Welcome to the Telling of Story Podcast. I’m your host, Storyteller Jewels, and along with my guests, it’s my endeavour to explore the art and science of storytelling, to attract, engage, and retain a business audience, and to unpack why it works for some, and not for the many that try.
[00:00:24] Jewels: Listen in as Annie Stewart talks about being empathetic to whoever owns the story.
[00:00:30] Anne: Well for me, I sort of realized how much our country is crisscrossed with stories. But one of the things that I’ve been really careful about is whose stories owns the stories, because with my experience of East Timor, there’s so many experts and so many people who are authorities, and it just.
[00:00:51] Anne: Would upset me so much that people would tell the story like they owned it when you know, hang on this feels like my story So I’m very [00:01:00] empathetic
[00:01:04] Jewels: in this episode I have the pleasure of talking with Anne E Stewart and is an acclaimed storyteller with an international Reputation a versatile performer and has the energy and voice to engage any audience Her focus is on the shared stories of Australia honoring indigenous Celtic Asian and world stories An invited guest at storytelling festivals throughout Australia, the UK, Mexico and Colombia, Iran and East Timor.
[00:01:31] Jewels: Anna has also been commissioned to write stories for various cultural institutions including the National Museum of Australia, the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the University of Ballarat, the Drum King Gallery Art Collection and the Melbourne City Council. She has researched, written and produced stories for ABC Radio and appeared on several television programs including the groundbreaking children’s program Liftoff, and as a consummate SMC with an engaging style. Anne, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much.
Anne, take me back to 1975.
[00:02:07] Anne: Well, it was a life defying year for me, actually, because 1975 I was just doing my matriculation, my last year at school. It was the first international year of women, which has always stuck in my head.
[00:02:20] Anne: And just before I was about to sit my exams, my brother Tony, who was murdered in East Timor, He is known as one of the BBO five now, but our, our whole life was sort of turned upside down in our family. So instead of sort of breaking out into freedom from school, there was a shadow that was cast over our lives.
[00:02:40] Anne: And then I started a university course and dropped in and dropped out. And I always have visions of my mum who was a school teacher holding the reins of her little ponies and she’d let us out and back in. You know, Tony had galloped off already, but he sort of just dropped the reins when Tony died. And so we all had [00:03:00] more freedom and just would wander off on our own paths.
[00:03:03] Anne: So I did a year of environmental studies and didn’t really like that and dropped out. And my father decided, no, no, no, no, no. So he dragged me into the city and said, you’re doing a typing course. Anyone that knows me would probably realize they’re not my skills, and strong point, and I’d done this secretarial course, but after that one weekend, after I had got this typing and secretarial, uh, little certificate, I headed down to Torquay on the coast of Victoria and decided, oh, I might see if I can get a job down there, and with those, that small sort of qualification, I got a job as assistant children’s librarian in the Geelong Library.
[00:03:44] Anne: And then from there, they put me on the ballerine bookmobile, and from there an amazing thing happened. The State Library of Victoria used to fund a bus called the Jolly Jumbuck, and it was a storytelling van. And two guys were on it, and the bus was full of puppets and [00:04:00] films, the little Westernwood films, and all sorts of different things.
[00:04:03] Anne: And the men on the bus said, if you’re on the bus, you’ve got to tell a story. And I remember the first story I ever told was The Tiger Who Came to Tea. So that sort of started, and then often in this world of libraries, um, you get nurtured and, you know, they could see I had a little skill for it, so they just sort of kept pushing me with that.
[00:04:25] Anne: And then, you know, I can go on about this round in infinitum. And so I suppose then I decided that I, um, Would like to be qualified librarian, not always an assistant, so I did a Bachelor of Arts Librarianship at Ballarat University and I distinctly remember four cold years thinking I want to go somewhere else, I am going to find a place that’s nice and warm.
[00:04:48] Anne: And I was visiting friends and I saw it, I distinctly remember. They had the Age newspaper all over the floor and the job section was turned up and it had Children’s Librarian [00:05:00]Darwin Library. And I, that is my gig. So I applied for that and was successful and it just really changed my life. Because from being a young Catholic girl in Melbourne who, in those days, we often read the Victoria Readers and different things like that that sort of talked of the passing of the Aboriginal people and you got, got to Darwin and you realise that this whole country is crisscrossed with songlines of another people.
[00:05:27] Anne: So, it was all those little influences that really started me on this storytelling journey.
[00:05:33] Jewels: And thank you for that. That’s quite a synopsis of where you’ve sort of how quickly you got into storytelling, but just take me back for those international listeners. I know the Australian audience probably has a reasonable understanding of the Balibo five, but for those perhaps international that may not have heard the story, can you just give us a quick summary of what the Balibo five is?
