Wonder a day 8: Aftermath Project part 1

kite fun being filmed
Documentary Day (c) June Perkins

Aftermath a project of ABC Open from the last 6 months, but beginning with a journey from 2009, has been just amazing.   It has now launched.

You can go behind the scenes by reading Catherine Marciniak’s post Behind the Scenes of Aftermath.  There you will discover that it covers 6 natural disasters, 115 community storytellers, 1197 contributions as well as details of the process and motivation behind the site.

As a contributor Aftermath I think this project was about having people take the time to listen to our family’s story, learning new skills like how to make mini video documentaries, reflecting on environment and people around me, reaching out to tell friends’ and community stories, photographing  interesting images, seeking beauty in sky and wildlife, observing regreening, demolition, and being aware of the many stories of the people who had a tough 2011 and chose to be resilient, kind, brave and caring towards others regardless of what they had been through.

Aftermath was a wondrous experience. Sometimes it was emotional, especially coming across the stories of people like Marty Warburton, Kirsten Landers, Sandi Semmler, Kathleen Mealor, Rob Cox – and the many others involved in contributing to the project.  And watching the video footage we had taken of our precyclone and during cyclone experience was a bit hair raising and tricky to watch initially but actually it was probably good for me to watch it and confront that experience.

But the great thing was that it was as if these distant storytellers in Aftermath became  our friends, because we had been through experiences that we were prepared to write about and or be interviewed about as we were going through them.  Some of us shared stories beyond the personal, particularly Kathleen Mealor who found some absolute gems.

Other times the experience has had its funny moments, like the time Michael Bromage and Leandro Palacio made me laugh when we made up a silly song on the day they came to do some more documenting of our family’s story.

And there have been many poignant moments like saying goodbye to friends leaving the area, and the very touching concern of the many ABC open producers, especially Sonja Gee  and of course Michael, Scott Gamble, and Leandro, who have let my family know that they care about what happens to us beyond just getting good stories out of people.

I think that this project to collaborate to produce stories that are thoughtful and insightful has a massive future in Australia and the world.    We know we have not been forgotten after the headlines of massive destruction pass – and such storytelling ventures have the capacity to challenge some of the ways stories will be collected in the future.

It also has the capacity to give more people voices, that is opportunities, to represent their own stories and be listened to.

My heart goes out to the many countries around the world were disasters happen but who do not have the infrastructure of volunteers and SES and so on that we have in Australia.  I met a backpacker who told me in her country there is not such a wide volunteer base after bushfires and other disasters she was amazed at what she was witnessing post Yasi.

Aftermath website definitely a wonder of January 2012.

(c) June Perkins

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