Kurdiji 1.0

$45,705 of $280k goal

Raised by 952 people in 24 days
Judith Crispin  Chippendale, NSW
Kurdiji 1.0 – An app by Australian Indigenous Elders designed to save young Indigenous lives
(All donations will go to the creation of this app as this is not an 'all or nothing' campaign. Please message us if your donation needs DGR status)

When a young man committed suicide in 2005, in the remote community of Lajamanu, local Warlpiri elders said ‘Enough is enough’. Decades of western medical intervention had failed to stop indigenous suicides and, in 2005, Lajamanu’s elders took matters into their own hands.

With help from friends, Lajamanu established Milpirri festival to spread the traditional ideas of ‘Kurdiji’  among their young people and to foster a sense of belonging. They began to fight for every single young indigenous life in their community.

Now those same elders want to bring Kurdiji into the digital age, with a community created app based on stories, ceremonies and law. They want to fight for all aboriginal lives, not just those in remote or traditional communities.

They have partnered with an expert team including technologists, photographers and a leading clinical psychologist from The Black Dog Institute. Kurdiji 1.0 is crowdfunding on Gofundme until Thursday 4th May and asks that you chip in $5 to make the project a reality. As a community led project we are relying on your generosity to help us get this project off the ground.

Three aboriginal people take their own lives every week in Australia, and suicide is the leading cause of death for young indigenous people. Young aboriginal people are now four times more likely to take their own life than their non-indigenous peers, and the suicide rate for young indigenous men is the highest in the world.

But there hasn’t been a suicide in Lajamanu since 2005.

The ideas of Kurdiji belong to an initiation ceremony of the same name. For most of Aboriginal history, these ideas were only accessible through Kurdiji ceremony or directly from elders in community. Warlpiri people are changing their laws, giving wide public access to these ideas for the purpose of saving lives.

The creation of the Kurdiji 1.0 app represents a turning point in Aboriginal Australia and, we hope, will result in similar projects being launched in the future.

In the process of sharing Kurdiji through their Milpirri festival, the elders of Lajamanu forged strong bonds with their non-indigenous friends - some of whom had encountered ceremony for the very first time through the festival. Now some of those friends are working with Lajamanu’s elders to make this app a reality.

How will the app work?
Using 3D visualisation of ceremony and dance, audio recordings, video and text, Kurdiji 1.0 will provide some of the cultural nourishment provided by initiation in community. The app will reach out to young people who can’t live on country, or who feel cut off or isolated. By reconnecting people with language, skin name, ceremony and law, this app will increase resilience by creating a sense of belonging.

What is Kurdiji?

We are honoured to have legendary actor Jack Charles as our patron. He says:

“Kurdiji is a Warlpiri word meaning ‘to shield or protect’. For thousands of years, the idea of Kurdiji has been used to empower young people and prevent suicide. Lajamanu wants to bring Kurdiji into the digital age, with a community created app based on these stories, ceremonies and law. Designed to support young people build and maintain resilience and self-worth.”

Kurdiji’ (shield) is the Warlpiri word for ‘shield’, and it also means ‘to protect’, ‘to ward off’ or ‘to block’. ‘Kurdiji’ is also the name of certain initiation ceremonies for young women and men. These Kurdiji ceremonies teach young people about skin name, ceremony, language and law.

The basic principle of Kurdiji is that if ceremony, skin name, language and law are strong, then the individual is also strong. In this diagram, you can see the four pillars and, in the centre, ‘land’, or ‘home’, which is also the person themselves.

Kurdiji guards against youth suicide by reinforcing high self-worth before suicidal thoughts occur. It is the shield that keeps young indigenous people safe from the problems of living in and around white society. Kurdiji connects people to their culture, their community, and country.

Kurdiji teaches us to relate to each other, to the natural world and to other creatures we share the earth with. It teaches us how to care for country, how to talk to country, and how to listen when country talks back.