[00:05:55] Anne: Well, of course, it had been a Portuguese colony for a long time, and they [00:06:00]were about to pull out because of things happening in Portugal. They were about to abandon their colony, and there was the understanding that maybe Indonesia would take it over, but the Timorese wanted their own independence. And we know now that Gough Whitlam was very closely linked with the Indonesians, and it was clear that he was going to turn a blind eye to it because My mother, who was a mad historian as well as a teacher, just pointed that out to us very early on, that that’s what happened because he didn’t complain or say anything wrong.
[00:06:32] Anne: They realized that Indonesia and Australia was sort of working together on it, and they turned a blind eye. That’s been the family myth for a long time.
[00:06:42] Jewels: And so there were five journalists I understand that were reporting. At the time, tell me a little bit about the circumstances around
[00:06:50] Anne: it. It’s interesting because I’m sort of working on a series of poems about it and I think, always think of my dear mum and how she suffered from, because the thing that sort of, [00:07:00] she’d been a student of World War I and so everything sort of was tied together in.
[00:07:07] Anne: And so those naive young boys heading over to Timor, our brother was 21, like it was his first time overseas. There were more experienced journalists with them, but they got up to the little crossroads towns in Balibo. And if you know the story, there’s a few key names. Jill Jollop. who wrote the book Belobo, suggested to them, listen, you know, it’s warfare, bush warfare up there.
[00:07:32] Anne: You better keep your heads down. Another TV station warned them you should go back. They were just too naive and didn’t realise how much danger they were in. You might have seen they painted an Australian flag on the side of the Belobo house that it’s now became. My father always said, you know, why would they think in the back blocks of East Timor?
[00:07:54] Anne: These people are going to recognize what that is. But they were so young and [00:08:00] just didn’t realize what was going to happen. And, you know, before they knew it, the Indonesians were there in Balibo. They didn’t have a chance to escape. And over the years, of course, we’ve heard so many different stories about how they died, murdered, knifed, you know, all sorts of gruesome things that happened to them.
[00:08:17] Anne: I think that their bodies were all gathered together in a fire and then they were put in a coffin and. They were buried in Jakarta without us being invited or any sort of influence on that. It was just horrible, you know, and all of our family always often say, and our mum knew it, that, you know, they at one stage rang my parents once, they rang my parents to tell them how much it would cost to bring Tony’s body back, and with four other children still to rear at university and school, you know, like mum said, that just about broke me.
[00:08:50] Anne: She didn’t know. How they would move ahead with that. And, you know, it took so long for us all to sort of come out of the dark grief. It [00:09:00] was just so terrible.
[00:09:02] Jewels: It’s been almost 50 years, which sounds like a long time, but I’m sure that time has been, there’s been a lot of ups and downs for you and your family.
[00:09:12] Jewels: Other than, I know there’s been a whole bunch of investigations, but there’s also been some storytelling told around this particular event. So there’s been books, I believe, there’s film, there’s theatre, tell me a little bit about
[00:09:25] Anne: those. Ah, well there’s a lot of people that have done sort of a research based sort of look into it and come into the logistics of what happened and historians that sort of looked into it.
[00:09:38] Anne: And, you know, they’re all, Great, and we know a lot of these people. One of our second cousins wrote the play in the national interest to Aidan Fennessy And he was just a young kid when Tony died But when Tony died one of the things that happened is we have a huge support network of aunties and uncles So he was linked to the story [00:10:00] because of course those aunties and uncles would have gone home and told the story.
[00:10:05] Anne: And then we were blessed when we met Robert Connolly that made the movie Balibo. It was interesting because he wrote the screenplay with David Williamson. And in the end, I think they disagreed about should it be a feature about Timor or should it be a feature about five boys, men, who died. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, but we think it’s great because, you know, as sad as it was and tragic, we lost our brother.
[00:10:32] Anne: More Timorese died during these battles than, you know, Londoners in the Blitz. 200, 000 were murdered and, uh, my brother Paul, that’s been quite an activist, often says people come up to him and say, Oh, we’re so sorry that the death of your brother, and Paul would say, well, have you lost anyone? Well, yeah, 10 members of my family died, so.
[00:10:54] Anne: We’re pretty realistic about, you know, we lost these young men, but what had happened in East [00:11:00] Timor, so Connolly was very respectful. He went and met with my mum. You know, it was just a wonderful focus on the plight of the Timorese people, so we really appreciated his efforts. And the young fella that played Tony, you know, was quite liking as well, which was, you know, kind of a bit spooky.
[00:11:20] Anne: My brother Paul had a pair of red boots that were Tony’s that we let him wear, and then Tony used to wear this little brooch that we gave him as well as a little talisman to wear. So we sort of felt involved, and Paul, I told you before, he’s in a band, the Painters of Dockers, but he’s also in a band, the Dilly All Stars, so he was invited with the Timorese musicians to help with the soundtrack, so.
[00:11:46] Anne: That was wonderful as well, but lots been told about it.
