This App by Indigenous Elders Aims to Reduce Social Isolation

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Can tech prevent youth suicide?

It’s easy enough to feel isolated, but what if your community was subject to high rates of suicide among its youngest people? It’s a reality for the Indigenous population country-wide and now a crowdfunding process has begun in attempts to reverse a staggering suicide statistic.

Kurdiji 1.0 is an app that aims to connect young people with their Indigenous identities, with the overall aim of reducing the staggering suicide rates of young Indigenous Australians (shockingly, it’s the leading killer of Indigenous men aged 25-29). Led by elders from the Warlpiri community, Kurdiji, which means “to shield, protect or ward off” in the local language, has also just signed Indigenous actor Jack Charles to act as its patron.

“Lost stories mean lost history for the people and for their families,” Jack has said of the initiative. “They simply drip away from community, even if they live within the community. Bringing them that story makes them whole and useful to the community. To keep a healthy body is to keep your story alive.”

According to Warlpiri elder, and artistic director of the Milpirri festival of Indigenous music and dance, Steve Patrick, the lightbulb moment for the app was the encouraging discovery that there hasn’t been a single suicide in the community of Lajamanu since the 2005 introduction of the Milpirri festival, which celebrates the individual purpose of Indigenous community members. It also provides a chance to connect non-Indigenous Australians with the local heritage, making for stronger and wider-reaching bonds. The four pillars (language, ceremony, law and skin name) of Kurdiji are built on this idea.

The app itself will integrate 3D visualisation: of ceremony and dance, along with audio recordings, videos and text that provide “cultural nourishment” to those who feel isolated. The Kurdiji project is also joined by the team of crowdfunding veterans Flow Hive, as well as Indigenous elders and scholars.

“Don’t underestimate the emu,” Steve says of the project’s underlying message. “The bird that doesn’t fly teaches you how to fly.”

“If you know your own story, the emu does fly. [The lesson is] to not underestimate yourself, because you’re of value to the community.”

You can support this community-changing project here.

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