, Korin Gamadji Institute and the University of Melbourne. Partners on the project include VicHealth, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and SistaGirl Productions – an Indigenous production company based in Brunswick, Melbourne. Creative Victoria have also provided funding for the project.