[00:11:50] Jewels: So there’s lots of stories been told and there’s been investigations, Australian Federal Police, there’s been Kevin Rudd sort of piped up a little bit as well. Have [00:12:00] these things allowed you and your family to come to some sort of peace, or does it keep sort of bringing out pain for you
[00:12:07] Anne: guys?
[00:12:08] Anne: Well, I must admit, as I said, my brother Greg and my sister Jane keep their own council pretty quiet, but my brother Paul and I in the band, we seethe with white rage. And we went to so many meetings of the Australian Federal Police who were investigating, and there was one particular last meeting where they came to tell us that they were stopping the investigation.
[00:12:30] Anne: It was all over. They couldn’t find anything, couldn’t blame anyone, and that was it. We asked, how many people did you talk to in Indonesia? Not one. They hadn’t talked to anybody, and then it’s just so tough, you know, and hard that you’re sort of not always involved in it. We were also, there’s a thing called the Bbo House Trust because in about 2002, Steve Brax, the premier of Victoria, bought the house in East Timor where the boys were murdered [00:13:00] and turned it back into a neighborhood house.
[00:13:02] Anne: But we’re on the truss with some of the other families and it all got so political it was really hard and in the end the Stuarts all resigned and couldn’t be part of it. Maybe that’s because we don’t like to be told what to do either.
[00:13:16] Jewels: Changing tact a little bit. And tell me a little bit about your mother, who you said was a historian.
[00:13:21] Jewels: Was she a big influence on your storytelling?
[00:13:24] Anne: Absolutely. In fact, I remember doing some work for the National Museum of Australia, and I said I needed two research assistants with me, so I took my mum and my auntie. My auntie’s son is a Prime Minister’s Award winning novel writer as well. But absolutely, unequivocally, mum was so thrilled to have a daughter who was a storyteller Many of the stories I tell she’d written for me or we’d worked on together.
[00:13:49] Anne: And she always had a great way of looking at things so expansive that it really did help my storytelling. And when I first started to telling stories, it was [00:14:00] really for preschool story time. And I just wanted to really instill in kids a love of language and literature and rhyme and movement of words.
[00:14:10] Anne: And that definitely came from my mom. But as the years went by, you know, the thought of social justice and how I could tell stories to influence people. But always with my mum in the background helping me with stories, definitely.
[00:14:25] Jewels: So you started life as a librarian and then you mentioned that you spent some time on a bus, on a van, driving around telling stories.
[00:14:36] Jewels: Tell me how does one go from I guess, story custodian, in a sense, to storyteller and tell me what did you do on those van trips? Well,
[00:14:46] Anne: we just went up and because I had worked on the bookmobile that went around the Ballerine Peninsula in Victoria, I knew where all the plugs and the lights and where to park the van, so I had to go and show them.
[00:14:59] Anne: And as I [00:15:00] said, these men said to me, well you’re going to have to tell a story. So we’d park outside schools and they’d bring in a class and you’d tell. But it was working at the, in the Geelong Library and they saw, you know, oh she’s got a bit of a talent for that, that they sent me to workshops and conferences and there was one woman in particular that’s influenced a lot of us people that have come from libraries, her name’s Patricia Scott.
[00:15:24] Anne: She was an Order of Australia medal winner for her services to literature and children’s Storytelling, and she was an older woman, and she just stood there, it was, you know, just had this quiet grace about her, and it wasn’t overly theatrical, it wasn’t loud, but, oh, she was so intoxicating, you just couldn’t stop listening to her, and she had this wonderful voice, and I remember seeing her and thinking, oh, I could have a go at that, I reckon I could try that, and so, one of the things when you tell stories For little kids and preschoolers, you can [00:16:00] have a book there, but if you’re turning away, you sort of lose focus with the kids.
[00:16:04] Anne: So I’d learnt them to tell, and then I could just look everybody in the eye, and you know, everybody would think they were on this big adventure with me. And I lived in the town of Dalesford for a long time, and you know, told stories at the local primary, and every kid in town sort of thought they knew me, and they’d…
[00:16:22] Anne: Come up like, you know, remember me? Like we’ve been on that big adventure together? Yeah, I remember you. Yeah, that’s fine. But, you know, I just loved it so much. Sort of getting them all sitting and listening. And so I started with Preschool Storytime. And up in Darwin, my two fabulous women, Cathy Flint and Robin Thompson.
[00:16:44] Anne: Nurtured me and they’d say like, uh, what about grade twos? Could you do grade twos? Yeah, bring them in. What about the year sixes? Yeah, I’ll give it a go. The year nines? Yeah, bring it in, you know. And so I just sort of got better at it and learned different stories. And the other thing that would [00:17:00] get kids into libraries all the time was Halloween.
[00:17:03] Anne: So ghost stories became a stable thing as well, you know. So all the time you’re just learning little tricks, and there was a few books that were out in my early days as a children’s librarian. And one was called The Way of the Storyteller by Ruth Sawyer. And she said, you know, so many wonderful things, and I quote them so often, and it’ll come to me.