Dr Fiona Shand, from Black Dog Institute, says:

“One of the things that struck me when listening to Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick speak about Warlpiri ways was the complex systems of connection – between people, with country, with spirit. A strong sense of connection or belonging is very clearly protective against suicide. Kurdiji 1.0 also aims to build a stronger sense of identity, which we expect will also be protective for young people. It’s starting from a place of strength and building on that.“

The Kurdiji 1.0 app will provide a parallel approach to treating depression and suicidal thoughts by non-indigenous means. It aims to build people up before mental health issues become a problem – it will be a shield for people.

Who is creating this app?
Kurdiji 1.0 will be community-led, community-designed and community empowering.

Using mobile technology, the Warlpiri are working with a team of researchers to put the life-saving ideas of Kurdiji into the hands of hundreds, if not thousands, of young indigenous people.

Warlpiri communities have a long history of engaging with technology. They’ve recently produced a digital storybook, which communicates their ideas about land management, and have collaborated in the production of a large number of films. Working with others to create an app is just an extension of the Warlpiri way of reaching out to people through technology.

Warlpiri Elder Steve Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick says:

“Been working with these kardiya fellas on this app. It’s called Kurdiji, and Kurdiji means ‘shield’ for us Warlpiri, it’s initiation ceremony as well. It’s meant to teach people to look at life and really protect life - shield them off from all the elements of negative things of the world. This app will give hope through the way Kurdiji brings out the best in challenging life and in challenging ourselves too.”

“This app would try to challenge something like suicide within young people in indigenous communities. It will do really good things and bring hope to the communities.”

Kids from the local community will work alongside the technology team to create the app, and its content, learning technology and digital media skills.  They will be involved in 3D motion capture of dance and traditional hand signals, audio recordings of language, and representations of song-lines and story.

The Kurdiji project will enable Aboriginal elders to trial their own approach to suicide prevention in their own communities. The app is aimed at all indigenous people, regardless of their background, language or community and non-indigenous people can also benefit.

While the initial version will be offered in Warlpiri and English language, we hope to create future versions in as many different indigenous languages as possible.

Who is working with us?
The Kurdiji project is auspiced by Black Dog Institute to ensure absolute transparency and accountability. Black Dog Institute is Australia’s peak organisation for research into depression. We are also working closely with the Lajamanu Kurdiji Group, a group of senior Warlpiri men and women who promote respect for indigenous and nonindigenous law in community.

We have been fortunate enough to be helped by the marketing team from Flow Hive - Saadi Allan, and Binky Harvey-Jones and Mirabai Nicholson-Mckellar, who have created our amazing video and advised us on all aspects of our public presence. We have a brilliant advisory team of indigenous elders, scholars and technology professionals who are guiding us and keeping us on track – Paul House, Jenny Munroe, Greer Versteeg, Dr Melinda Hinkson, Dr Christine Nicholls, Neil Gibson and Leilani Darwin.

About the Team

Steve Patrick (Wanta Jampijinpa) is a Warlpiri elder and artistic director of the Milpirri festival of indigenous music and dance. He has been a recipient of an Australian Research Council Discovery Indigenous Fellowship and has taught Warlpiri culture at the Australian National University and other tertiary institutions in Australia and overseas. Steve has published academic papers on Kurdiji ideas and indigenous cultural practice. A highly regarded musician and painter, Steve lives and works in Lajamanu community.

Dr Fiona Shand is a researcher and clinical psychologist. Based at the Black Dog Institute, her work focuses on suicide prevention, and particularly on e-health interventions to prevent suicide. Fiona has worked with Kimberley communities to create iBobbly, an app aimed at reducing suicide risk for young Indigenous Australians. She has published extensively in the alcohol and other drugs field and in suicide prevention. Her current research includes a large, community-wide suicide prevention trial being conducted in four New South Wales regions covering a population of 850,000 people. Using an adaptive research design, this research acknowledges the complexity of suicide and uses multiple, integrated prevention strategies. Fiona is also co-designer of an sms-based intervention to support young people following a suicide attempt.  This intervention is being piloted in two large public hospitals.

