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Creating new chapters through storytelling

One of our Brave, Resilient and Brilliant authors stepped forward and shared with Kristine Olaris, Chief Executive Officer, Women’s Health East that she had penned her story of survival and recovery after domestic violence in one of Broken to Brilliant’s books about survivor’s strength and success.

She was overjoyed when she was invited to do an hour’s presentation at Survivor Advocate Training for Women’s Health East Victoria along with other speakers including Kiri Bear who is an artist, poet, philosopher, trainer and consultant.

The Survivor Advocate Training was also celebrating International Women’s Day and the Broken to Brilliant author and speaker wanted to write a respectful and meaningful Acknowledgement to County. Through research about her family, their history and their intersection with First National People and within the theme of International Women’s Day – ‘Án equal world is an enabled world’ her female-centric acknowledgement was delivered to a round of applause.

You can see why there was a round of applause when you read her Acknowledgement, it was not copied and pasted from the internet, the words are not tokenistic, the words are true and heartfelt!

Here are her words:

I acknowledge that we are gathered today on Aboriginal land and recognise the strength, resilience and capacity of the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin nation in this land.
I pay my respect to elders past and present and future and extend my recognition to their descendants in all communities. I particularly acknowledge female elders and pay respect for the struggles they have endured simply due to gender. I acknowledge the First Australians as the traditional custodians of the continent, whose cultures are among the oldest living cultures in human history.
I acknowledge the relativity of time and the violent history of the white settler. As this is a session about storytelling, I want to humbly express my personal connection to this acknowledgment of country.
For only 50 years, my family settled in the Doncaster Templestowe region and we have celebrated the Wurundjeri people through my mother’s involvement in libraries in the region. I respectfully acknowledge the contribution of all women in all communities and recognise their continuing connection and contribution to this land, our vital waterways, the ecology and our communities.
Further, as my family were white settlers from Ireland & Scotland and brought sugar cane to Australia, settling in Northern NSW, I’d like to acknowledge and pay respects to the Widjabal peoples of the Bundjalung nation. I understand from reading and research that my family were peaceful settlers. My hope is that they were inclusive of all peoples.

My journey into storytelling began when my friend Kathy Kaplan, OAM (Order of Australia Medal), CEO of Impact for Women, sent me the link to the Broken to Brilliant author application… it was new years’ day 2019.

It is always hard to share what has happened with others and there have been years of long-term layers of violence running concurrent to my journey as an author, there were challenges with parenting and the court system. There are laws I want to change, as these need to be changed as the system failed us.

We have all heard of writer's block, which I really experienced, it was like being a huge blank canvas, that loomed over me and I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of my story. Though there was a relief when I began to answer the questions that Broken to Brilliant sent to help support the development of my chapter.

These questions were like a light to unlock the memories and below is an extract from an email I sent back to the Charity:

I'm very excited. I commenced answering the questions tonight - a very interesting exercise, unlocking memories of things that I probably would not have counted as important but as a composite, it forms a pattern and it is telling!

Then I shared a reading from my story, this was a safe space, amongst fellow survivors and domestic violence professionals, all who know about the importance of confidentiality.

The audience enthusiastically listened to parts of my story about the abuse and parts of my story about my recovery. To my surprise when I looked up from my reading, several people were crying.

The presentation was a deeply impactful hour for all of us, especially me!

Following a session afterwards, facilitated by Kiri Bear storytelling master, she asked the group to answer the question “What makes a story engaging?” It was perfect timing after my presentation and here is the list of responses as to what makes a story engaging:

  • Humour

  • Personal details

  • Invite us in with questions

  • Calm

  • Clarity

  • Emotions

  • Hope

  • Clear Picture

  • Honesty

  • Journey and Transformation

  • Vulnerability and rawness

  • Language

  • Audience

  • Purpose

  • Leave with Hope.

That is a pretty nice list! It was a privilege to be able to share my story in one of Broken to Brilliant’s three books and it was also a privilege to be able to share with the Survivor Advocates the healing power of storytelling.

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