[00:17:28] Anne: You know, our voices, our instruments, and the words, they are the clay or the colors on our palette. And storytelling, not just a sharing of mind alone, but rather sharing of heart and spirit. And those things really, you know, instilled in me my love for storytelling and what I thought it was all about. So, there was, you know, Ruth Sawyer, Eileen Colwell from England, and Eileen Colwell and Ruth Sawyer, Augustus Baker.
[00:17:56] Anne: There used to be a time when there weren’t children’s sections [00:18:00] in libraries, and those women started them up. And there were, in Melbourne, in the State Library of Victoria as well, there was, uh, three Margaret’s. They’ve got the research collection at the State Library, there were all these fabulous children’s books and so all the time everything I’m doing is sort of introducing me to those and back in those days it was myths and legends was hugely popular so there were lots of those.
[00:18:29] Anne: And I don’t know if you know of Dromkeen, the children’s literature museum. In Victoria? Yeah, out of Riddles Creek. So, that was started by Kay Keck’s parents, whose name I’ve lost, but they just started collecting all editions of books, but as well as that, they would get, uh, first illustrations out of books.
[00:18:48] Anne: They’ve got the little exercise book that Mem Fox wrote Possum Magic, you know, just the handwritten. So they had all this wonderful stuff. And as a library student, we got to go out [00:19:00] there. So, once I was on the path to storytelling, everything just sort of fed into it. No turning back.
[00:19:07] Jewels: No. Tell me, you mentioned that you learnt tips and tricks along the way, and one of the joys that you seemed to get was the feedback that you were getting from your audience.
[00:19:16] Jewels: Tell me a little bit about some of those tips. Tips and tricks, but also how to keep an audience engaged, how to keep them on the story path with you, especially kids, right? They fidget. They want to do something else. They easily distracted. And so are adults, by the way. So how do you keep somebody’s attention for a long period
[00:19:35] Anne: of time?
[00:19:36] Anne: Well, I always think you know a storyteller by their repertoire, and the stories I chose to tell are things that I really love. But when I started in Darwin, they started, they’d send me from the library to a thing called Fun in the Parks. So there’s water slides and earth balls, and I’m in the corner. But I learned these few tricks and I don’t, I often start with, I tell stories with string, I can make little [00:20:00] objects and I just sort of get them in and I do a little trick that I tie two kids up in handcuffs and I have the knack, I can watch a whole class.
[00:20:08] Anne: You know, sometimes they’re bringing in three classes and I just watch and I think, there’s the biggest pest. And then other kids, the other biggest pest. They’re just some body language. So I’d call them up, get them part of this trick. And once I’d won them over, they’d sort of lead the group for me. And then, just the stories I chose, I love so much.
[00:20:29] Anne: And so, when you tell stories too, you know, sometimes, I remember a kid once saying to me, I had too much description. Could you just get on with the story? So, often the stories, there is a very tight narrative line that keeps them in. They can’t sort of lose it because you’re in the story so much. And they just follow you with the story.
[00:20:51] Anne: And I’ve always said, you know, you can really pick kids that are good listeners, or even adults, you know, because when good listeners are there, you [00:21:00] start at the beginning of your hour, and you take them on the journey, and they’re there for the whole hour with you. But kids that haven’t heard stories or not good listeners, you start at the beginning, you tell a story, you get them in, the story finishes, oh, they’ve gone.
[00:21:15] Anne: So you just have to keep working at it. And for me, that is… Looking them in the eye. You know, if there’s one particular noisy kid or wriggler, you just kind of tell to them for a while until you sort of get them back in. But it is hard work and it’s looking and it’s, you know, I’m kind of a jovial person so I engage them with that.
[00:21:37] Anne: And there’s, you know, just many tricks, but you’ve got to know your story and love it and have a passion for it because that just makes it so easy to tell, you know. You
[00:21:47] Jewels: spent some time dropping into different places in the Northern Territory and telling stories and the Indigenous Australians are some of the oldest storytellers in the world.
[00:21:59] Jewels: What [00:22:00] did you learn from that experience?
[00:22:02] Anne: Well, for me, I sort of realized how much our country is crisscrossed with stories. But one of the things that I’ve been really careful about is whose stories owns the stories. Because with my experience of East Timor, there’s so many experts and so many people who are authorities.
[00:22:22] Anne: And it just… would upset me so much that people would tell the story like they owned it, when, you know, hang on, this feels like my story. So I’m very empathetic. But I, I think I have a deep respect for Indigenous people and I’m happy to earn trust and work with people. One of the things now with this vote for yes and the constitution, you know, I just think, I’ve tried to read the Constitution, but it’s just hard work and it’s dry.