Dr Judith Crispin is a cultural historian, photographer and poet. Together with Drew Baker, Judith has produced large-scale 3D virtual reconstructions of a destroyed Armenian cemetery in exhibitions across Italy and Australia as part of an ACU research project. Judith's work is regularly published in newspapers and journals. She has directed cultural institutions, academic programs and research projects, and has taught cultural history in universities across Australia, France and Germany. Judith has written extensively on social justice photography, poetry and music and has regularly engaged the public through talks, symposia, and forums. She has published monographs of photography, literature and scholarly research. Judith has been working with the Warlpiri people for five years and spends several months each year living in community.

Drew Baker is a technologist working in cultural heritage and archaeology. Drew was born in the United Kingdom and developed a passion for cultural history and computers at an early age. He has worked with cultural material for over 20 years creating 3D virtual worlds of archaeological sites and museum artefacts as well as recording and preserving intangible cultural assets. Drew has taught applied 3D visualisation at King’s College London, UK and was the education work package leader for the flagship Virtual Museum Transnational Network (V-MUST) funded by the European Commission

The creators of Kurdiji 1.0 acknowledge that in some circumstances it will be appropriate for people, suffering from depression, to seek additional help. If you or anyone you know needs help: please contact:

Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890

Pilot Budget 
On site (Lajamanu):
Indigenous consultancies, $25,000
Community fieldwork & travel, $16,000
Medical research & clinical trials, $8,000
Translation (Warlpiri-English), $12,000
Hardware $10,000
Photography, audio & 3D motion capture, $49,000
Data collection $20,000
Subtotal: $141,000

Off site:
Hosting & Platform Subscriptions $2550
Capacity building & sustainability $19,000
Medical research & clinical trials, $11,000
User Interface & software development, $41,000
App development including Dynamic Content creation & user profiles, $39,000
Communication & roll out, $11,000
Administration $3000
Subtotal: $113,550

SUBTOTAL: $266,550
5% Auspicing costs (Host Institute): $13,178
TOTAL: $279,728

(Video by Binky Harvey-Jones, Mirabai Nicholson-Mckellar, and Saadi Allan, with footage by Stewart Carter and photographs by Gary Sauer-Thompson,
Juno Gemes and Judith Crispin)

Media coverage of the Kurdiji Project can be found here:

Rolling Stone Magazine (Germany)
Antro Blogi (Finland)
The Quietus
Nick Cave Website
The Guardian Australia
Huffington Post
CAAMA (go to 31 March, 2017)
ABC News
Ghost Cult Magazine
The Industry Observer
Social Documentary Network
Collective Hub
Pro Bono Australia
The Wire
Sky News
Health Info Net
Global Citizen
Silicon Paddock
National Indigenous Times
Adelaide Now
Look to the Stars
Trend Magazin

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Update 22
Posted by Judith Crispin
18 hours ago
We're bringing you a message today from Warlpiri elders, on reconciliation and how healing after trauma is possible.

The men in this video are Kurdiji elders, the custodians of the knowledge we are putting in this app, to try to prevent suicides and build strength and resilience in young Aboriginal people.

We'd like to sincerely thank every one of you, who has helped them by donating, by sharing our message, and by promoting this campaign. We are blessed to have friends in Finland and Germany promoting our campaign. We are blessed to have been endorsed by Nick Cave and his incredibly kind-hearted fans, and to have our Indigenous American brothers and sisters standing with us.

We still have a long way to go but, with your continued support, I know we're going to make it.

Thank you!

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Update 21
Posted by Judith Crispin
1 day ago
Thank you to everyone who has shared our journey so far. Your donations, supportive messages and help in spreading word about our campaign have made all the difference - and without you this project would be impossible.

