Last week, Miranda Aguilar and Sivani Yaddanapudi were invited by Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW (MYANNSW) to speak about Ethical Storytelling at the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network Meeting at the Auburn Youth Centre. They were joined by Dean de Hass from the Auburn Youth Centre, Doug Cronin from Our Race, Deena Yako from the Refugee Council of Australia and Hannah Lai from the MYANNSW Youth Program.

Miranda and Sivani talked about their experiences working with CuriousWorks, how they’ve been supported as story-tellers/how they have supported other story-tellers, and were able to share the behind the scenes video of My Name is Mohamed and Raghad. We Don’t Live Here Anymore, as well as Trishul, the pilot episode of a migrant mother project directed by Sivani and produced by Samantha Barahona that was originally shown at Urban Stories: Prototype last November.

Though everyone came from different organisations with different relationships to story-telling, there were some definite similarities in what was being shared. In particular, the speakers all emphasised the importance of duty of care: how do we, as individuals and organisations, ensure that we are doing our due diligence and taking care of folks who are sharing their stories?

We know the power that comes with story-telling. ‘Our stories matter,’ we say. ‘Our stories are valid, our stories are important.’ And as with any kind of power, there is responsibility. We need to consider: how are we curating these stories? Why are we asking people to share them? What cost are we asking of people – their time, their money, their privacy? How do we prepare a safe, informed space for someone to share their story – or choose not to share?

There is a benefit to being given the tools and support to share your story, but we also benefit when people choose to share their stories with and through us. Our responsibilities don’t begin and end with providing production support.  Anyone with technical skill can take a story and make a shiny, polished product. But products are not how we measure success.  Someone sharing their story with us is a privilege, and it is our responsibility to treat their story and personhood with care.  People are more important than the stories they can share. 

That being said, it’s one thing to say that you value people and community- it’s another thing to do so, and to keep doing it. We’re grateful for the opportunity to discuss our processes and reflect on how we can continue to be ethical story-tellers and curators.

Thank you to MYANNSW for inviting us, to all the speakers the insightful presentations they gave, and to all the attendees for the robust discussions we had. You’ve given us a lot of food for thought!