[00:22:49] Anne: But one of the things that I think, when you go to the UK, or different countries I’ve travelled to, the stories belong to the place. And here, you know, you’ve all [00:23:00] heard Greek myths and legends of the stars. How come we haven’t learned the myths and legends of our First Nations people? There’s a wonderful story, Why the Warratah is Red, you know, that’s a love story from Australia, you know.
[00:23:12] Anne: I’d love to hear all those. And I’ll tell some of those stories, perhaps in a class, just listening to them. But I never feel like I own the stories. I could never write it or publish it. And so now I’ve arrived, I’ve moved up to Brisbane. And so slowly, when you’re a storyteller, you start looking for different things.
[00:23:33] Anne: I want to know the name of the local people, the Turrbal and Yirgara people, the Gabi Gabi. And you just, there’s ways that you want to work along. A lot of people think I tell Indigenous stories, but often I’ll just include a place name or little references or Some things to give people a sense, you know, that I’m honouring First Nations without telling their stories.
[00:23:57] Anne: You’ve
[00:23:57] Jewels: also spent some time, quite a bit of time [00:24:00] overseas in different formats as well. Tell me a little bit about some of those adventures, you know, the Scotland homecoming, for example, and time in Mexico and Columbia, you’ve spent some fabulous places. What did you learn?
[00:24:12] Anne: Yeah. I’ve been really blessed that, you know, all my travels has been around storytelling.
[00:24:19] Anne: And in the UK, storytelling is huge, so there’s festivals everywhere. And just because I was working in libraries, and library manuals would come out advertising, and you’d think, great, I’m going to apply for that. And I, I, yeah, I was lucky. Scotland was great. The pay was great. They put you up. I shared a house with a Jamaican lady, a Cherokee lady.
[00:24:41] Anne: And you just learn so much, you know, because they are so good at it. I felt like a little amateur, actually, getting up there. And those big festivals really celebrate the oral tradition of storytelling, you know. The other big one, and it’s about to happen soon, [00:25:00] is Festival at the Edge. And that’s the name because it’s at a geographic formation, the edge of this sort of cliff.
[00:25:07] Anne: But the people are extraordinary tellers, just telling different stories from around the world. You know, someone told a version of Frankenstein with lights and sound and, oh, it was amazing. Just when you see these people who are really at the height of their game, it’s just been wonderful. The other one was, um, Beyond the Border in Wales.
[00:25:32] Anne: which was at this old school that was on the coast and just inside old castle rooms and it really builds the atmosphere. And to see these people, you know, that have collected myths and legends, as I was saying before, you know, here in Australia. We don’t have the stories of the place names and different things, but over there, you know, there’s a story for every crossroad, every river, every mountain, and, and talk [00:26:00] of tradition and folk tales and fairy tales.
[00:26:03] Anne: I headed down to Cornwall when I was there once, and I’ve just done some storytelling up here at a seaside museum and told a mermaid story from Cornwall. And since then I’ve read so many mermaid stories here in Australia. So… I guess doing all that travel is just to open my eyes. One of the things, though, in the UK, there is, they’re quite happy to tell anybody’s stories, where here, I’m very careful about whose stories I can tell and can’t, and cultural appropriation is something that, you know, is quite nerve wracking.
[00:26:36] Anne: But I have a niece who’s Kambangere, and her grandma, Used to say, Annie, you need to tell the stories, all the stories, for all the kids. So I’m of the belief I don’t want to not include Indigenous material, but I don’t want to take somebody’s stories as well. So we’re in a really delicate stage about all this now, you know, and [00:27:00] with this yes vote coming up, as I keep saying, hands up if you’ve read the Constitution.
[00:27:05] Anne: No, but you know, would you like to hear some stories from Aboriginal Australia? Absolutely. So, hopefully, if the vote gets up, then that would be a way forward. Why
[00:27:17] Jewels: do you feel like you don’t have the permission, I guess, to tell other people’s stories?
[00:27:23] Anne: Well, Just because it’s, you know, the Aboriginal people, we took their land, we took their children, now we’re taking their stories to tell.
[00:27:32] Jewels: Isn’t it sort of almost our duty to tell stories though? Don’t you feel like it’s a sense of duty to continue that storytelling? Obviously appropriate it to the right people. You’re not telling it as your story, but by just by telling that story, is that not a way of building it back up and building that tradition back in?
[00:27:50] Jewels: Well, I, I
[00:27:50] Anne: try to do that in my way without sort of appropriating it or taking anyone’s stories, but you meet some mob and tell its story, [00:28:00] it won’t go down so well, you know, I think we’re just at a really delicate stage. My niece, who’s an artist, has made a t shirt, Teach Black History, which I wear around a bit.
[00:28:11] Anne: And, you know, it’s like, I want to help. What can I do? How could I help? So I’m always sort of trying to move forward and work with that. Back in the storytelling guild, at the fraternity I’ve been part of for a long time, a lot of people wouldn’t go near Aboriginal stories, or wouldn’t tell them. And I have material I tell, but, you know, I’m careful about how I do it.
