Rural schools discover local history through digital art

Kangaroo Flats Primary School are working with a digital artist to build a virtual version of the Bendigo Creek in an app and fill it with stories about its history.

'We're looking back through the layers of local history,' says principal Kim Saddlier.

'We have students who have recently arrived from Burma and Afghanistan, students whose families have been here for generations, and Aboriginal students – we're going to reflect all of these histories.'

It's one of 21 projects under way across the state thanks to Creative Learning Partnership residency program run by Creative Victoria, which links schools with artists and provides funding for them to work together on a project.

The school is working with RMIT's Olivia Guntarik, a digital media artist who is interested in how and why we tell stories. She says the partnership is 'a great fit.'

'I get to work closely with students on a project which teaches them about history and technology and which is relevant to me and my research,' Ms Guntarik says.

'Students learn how to dig up stories from the past. Then they learn how to capture these stories as videos or through pictures or some other means.'

'The impact was amazing, students who hated maths were suddenly outside measuring buildings, scaling them down and building a digital world.'

Dja Dja Wurrung Clan Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter is advising RMIT on the project.

'Telling these stories makes people more invested in them and they become part of their story,' Mr Carter says. 'It's a great way of using new technology to bring old stories to life and bring people together.'

Ms Guntarik is working on a similar project with Woodford Primary School. Principal Daniel Watson says there's lots of history in the area that will be revealed by this project.

'Woodford was a famous stopover in the early 1900s with tanneries and pubs. This app will highlight what went on in them, as well as Aboriginal history and more modern stories,' says Mr Watson.

'I reckon we will make some exciting discoveries on the way.'