2014 / Tuesday

New Website Maps the Stories of Bankstown

Adele McDowell

James Arvanitakis wants people to have the opportunity to tell their stories.

James Arvanitakis wants people to have the opportunity to tell their stories.

A new website, Mapping Frictions, uses award-winning and emerging photographers, filmmakers, writers, poets, stand-up comedians and web developers to tell the stories of Bankstown through local eyes and voices.

The creative team includes Professor James Arvanitakis, from the University of Western Sydney, Oculi photographer George Voulgaropoulos, renowned filmmaker and producer Fadle Fred El-Harris and creative director Kavita Bedford. Based at Bankstown Youth Development Service, the pilot website is funded by the Australia Council for the Arts.

James, George and Kavita discussed place and storytelling through writing, photography and film in the session, Mapping Frictions: Digital Storytelling, at Bankstown Arts Centre.

As Kavita pointed out, the people of the Bankstown area are passionate about their community. “It’s not just about race, or that they’re from Bankstown, their stories are genuinely interesting,” she said. “We’re just creating the platform – it’s the people who are sharing their stories. The website allows us to slow down the news cycle and present a realistic reflection of the area.”

According to James Arvanitakis, Bankstown is seen as “one thing”, a part of western Sydney where everything is the same. But he said Bankstown is so dynamic with different sections.

“When you get a group of different people, there are going to be frictions, some positive, some negative. The website is important because it promotes diversity,” he said. “Giving people a chance to tell their stories, to be heard, to connect with other people in the community, it builds a sense of empowerment.”

Benny Ngo focuses on reducing friction in the community by mentoring Vietnamese kids.

Benny Ngo focuses on reducing friction in the community by mentoring Vietnamese kids.

Working as a platform to include local artists and writers, the website also profiles prominent figures in the Bankstown area. “You have someone like Benny Ngo who talks about reducing frictions in the community. He runs the local break-dancing academy Hybrid Formz and mentors Vietnamese kids,” Kavita Bedford said.

There are also plans to run free public workshops in photography and writing. “Through short stories, films and poetry, the locals can put tension issues into art,” she said.

According to Tim Carroll, director of Bankstown Youth Development Service, the website encourages “shared commonality and humanity, whether you are from Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Vietnam or are a white Australian. There are hundreds of stories to tell just in the Bankstown community, these fascinating people walk through our door every day”.

While the website places its focus on Bankstown, Ms Bedford said work is being done to see whether the website model could be of use to other communities with similar issues.

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