[00:28:35] Anne: Yeah, it’s a tricky question. It is tricky. Someone in the UK has just sent out a line that she wants to do a study of cultural appropriation because they don’t even think about it over there. And so they might write a collection of stories from the Middle East because they went there on a holiday and it’s like, whoa, whoa, hang on, you know.
[00:28:56] Jewels: Yeah, it’s an interesting fine line, but I feel like [00:29:00] it’s the more the stories are told, the more likely they are to continue. So we need to encourage the original folk who own the stories to tell those stories. But also I think to some degree, if we can tell a story and we can help. continuous storyline, then as long as we’re doing it respectfully, I feel like that’s our duty as storytellers.
[00:29:22] Jewels: I don’t know.
[00:29:24] Anne: And you see what you think after you talk if you were the mob.
[00:29:26] Jewels: Okay. Interesting. I’ll take you up on that. Yeah. And you’ve spent time speaking with everything from grade twos right through to 4, 000 people audiences. What’s the difference do you feel in telling stories between children, between small groups, between large groups, between adults?
[00:29:46] Jewels: Are there any differences or is it just
[00:29:47] Anne: scale? I have to pull it back a little bit, you know, because when it The thing, because I, I don’t have any theatrical training or anything like that, but if you’ve got 400 kids there, you’re going to be a little bit [00:30:00] larger in your movements. But if you’ve got two kids there, you just sort of pull it back a little bit in the telling.
[00:30:07] Anne: But the biggest gig I ever did was, it was called Echoes of Freedom. It was in Ballarat, and it was 150 years since the Eureka uprising on the gold fields of Ballarat, where the miners were protesting about having to Hey to look for gold and as usual the whole circus was rolling into town. They were bringing musicians from outside They were bringing all the tents and all the roadies from outside and I went hang on a minute I reckon I should have a gig at this And I told my brother Paul in the band, and I happen to have a part time job at ABC Ballarat.
[00:30:43] Anne: So I got the, you know, phone number of the person organizing and rang and said, I want to do this. But as well as doing that, at the same time, I’d got some funding from the ABC and I wrote 24 minute episodes telling the Eureka story. And to do it, I [00:31:00] pretended I was a reporter on the gold fields of Ballarat.
[00:31:04] Anne: Started the story by introducing an Indigenous woman and what it was like for her and then there was a whole line of characters that I told their little bit of the story to move along the narrative arc till everything was in it. So when I got up to to emcee this thing, I just knew the story so well.
[00:31:25] Anne: That I could tell it and I still think it was one of the greatest accolades I had in my life. I got up there and the roadie that was doing the sound at the back, he was just so grumpy, you know, and I had a Eureka dress made with five stars and I’m in high heels, you know, and I come out and do my move.
[00:31:45] Anne: But Jimmy Little was playing. And in the Eureka story, there was a famous, uh, Chartist and pacifist, his name was John Basin Humphreys. So I’d done a whole piece of him. He was from Wales, and when I [00:32:00] introduced him a little, I explained how these two were like, you know, reconciliation for their people and peace, and you know, I did this whole thing lightening the hero of Eureka.
[00:32:12] Anne: to Jimmy Little and I walked off stage and the roadie said nice intro begrudgingly and I went oh at last he’s sort of given me a little bit of he came around fondly yeah but the other thing I must say on my trips overseas one of the most interesting was I was invited to Iran, and when I was a young girl, I always Scheherazade, the teller of the A Thousand and One Nights tales, and so here I’ve been invited to Persia, I’m going to tell stories, and of course, everybody, I come from a family of cuddlers and huggers, and I got there, and I remember distinctly, we landed in Tehran, and we were off to Tigris, where the festival was to take place, and everyone was there, and there was…[00:33:00]
[00:33:00] Anne: You know, you’ve got to wear your scarf all the time. By the end of it, my scarf sort of coming off my head. I don’t do that sort of all very well. And two young boys sang this beautiful song as a welcome to country. And, and then it all just went quiet and everybody’s standing around and the imam was standing, you know, a couple of feet away from me.
[00:33:21] Anne: And I just reached out my hand and went, G’day mate. And everybody went, Oh, you know, they were in shock. But it was just so extraordinary, like there’s so much trouble now in Iran and I’ve still got friends who write to me. I made a little movie about it, you know, different but similar, you know, we, I went out to one of the schools and the little girls in grade three and four wear these.
[00:33:48] Anne: Lightweight chiffon sort of scarves before they head into the whole thing. Well, I’ve got photos of me as a little bride of Christ, you know, in my little chiffon. It was just so many wonderful things, and the [00:34:00] women, you know, they’d stop them studying at universities. There was so many things that had happened, but they were just incredible, incredible women, you know.
