The Voices of the Wheatbelt project ran from 2008 to 2014 and involved eight communities from across the Eastern Wheatbelt in photography, film and audio-documentary projects that aimed to give them a voice.
The first phase of the project involved participants from Kellerberrin, Merredin, Tammin and Quairading and the second phase took the project to Brookton, Narrogin, Pingelly and Wagin.
Participants used photography to explore and express their identity and sense of belonging and the project also allowed participants to discover and rediscover relationships with each other, their families, community and the environment.
Voices of the Wheatbelt resulted in empowered communities, growth in individual and community capacity, greater awareness of social and cultural spaces and stronger relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Voices of the Wheatbelt started with a series of workshops in schools in Tammin, Kelleberrin, Quairading and Merredin in 2008, run by CAN.
Photographers James Berlyn and Vinn Pitcher and Perth songwriters Djiva (Della Rae Morrison and Jessie Lloyd) ran the workshops, and taught the students technical and artistic aspects of digital photography including the elements of design, composition and ways to use light.
The students took over 16,000 images that represented their perspectives on their home towns and photography exhibitions were then held at each of the schools later that year.
After the school workshops CAN facilitated workshops for adults in each of the communities with professional photographer Annette Kent.
Exhibitions and publications
The photography taken by the students and adults across the towns was combined in an exhibition which appeared at significant events in the Wheatbelt including the Unity Walk during NAIDOC week in Quairading, the Badjaling Noongar Cultural Festival and the Wheatbelt Cultural Festival in Northam.
The Voices of the Wheatbelt touring exhibition went on to tour Western Australia for five years, featuring 50 photographs that celebrated the eight participating communities.
From 2010 to 2014 the exhibition travelled to Ellenbrook, Wanneroo, Denham, Katanning, Moora, Esperance, Albany and Ravensthorpe and attracted over 2800 visitors.
Two publications came out of Voices of the Wheatbelt. First there was Voices of the Wheatbelt, a publication that contains a small selection of the 26,000 images taken by community members from the towns of Tammin, Merredin, Kellerberrin and Quairading between March 2008 and early 2009.
The second publication, entitled Voices of the Wheatbelt: Eastern Wheatbelt, represents each of the project’s participants and was launched alongside an exhibition at Kidogo Arthouse in Fremantle in 2009.
Noongar Voices was a three-part radio documentary series that aired on ABC Radio National and shared the life stories of a group of people from the Central Eastern Wheatbelt, extending the Voices of the Wheatbelt project beyond photography and into audio-documentary making.
The series was focused on extracts from oral history interviews conducted by Mary Anne Jebb and Bill Bunbury and assisted Noongar people from the Wheatbelt to record their life stories. The project provided opportunities for the broader community to gain an insight into Noongar life in the Wheatbelt.
‘These programs present listeners with a rich tapestry of voices taken from oral history interviews. These are the real voices of people recalling their life experiences, their families and their history,” Mary Anne Jebb said.
“They are the real sounds of the Central Eastern Wheatbelt people; an invitation to listeners to hear and share stories of sadness, everyday life and the sense of humour that got Noongars through.”
Listen to the oral history interviews that aired on the ABC Radio National, Awaye! program in 2010 below:
The second phase of Voices of the Wheatbelt took the project to Brookton, Narrogin, Pingelly and Wagin, where 87 participants took part in photography and film workshops.
CAN partnered with the Film and Television Institute to facilitate the workshops, which showed participants how to use photography and film to explore their sense of place and belonging. The participants produced photography and three short films that captured, celebrated and shared the participants’ local Noongar stories.
A selection of the photographs toured the Southern Wheatbelt, culminating with a final exhibition and publication launch in Narrogin to coincide with the Strong Culture, Strong Community program launch.
The photographs and films were compiled into a full colour photography book with a DVD entitled Voices of the Wheatbelt: Our Place, Our Stories. The book contains a selection of images taken by community members with each image taking the reader on a journey into an element of Wheatbelt life. The images explore culture, the community and the landscape through the eyes of those who live, play and work in the Wheatbelt.
The Wheat Beats program was developed for young people aged 11-15 in the Wheatbelt and incorporated Australian hip-hop, traditional Aboriginal and contemporary dance, photography, music and digital media.
The project aimed to give young people in Kellerberrin, Quairading, Brookton and Narrogin a way to express their feelings about community life, culture and growing up in the Wheatbelt.
CAN ran a series of Wheat Beats workshops in each town, with a number of leading artists teaching young people new skills in song writing, DJing and scratching as well as dance and acting. The project resulted in production of the students’ own Australian hip-hop songs and music videos.
Wheat Beats workshops ran in 2010 and 2011 and were facilitated by Scott Griffiths (AKA Optamus) from acclaimed local hip-hop act Downsyde, WA Young Filmmaker of the year Mat de Koning, Aboriginal dancer and musician Olman Walley, hip-hop choreographer Nelle Hokianga and acting coach Eve Kermack, all well-known and successful artists in their fields.
The Wheat Beats project features in the Voices of the Wheatbelt: Wheat Beats publication, which shares the history of the project, the lyrics of the songs, the profile of the artists, and a DVD of the four music video clips and original songs. The publication also has a ‘behind the scenes’ documentary of the project with commentary from teachers, parents and students.
Watch the voices of the wheatbelt: wheat beats music video clips
Brookton (We represent) 3.49
Kellerberrin: Bring the rain 3.43
Quairading: This is our life 3.15
Narrogin: Tru Dat 3.15
Behind the scenes documentary 24.19