Access to Ara Irititja by Anangu

The archive project is interactive and participatory at the community and personal level. Cultural and historical information is both distributed and collected through the Keeping Culture KMS system. People of all ages are able to work together on Ara Irititja. It is a family and community group activity that draws people of several generations together. People can record themselves in real time telling stories into the archive either through text, sound or movies.

Both from within the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) communities and increasingly from the broader Australian perspective, Ara Irititja is seen to offer a valuable contribution as one of the components in the educational delivery and transmission of APY culture and history to their own youth.

As far back as 2007 there were workstations in Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia that gave Anangu regular access to the Ara Irititja archive. These included:

  • All APY communities in SA (except Kanpi and Nyapari where the computer archive is located at the nearby Murputja Education Centre)
  • All APY Schools
  • Ernabella Arts, Pukatja
  • Pukatja (Ernabella) University of SA Anangu Tertiary Education Program (AnTEP)
  • PY Media, Umuwa
  • APY Land Management, Umuwa
  • Ngaanyatjarra Media centre at Irrunytju WA
  • National Parks centre at Mutitjulu NT
  • Anangu community centres at Utju (Areyonga) NT and Tjuntjuntjara and Coonana in WA
  • Port Augusta Prison SA
  • Umoona Aged Care Facility, Coober Pedy SA
  • Alice Springs NT, NPY Women’s Council and PY Media
  • At secondary student centres at Woodville High School and Wiltja Hostel, Adelaide SA

Now the archive is accessed all over the APY Lands and throughout other remote communities in Central Australia, wherever there is a computer and adequate internet.

Families of many generations look together to learn about their family history on the Ara Irititja computer archive, ensuring the transmission of cultural knowledge between age groups. Already Ara Irititja is in strong demand at the community level. Commonly, groups, including up to four generations at one time, use the archive. People can now access Ara Irititja through their iPhones or iPads.

Using Ara Irititja provides young people with new skills such as creating a research project and the critical thinking that is a part of that process. Ara Irititja gives children and young people a path into the complex relationships of their culture. To understand where you come from and who you are related to assists individuals to better engage and connect with family, friends, communities and life itself. It is well documented that life expectancy for Aboriginal people is far below mainstream levels and many children and young people lose their parents and other family members well before they are adults themselves.

Some of the tangible outcomes of Ara Irititja expressed by Anangu include:

  • An expanded sense of personal history and cultural traditions for all generations.
  • An appreciation of the role of Information Technology (IT) in the preservation of personal and community knowledge.
  • The opportunity to use IT.
  • Enhanced individual and community well-being.
  • The transfer of new skills, educational capabilities and resources for the benefit of all levels of the community and organisations.

Employment of community operators

Ara Irititja has always tried to employ community operators whenever it has the funding to do so.

From quantitative evaluation and observations by the project team, the majority of community members know how to operate the existing database. We provided training using a ‘train the trainer’ approach and the effectiveness of this is apparent by the large numbers of people, especially younger people, who can now operate the system. In many cases, young Anangu operate it for their older relatives. Ara Irititja is the first experience many older people have had with computers and a respect is generated for the growing ability of the young operators.