This Anzac day we remember the Aboriginal servicemen of the First World War - there were approximately 800 soldiers, so we will honour the many by remembering the few.

Private Leonard Charles Lovett
Private Richard Martin
Private Richard Martin
Private Harold Arthur Cowan
Corporal Harry Thorpe
Private Alfred Jackson Coombs
Private Thomas James Walker
Charles Blackman
Trooper William Allen
Private Alfred John Henry Lovett
Trooper Horace Thomas Dalton
Private Harry C Murray
Private Gilbert Williams
Private Miller Mack
Trooper Frank Fisher
William Charles Westbury

And today we remember some of the great Aboriginal warriors of Australia's Frontier Wars. Those who lost their lives defending this country from an invading British force.

Tarenorerer (Walyer)

Lest we forget.

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Update 20
Posted by Judith Crispin
2 days ago
Thank you to all of our supporters. Your donations, messages of support and help sharing our campaign have meant the world to us.

We've passed the $40,000 mark and with your continued help and support I know we can make our target and get this app out to those who need it.

I'd like to share with you a short clip by PAW media, which demonstrates the symbol we've used as the Kurdiji 1.0 interface - you can see it here: https://vimeo.com/109352734

As our team member Wanta Jampijinpa explains:

"Ngurra-kurlu is a representation of the five key elements of Warlpiri culture: Land (also called Country), Law, Language, Ceremony, and Skin (also called Kinship). . .
It can be thought of as: a template for the whole of Warlpiri culture, an efficient pedagogy (way of teaching), a process for building identity and self esteem, a way of looking after the health of people and the health of country. . .
While ngurra-kurlu is grounded in Warlpiri culture, there are similar structures in many Australian Aboriginal groups and therefore the ideas are likely to be applicable beyond Warlpiri Country."

Kurdiji 1.0 interface
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Update 19
Posted by Judith Crispin
3 days ago
Much gratitude to the kind-hearted people who have supported this campaign. We're seeing a lot of Nick Cave fans coming forward to help us save young indigenous lives - and we're also seeing our indigenous American brothers and sisters answering our call for help.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has donated, sent messages of support, and shared our campaign. We can't do this without your help.

I'd like to share with you one of the statements in the 2014 "Elders Report into Preventing Indigenous Self-harm & Youth Suicide". It comes from Derby elder Lorna Hudson, and explains why a community-led approach like ours is needed.

"All of our mob has been pulled into town into somebody else’s country. This makes it difficult to find cultural support. All the support they are getting is from the non- Aboriginal culture. They are not getting cultural support. As a result, our people find it difficult to recognise where our real life is.

The easy way is to turn to drugs and alcohol. That’s the life that they’ve got. I’m talking about Indigenous people…

People are becoming isolated from culture. For the Government to work better, they need to listen to the cries of our community people. I know a couple of efforts have been made before requesting funding and requesting support, but the Government has turned away…"

The government may have turned away, but the people have not. When I see how many of you have given your support to this project, it reminds me how powerful the people can be. We can save young Aboriginal lives, we can do it ourselves, with our own strength, our own kindness and resolve.
Tabra Cook with her puppy, Lajamanu 2015
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Read a Previous Update
Dominique Neuhofer
13 days ago

Hope the Easter Bilby will bring you support ..Best idea ever ! All the best .x

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$45,705 of $280k goal

Raised by 952 people in 24 days
Created April 2, 2017
Hayley Call Ander
2 hours ago

What a great cause XX

Em Dubbo
3 hours ago
Carolyn Bartholomew
4 hours ago
Pauline Vigus
4 hours ago
Suzie Eisfelder
6 hours ago
Rebecca Batcheldor
6 hours ago
6 hours ago
7 hours ago
Ashleigh Cowdroy
7 hours ago
Raenn Groves
8 hours ago

Such a wonderful concept - sharing the story - let's help our young people

Dominique Neuhofer
13 days ago

Hope the Easter Bilby will bring you support ..Best idea ever ! All the best .x

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