Care for the land and it’ll care for you – Murray Landcare Online Storytelling Workshops

Partner: Murray Landcare Collective

What makes this project special 

Sometimes it can be difficult to grasp exactly how powerful storytelling can be until you experience it for yourself. As participant Erika from Landcare’s Environmental Champions Program shared: “digital storytelling is a tool I didn’t know I needed until I found out how powerful film can be.” But what makes this project special is the deep connection that these budding storytellers have to the environment around them.

Alongside First Nations peoples, environmental professionals and volunteers often spend more time on country than anyone. They bear witness to baseline states, environmental phenomena, moments of beauty, changes in ecosystems, environmental degradation and its restoration. They are characterised by their passion; and passionate people often make the best storytellers. Want to see for yourself?

A bird’s eye view

  • WHAT: Four bespoke online workshops and access to our Stories for Impact Online Course to help participants find, make, edit, and share their powerful stories
  • WHY: To share Landcare’s love of place and promote behaviour change to care for our environment; promote connection and wellbeing during the pandemic
  • WHEN: October 2020
  • WHO: The excellent folks at Murray Landcare 
  • THE RESULTS: Connections forged, new skills built, plenty of fun had, and several videos created to help share Landcare’s work with the world

The background – for those who want to dive a little deeper

In our signature Story Canvas, we prompt storytellers to think about their ‘Where’ – the people and places that will feature in their story. And what better backdrop for Landcare’s stories than the nature they care for itself? Nature is a sensorial wonderland that can be portrayed with respect and magnificence using video and audio. And when it comes to advocating for the protection and management of local environments, there’s truly no better way to bring your stories to life than where the magic happens.

As Regional Landcare Coordinator for Murray, Paula Sheehan understands the power of sharing the stories of her Landcare community and their partners with anyone who’ll listen. Indeed, Landcare staff and volunteers have important, and often beautiful, stories to share. With over 2,000 members from 70 independent groups, Murray Landcare Collective brings together like-minded groups to meet the challenges of the region together.

They have a focus on learning together through collective interaction and building their entrepreneurial and storytelling skills to deliver better natural resource management, sustainable agriculture and rural community development in the Murray region of New South Wales.

The challenge

Like many who found themselves leading through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, Coordinator Paula and her team felt the need to do something that would strengthen their community and bring people together in a fun and productive way. Throughout 2020, COVID restrictions threatened to keep members of the Murray Landcare Collective physically apart, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t connect in ways that may have never before. Paula and her team recognised video storytelling as a tool that would not only connect people in the short term but deliver a longer term return on investment for their work and for their collective cohesion

The solution 

Our Stories for Impact team offers a fully customisable program for any community or organisation looking to better tell their story. With established online infrastructure and a focus on interactive, hands-on teaching, we can accommodate any combination of in-person or virtual workshops and online, self-directed learning, that allows participants to go at their own pace. This flexibility allows us to design programs to fit the specific needs, budget and time constraints of any organisation or community group. No matter where you’re at – we can meet you there.

The process

  • COMING TOGETHER: A group of nearly 30 participants, aged 30 to 70, the Murray Landcare Collective set out on a four session version of our popular Stories for Impact course.
  • LEARNING TOGETHER: Covering the Story Canvas, how to find, make, edit and share your story – the four sessions over a few weeks provided the perfect introduction to digital storytelling for a community with varying levels of experience.
  • GROWING TOGETHER: Participants also have access to the Stories for Impact Online Course to dive deeper and brush up on their skills anytime for the next 12 months.

“I loved that the course made me think about what I really wanted to communicate and equipped me with some tools to do this.” – Elvie Yates, Tumbarumba Vignerons Association

What emerged – the key outcomes

Before our first session, a whopping 50% of program participants rated themselves as “not confident at all” with their storytelling, the lowest on the scale, with 30% as “not very confident”. By the end of the three weeks, these ‘greenies’ had become bonafide storytellers, with 90% of participants rating themselves as “somewhat confident”, “very confident” and “extremely confident” in telling their stories. Skilled in narrative structure and shooting cutaways, many participants even felt confident to give editing a crack, willing to share their love of place and the local environment even further.

It might sound cheesy, but the chance to connect in ways you might never have before, to build skills, to have fun, and to learn something new in a safe and supported environment, is an impact that can be hard to quantify. To be sure, there were also a number of videos created by participants, but the real ‘artefacts’ this time around were the happy faces and newfound connection among participants, and perhaps the fact that 100% said they would attend a future storytelling session!

“The course was fabulous – it was fantastic to be able to connect with likeminded people and learn together. I have learnt the importance of planning the story and having a clear understanding of the message I want to deliver and the audience I am targeting. I now have the skills and tools (such as the story canvas) to plan and construct a story, and the confidence to continue practicing and refining the filming and editing. I look forward to being able to share my digital stories in the future.” – Sandy Dellwo, Murray Local Land Services

Three things we learned 

  • Nature is one of storytelling’s best backdrops – in fairness, we have probably known this for a while, but it’s good to be reminded every so often just how powerful the natural environment is to grounding powerful stories. 
  • Breakout of the box – we are all feeling a little like Zoombies by now, but being sure to use functions on video conferencing software for breakout rooms and other functions like hand raises and to stimulate group conversations helps to keep people engaged and active
  • Building skills builds morale – many of us have highly specialised roles and only interact with a small number of people in our network or organisation on a daily basis. To have the chance to come together across teams and across roles to learn a common skill, gives us the morale and the shared language to forge a strong team identity and connection.

Could this work for your organisation or sector?

Restoring and regenerating the planet is everyone’s job. Whether it’s telling the story of an endangered species, promoting a community awareness campaign or simply sharing your work from a natural environment, it’s time to tell your bold and beautiful story. If you think your organisation could benefit from the knowledge and know-how of the storytelling experts, get in touch to see what’s possible

NEXT: We Know Your Name But Not Your Story – Indigo Shire Council




community storytelling, digital, digital storytelling, environmental storytelling, online workshops, video training