Recently, as a member of the Parks and Wilderness Council, I was afforded the opportunity to visit the Northern Flinders Ranges to learn more about South Australia’s bid for this iconic cultural, geological and biodiverse landscape to be recognised under UNESCO World Heritage.
Throughout this trip, Council were given opportunities to visit the recently proclaimed Nilpena Ediacara National Park where Ross showcased one of the most important Ediacaran fossil sites in the world. We also made our way through Brachina Gorge and into Sacred Canyon, where Aunty Pauline explained the great cultural significance of these landscapes to the Adnyamathanha people.
It was these opportunities that reminded me of one of the reasons why I love spending time with people, adventuring through the outdoors – storytelling.
For 60,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People have been doing just that – communally gathering around a campfire to listen to stories from the Dreamtime, or tell of daily happenings, such as what they had learnt, hunted or encountered. Harnessing oral communication, they would speak, sing, dance and/or share in art and craft-making. To me, no group of people have affirmed the value of storytelling like Indigenous people have and continue to do.
My time in the Flinders Ranges reminded me of how holistically important storytelling is to our lives. As I reflected on the experiences of the stories being shared to me by Aunty Pauline, Ross, or from the many others in our group or the people we met along the adventure, I made the below notes.
Storytelling is one of the most powerful means that we all have to influence, teach, and inspire others.
Stories are what connects us as people between history, experiences, opportunities and ideas. They take even the most beautiful landscapes, adrenalin filling adventures and unique encounters and make them come alive. Stories convey the culture, history, and values that unite people.
When it comes to our communities, our friends and our families, we intuitively understand that it is the stories we hold in common which bind us together.
Stories enable us to learn from others about past experiences and moments in time, connecting the experiences shared between us of the present day and motivating us to create new ones to share with each other in our future.
When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People share together, they aren’t just entertainers but they are also preserving their culture while educating future generations in the history, values and lore of their people.
Storytelling connects us as humans, whether on the trail, sitting around at camp or enjoying that drink in the next country town. Stories take the words off signage, the paragraphs off pages, the data off the sheets and engages us in that content. Stories make us better active listeners, as we become immersed in a fun, risk-free, and transformative learning opportunity.
Stories connect generation to generation through cultural practices, beliefs, traditions, values, languages, experiences and relationships.
Storytelling helps with learning because stories are easy to remember – I certainly remember a well-told story more accurately, and for far longer, than listening to or reading facts and figures.
Stories ground us in a moment in time. When outdoors, stories allow us to feel the ground beneath our feet, to see the beauty of nature around us, to smell the freshness of the day, to hear the calls of the bush and to taste the opportunity for new experiences.
Storytelling builds an image in our imagination of that moment in time, which can appeal to a diversity of listeners, it allows us to appreciate what it may have been like at that moment and it expands our interests into new areas.
I was certainly encouraged to share in more storytelling as a result of this trip. To me, that is the difference of the experience in any destination, circumstance or opportunity… when storytelling is engaged, we can convey a style of immersive learning that can influence, teach, and/or inspire others.