— Kurdiji 1.0 (@kurdijiapp) April 3, 2017
Despite the increasing influence of digital connectivity, studies suggest that social isolation is on the rise. For Australia’s Indigenous population, the statistics show an even more sobering reality.
Suicide rates of young Indigenous Australians are staggering: it’s the leading killer of Indigenous men aged 25-29, for example. Now, a crowdfunding initiative is attempting to reverse the severity of these statistics. Kurdiji 1.0 is an app that aims to connect young people with their Indigenous identities, in an attempt to reduce the frequency of suicide. 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 Steve Patrick – a Warlpiri elder and the artistic director of the Milpirri festival of Indigenous music and dance – 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. The festival also provided a chance to connect non-Indigenous Australians with the local heritage, making for stronger and wider-reaching bonds to obvious positive effect. The four pillars (language, ceremony, law and skin name) of Kurdiji are built on this very same 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 disconnected from their heritage. The Kurdiji project is also joined in force by the team of crowdfunding veterans Flow Hive, as well as a host of 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.