Head 170km south west of Rockhampton and you will reach the Central Queensland town of Woorabinda where a community is challenging the idea of the traditional makerspace, taking tech out on country.
Part of the IDX Initiative’s flagship program IDX Flint, the pop-up makerspace was the first of its kind in the Aboriginal community, bringing new technologies, culture and creativity together in the one place.
“They’ve never seen anything like this before, especially the virtual reality” explained Wadja and Gungaloo women Nickeema Williams.
Artist, photographer and Woorabinda local Nickeema Williams works for the Australian Red Cross and tech organisation HitNet. A finalist for the IDX Youth of the Year Award in 2017, Nickeema helped co-facilitate the digital making workshops held over 4 days on the traditional lands of the Wadja and Gungaloo peoples during August 2018.
“A lot of people, especially in the city take tech for granted. Even just having an iPad here is pretty innovative” she said.
Through her work Nickeema shares her passion for art and technology, creating opportunities for young people to promote positive change, and increase the digital literacy of Elders and young people.
“There’s a stereotype that young people know how to use technology, but it’s not always the case. They might know how to use it to play music or something like that, but they often don’t actually know how to use the functions, open a document or connect to the internet.” Nickeema said.
“Having the tech like this come to Woorabinda has inspired so many!”
20 high school students and over 50 primary school aged children took part in coding, robotics and virtual reality workshops. Each participant had the opportunity to learn the basics in coding and navigate a robot on country as well as explore virtual worlds wearing the virtual reality headset.
IDX Manager Delilah MacGillivray said it was such a highlight to see the entire community come together to learn and share skills.
“It never ceases to amaze me that a simple coding workshop so sparks the interest of our Indigenous kids and why not they just need a chance to participate in a culturally appropriate way,” IDX Manager Delilah MacGillivray said.
But if you thought these workshops were only for the younger generations, you would be mistaken. Elders were quick to learn to code having never used an iPad or computer before.
“A highlight was definitely seeing different demographics not just accessing the tech, but I was really excited to see elders and young people that don’t usually work together, or be in the same place, engaging with each other and starting to break down some of those barriers as well,” Nickeema said.
“It is pretty powerful having elders wanting to learn how to utilise technology. One of the Elders Aunty Di… when I told her about the workshops the week before she was like, yes, I’m coming because I’m never too old to learn!”
“That’s so beautiful!” Nickeema commented.
Uncle Wally was one of the Elders who participated in the workshops. Before the IDX Flint workshops he had never used a smart phone or iPad. He sat in on the coding and robotics workshop where some of the high school students helped him use the iPad.
“Elders are very isolated. Teenagers and elders don’t usually mix here. Like everything, it takes time and this is a good step in the right direction to bring positive change and new tech, and show people that they are not forgotten or isolated. New things can happen and we can do things ourselves.” Nickeema said.
Days following the workshops Year 6 students at Woorabinda Primary School are already teaching students in other grades how to code and use the robots. The IDX team look forward to seeing what’s next in terms of tech for the Elders and young people of Woorabinda.