[00:34:10] Anne: And it was quite extraordinary. And so we were at this place called Canoe, an institute for the Teaching of young kids. And the respect for storytelling was amazing. And you know, they had media from all over the place interviewing us and telling part of it. And it was just so exciting, you know, whoever thought, ’cause the message came around to all the storytellers and everyone went, oh no, no, no, no, no, no.
[00:34:36] Anne: We couldn’t possibly go there. And I went, oh yeah, I reckon I could. And then I got invited to Mexico and Colombia to tell stories and… You know, you see in Australia people of different ethnic background, but never those sort of Aztec looking people of Mexico. And then you’re in the city in the big Zocalo, and there’s so many people there, and just the [00:35:00] old museums, and oh, it was just extraordinary.
[00:35:04] Anne: And I went to the museum and I Couldn’t help thinking of Neil Young’s song, the Cortez the Killer, because they came dancing across the waters, and so similar to colonization happening all over the world, and the Spanish moved in. But there was this lovely chap who came and picked me up at the airport, because I think he was thinking, how come this white girl’s got a gig?
[00:35:29] Anne: When it should be me, so I was getting gigs in private schools and they perhaps wouldn’t give him the job, but they gave him to me and we became very good friends and he just said he was so proud of his Mexican and his Spanish heritage, you know, and sadly in Australia, people of Aboriginal heritage that might have white heritage as well, you know, it’s hard for them.
[00:35:54] Anne: They’re not so proud of it. So all these things were very eye opening. Sounds
[00:35:59] Jewels: [00:36:00] like those international travels, you know, coloured the way you sort of think about the world, expanded your view. I did a similar thing when I was, you know, 25, the first time I travelled overseas. Spent almost two years travelling through Europe, uh, Eastern Europe, Africa, right up to…
[00:36:17] Jewels: Northern Europe, so up into Norway and right up to Lapland, so covered a fair amount of ground in a fairly short period of time, and for me, it was just eye opening. I hadn’t seen, I grew up in a small country town, my world view was very airy. And it wasn’t until I actually saw some other cultures and the history, the history is what really got me.
[00:36:42] Jewels: I felt like Australian history, although, you know, we didn’t learn about Aboriginal history through, you know, we have got a rich cultural history here and we were just never taught it, which is such a shame. And the Australian history is so short, so it’s only a couple of hundred years old. [00:37:00] And so going overseas and you saw buildings that were three, four thousand years old or three or four hundred year old pubs and, and history that’s, and as you say, there’s a story behind everything.
[00:37:11] Jewels: There’s a story behind the corner store. There’s a story behind the crossroads. There’s a story behind a pile of rocks. Everything has a story. So it’s such an eye opening event and definitely changed the way I thought about the world and, and my worldview.
[00:37:26] Anne: I often think too, you know, for white settlement and all the explorers and all the people building, making, doing things, that because we haven’t sort of got it Aboriginal people, you can’t really celebrate a lot of that history.
[00:37:43] Anne: You know, at this stage, and for some white people, if we take that away, they don’t have a sense of who they are. You know, I’m fifth generation Australian, and our surname’s Stuart, so, you know, we think we’re Scottish, but, you know, there’s that many other grandparents as [00:38:00]well, that we’re not really. But you do go to Scotland and have a sense, oh, this is, yeah, this is, kind of feels like it’s very familiar.
[00:38:09] Anne: But how do we make it that we’re all going to feel like we belong here? I often think, you know, climate change, it’s not going to say, well, you’re from a different race, we’ll leave you alone, but you’ll be gone, you know, so maybe it’s that outside external event will have us all thinking together, how we can move along together.
[00:38:29] Jewels: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think you’re right. We do need to be get better at telling our own story now. I feel like we’re on, we are shifting. We are changing. It’s very slow and the acceptance of it is, is still a little bit segregated, but I think You know, through food, through stories, through, I’m finding it hard to sort of articulate, but I feel like there’s been a change in, in certainly in my lifetime compared to the things we were taught and learn, you know, as a [00:39:00] kid versus what we’re now seeing on, on television or what we’re now seeing as part of some of the historical, um, shows.
[00:39:07] Jewels: findings that history is starting to come forward. Even restaurants, you know, serving indigenous food is, is just another way to tell that story and to bring us closer to our, to our history. And I think it’s important.
[00:39:21] Anne: Just down the corner from me, I saw the sign up, sorry day, there’s a gathering, and I thought, oh yeah, I’ll go in here to, well, just the range of people went, the local schools, blackfellas, whitefellas, older people, younger people, and I went, wow, this is just so different, that people are starting to immerse themselves in it, you know.
[00:39:43] Anne: I think it’s fabulous. They want to hear all the stories. They want it to be fair for everybody. And
[00:39:48] Jewels: switching tact a little bit, you’ve done pretty much every format of storytelling I can think of. You’ve, you know, read stories, you’ve been on stage, you’ve written stories, you’ve been on [00:40:00] radio, you’ve made film, television, you’ve been part of plays, almost every format that I can possibly think of.
