Among the ancient landscapes of the Pilbara, the community of Roebourne is bridging the digital divide and embracing cutting edge technology to engage their young people and preserve culture.

Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) Flint, a program developed by IDX in partnership with the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) and The Telstra Foundation, provides hands-on training in digital technologies in regional and remote communities.

Through the program, communities receive $15,000 of in-kind support for workshops for young people and facilitators, and a tailored kit of equipment and educational resources to the value of $10,000. Since early 2016 the IDX team have visited 17 communities to inspire the next generation of Indigenous digital makers. The most recent of these workshops was held in Roebourne, WA in April 2018.

IDX Flint Manager Grant Cameron said the Indigenous-led program offers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia access to important skills for the future.

“Through the workshops we seek to spark the interest, talents and ideas of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in digital technology. We do this by connecting with organisations and individuals already working in the communities we visit, and train local facilitators. So, when we leave, they can continue to build on the skills they have learnt and continue to use the tech,” Grant said.

In Roebourne the IDX team connected with Ngaarda Media, an Indigenous-owned Television and Radio production and broadcasting organisation.

“Ngaarda Media do incredible work in community and it was great to work with Ngaarda Media Manager Tangiora Hinaki and her team to facilitate the workshops with community.” Grant said.

Over 5 days the IDX team taught students from Wickham and Roebourne Schools how to use 3D printers, fly a drone, as well as how to program and make their own robots.

It was also the first site the team ran their Virtual Reality (VR) workshop, which was a highlight for many including Ngaarda Media Manager Tangiora Hinaki.

“It was the first time many in the community have seen and used these types of technology. The VR workshop was a definite highlight. The students had never seen anything like it before and their reactions were priceless. It’s this immersive technology that we are really keen to continue to use, and explore ways to share stories and culture,” Tangiora said.

During the visit the team also ran a drone workshop with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rangers interested in the use of drones to care for country.

“We met with local rangers who are exploring ways to use drones for land management, as well as a tool to engage with young people in learning about the land and the importance of caring for country,” Grant said.

The visit to Roebourne coincided with the Karijini Experience, a celebration of Aboriginal culture held on the traditional lands of the Banjima people in Karijini National Park.

As guests of Ngaarda Media, the team attended the cultural event and used the drone to capture never-before-seen footage of country.

“We were incredibly lucky to attend the Karijini Experience and explore this magnificent country. Using the drone and with permission from Traditional Owners we were able to fly it in to some of the surrounding gorges – what the Traditional Owners told us was a first on Country,” Grant said.

“This trip has been unique in that the entire community has come together to learn and share knowledge. The mob here really see the potential in the technology and ways they can use it to engage their young people, preserve culture, local history and explore the link between new technologies and storytelling.” Grant said.