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Thank the Story Makers

Here at Whitehorse Manningham Libraries we are pretty good at sharing stories. After all, lending books is our bread and butter.

But stories are so much more than what’s in a book. They are embedded in our culture — in songs, movies and newspapers. They are in the anecdotes passed down the generations with a family recipe and delight of funny Facebook post.

Stories are everywhere.

So when we heard the 2017 National Trust Heritage Festival was all about celebrating the voices who create our shared heritage, history and culture we started researching.

Who are our local voices? What stories are we telling, as a community? We started off curious, and ended up inspired.

So we made some more stories to share: those of our local story-makers. And to those marvellous people we just want to say: thank you.

Download booklet here

First, a little ode

Dave O’Neil

(With a nod to Steve Jobs’ Here’s to the crazy ones)

To the writers, the journalists, the photographers. The singers, the songwriters, the speakers and the scripwriters. To the wordsmiths, the playwrights, the artists and poets. To the filmmakers, the speechmakers, the linguists and leaders.

Thank you.

For sharing your stories, for highlighting the plight, for championing the cause and cultivating our culture. For every carefully chosen word, every whimsical flight of fancy, every piece of passionate prose, and every creative crisis.

The rattling, the battling, the letters, the luck. The learning, the language, the listening.

Thank you for your courage. Your creativity. For your words and your voices.

Thank you for keeping our stories alive.

A word from our sponsor: oxytocin.

Hazel Edwards

Ever wonder why we all love to hear a good story? Beyond the thrill of a good yarn it turns out we are genetically hardwired to respond.

As we listen to stories an “amazing neural ballet” takes place. The feel-good hormone oxytocin is released, neuroscientist Professor Paul Zac told the Harvard Business Review. His finds were the result of more than a decade of research.

“Oxytocin is a key ‘it’s safe to approach others’ signal in the brain. [It] is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and motivates cooperation."

In short story-telling helps us feel good, be more connected and be better members of society.

Best-selling children’s book author Hazel Edwards
couldn’t agree more. “Stories help you make sense of relationships, of other people’s motives. They help reduce the fear of prejudice.”

How to wake up a language

Mandy Nicholson

Wurundjeri woman Mandy Nicholson didn’t grow up speaking her traditional language, Woiwurrung. Nobody did. Nobody could.

Too many people had died, and the survivors had been forbidden to speak it. Mandy says all that remained were “a few cheeky little words like moom [backside] that had lingered through the generations.”

But there was a word list, and grammar could be reconstructed using the identical patterns of Taungurung, a neighbouring language.

“Some people like to say it’s dead, I prefer to say that it’s asleep and we are waking it up,” Mandy says. One sentence at a time, and with the help of a community linguist, Mandy has done exactly that.

Elders can now say their Welcome to Country in language. Ceremony can be conducted in language. Mandy has written songs that accompany dance and the words add substance to the movements.

“It’s something I really needed in my life, and it’s helped me immensely. Language is like the roots of the tree. Culture is the tree. If you chop the roots off, culture dies.”

Download interactive digital Wurundjeri story books

Turns out, the suburbs are pretty good for writing stories in, or about

Terry Lane

Former ABC broadcaster Terry Lane can’t decide if living in Blackburn is a benefit or a curse for a writer. “I’ll tell you what, it’s tranquil. It’s a place totally free of tension, an experience-free zone.

“But what sort of inspiration is that? Maybe you should seek that in a battlefield, or having an African jungle experience,” he says.

Comedian Dave O’Neil grew up in Mitcham. He told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I've read a lot of memoirs but I hadn't read a good outer suburban one. Barry Humphries wrote a good one about the 1950s, Puberty Blues was about the '70s."

So Dave filled that gap, and wrote The Summer of ’82.

“The suburbs are where most people live. I reckon it’s important. There are good stories everywhere.”

Plenty of other story-makers have called our suburbs home.

John Farnam’s Whispering Jack was recorded in a garage in Bullen. Children’s author Hesba Brinsmead wrote her children’s classic Pastures of the Blue Crane from her farmhouse in Nunawading and writer Christos Tsiolkas has spoken the loneliness of his early in Box Hill as a catalyst for his writing.

Know thy self, Socrates said

Varvara Ioannou

It’s not surprising that Greek-born Varvara Ioannou is quick to quote Socrates. Know thy self he said, and for story-telling mentor and community leader Varvara that means digging deep and helping people tell their own stories.

“If people can articulate their own stories they are in a better position to see who they really are and come to terms with their own identity.

“That creates the history, the heritage, the pride and the connection. Through this deep reflection that storytelling is so powerful.”

Saara Sabbagh, a Syrian-born community educator says her driving passion is to look at what human beings have in common.

“If you listen to the media you think the world is doomed, but on the ground, I don’t feel that. We are all the same. I am going to trust in their goodness,” Saara says.

Varvara adds: "We are all different but have the same basic human needs. Maslow points this out beautifully with his hierarchy of needs."

Come along to our storytelling event June 10 to share your story and build connection.

On the writing life

Joy Dettman

Screenwriter Cliff Green says stories will come to him, but they are not always full cooked. If that’s the case, he lets them build up.

“Sometimes I get an idea and push it back down to my subconscious. I have a mental filing cabinet, and let my brain mature the stories. It’s instinctual. You’ve either got it, or you haven’t.”

Author Joy Dettman says her words just poured from her, once her kids were older and she sat down at her old typewriter.

“Maybe it’s born in you. Maybe we are the story-tellers from old, you know. Maybe it’s in the genes, but you can’t stop a storyteller from telling stories.”

Her advice is: “Find a comfortable chair and apply [your] backside for long periods of time. It’s not good for a backside, but it is good for a word count.”

Do it for your ancestors

Jiang Ding Wen

Both writer Joan Webster and Chinese-born artist Jiang Ding Wen make their stories to capture the past but in every different ways.

For nearly three decades, Joan was a journalist for local Doncaster newspapers and ran two columns detailing the stories of the early pioneers of the district.

“Stories are very important. I have a strong feeling of responsibility to our ancestors to keep them alive and acknowledged.”

Joan was so committed to her work that she wrote, even through long periods of illness.

“We stand on the shoulders of others. They deserve to be honoured.”

Joan’s writing is available in our local heritage collection. Her book Fruits of their Labours is full of stories from the past.


Jian Ding Wen paints for the same reason, but peppers his work with nostalgia. He left his family home at 17, and was sent to Hunan province to work.

“I loved the old houses, the architecture. My work reflects that. The environment of the 70s and 80s and the way people lived.”

He says those houses and that traditional way of life are almost gone now. “I keep them alive in my paintings.”

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