[00:40:06] Jewels: And even now, you’ve, you mentioned earlier that You’re starting to write poetry. What’s your favourite format?
[00:40:13] Anne: Well, you know, I’ve moved to Queensland and I’ve just got back in front of live audiences again and I just think, I just love it so much. When, you know, I did something recently at a place where people have never heard stories, adults, and they’re sort of like, what is this, you know, what, what?
[00:40:33] Anne: But once you get them all in, they sort of go, wow, you can just hear a story. I think I’ll always love that oral presentation, just getting a group before me. But I’m working more, yeah, on writing and poetry and different stories. I might have mentioned to you, I brought up two kids as a storyteller, which is really kind of rare in Australia that someone, you know, could support a family and do it.
[00:40:56] Anne: Because I always said I’d do anything for a dollar. So that just meant. [00:41:00] You know, I would break into any field. So, you know, doing the radio stories when it was Eureka. I made a little documentary about my brother’s death for ABC Radio National because I just knew the movie was coming out and it was a story that they’d be interested in and I’d get some funding.
[00:41:17] Anne: So, it’s a hard life always looking for a gig, you know, like I am. And, as I said to you before, I’ve always said, if people said to me, we want you 50 foot up a flagpole telling stories, I would have said, thank you. How much will you give me? I can do it. But I do love it. I, and you know, there’s, I love adults, but there’s certain age groups of children that you take off on an adventure, you know, that just.
[00:41:43] Anne: And they just love you. You know, I’ll finish a session and kids just want to come and hug me because, you know, I’ve shared the stories and I really love teenagers as well, because often in schools, they sort of stop, no stories, no fun, no nothing. If you’re a [00:42:00] teenager. And I often say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, you know.
[00:42:04] Anne: I’ve had classrooms where they’re throwing rubbers and rulers, and I go, oh girl, but you slowly, slowly, you look at everybody, you get them in, and one of the tricks that I didn’t mention before is I’ve been places where you see teachers screaming at kids to get them, but no, no, no, no, you don’t get louder, you get a little bit quieter.
[00:42:24] Anne: Because if you get a little bit quieter, then they all sort of move in to hear you, you know. And I love it when they’re all there and you can hear a pin drop and… Sometimes I’ve thought I’m going to just laugh with nervous, you know, delight that I’ve got them all, I’ve got them all here.
[00:42:41] Jewels: And I’ve super enjoyed our conversation and your gift of storytelling is infectious and your desire to do so.
[00:42:50] Jewels: The audience that listens to this, many of them are in business or tell me that they’re running some sort of business and storytelling is one of those things that has come to the [00:43:00]forefront more so in the last few years than ever. Particularly in business and, but people struggle to sort of align the two, like what advice would you give to somebody who perhaps is early in their storytelling capability, but they want to sort of take their, I guess, technical knowledge and use stories to enhance that, you know, bring the two together and really drive the audience participation and get people to listen, get people to understand and have empathy for the stuff that they’re building in a way that makes it
[00:43:32] Anne: personal.
[00:43:33] Anne: Well, I’ve sort of looked into this, as I said, I’d do anything for a dollar, business person, and your repertoire is really important, so you’d be thinking of little wins you’ve had in your game of business. What was it you did that was a real win, and how could you tell that story? I’ve done a lot of work with story slams, and that is a five minute story, so one of the things about that is you start right in the action, you know, you don’t [00:44:00] have heaps of lead ups, so One day, I was with a group of clients and something was happening, then, you know, there’s the problem and you fix it and the satisfaction of ending it.
[00:44:11] Anne: So, you know, just continually working on those stories and not a lot of description, but just keep the narrative sort of kind of fairly tight. And when you get better at it, you can probably make it a little bit longer. But you have to just think, what are the stories that define you and your business?
[00:44:31] Anne: And you can tell I’m passionate about storytelling, I love it, you know, so, I remember once seeing a professor talk to us about something, we were at a museum conference, and Oh, he was so dry. And then he told us about the first time he’d spotted this rare lizard on the, on the park. Oh man, it was so gripping, you know.
[00:44:49] Anne: So, it’s finding those stories that demonstrate your passion, I reckon.
[00:44:54] Jewels: And it’s been a fabulous journey you’ve taken me on. Uh, thank you so much. Where can people [00:45:00] find out a little bit more about you?
[00:45:02] Anne: Uh, easy to find me, Anne E. Stewart, A double N E, E. Stewart, Storyteller, and there’s details to get in touch on my website.
[00:45:12] Anne: Fabulous, Anne. Thank you so much. Thank you. Lovely to talk to you, Jewels.
[00:45:19] Jewels: What a vast and varied background Anne has. She taught me a lot. Tell stories that you love. Be empathetic to who owns the story. And my favourite, if you’re on the bus, you gotta tell a story. Much love. Chat soon.