Teaching through story

Storytelling works really well to teach children because it becomes part of their own fabric.

For Fran Dobbie, teaching is just another form of the storytelling she loves. The Patrician Brothers’ College Blacktown Indigenous Support Teacher is improving lives by sharing stories in the classroom, on the pages of books and on the screen, IE Journalist Sue Osborne writes.

Fran moves between being a teacher in the Sydney Diocese of Parramatta, to a writer and film producer with her own production company Earthstar Productions. She produced the short feature Miro, which was recently nominated for an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards (AACTA) Award.

Miro is a World War II Australian Aboriginal western. Miro Jandawarra, a loving family man, is conscripted and sent from his mission home in rural NSW to serve in the war. Father Brian encourages the residents of his mission to maintain a sense of culture that is noted by the Aborigines Welfare Board as they oversee the removal of the conscripted men.

While fighting for his country the children of the mission are taken by the Welfare Board and Miro’s young daughter Akala is sent to Stanley Station, a notorious den of iniquity.

Upon Miro’s return he finds his service record treated with contempt, the mission lands reclaimed for the White Soldier Settlement Scheme and his community relocated. When he learns of Akala’s fate he joins with a fallen Father Brian and Tooey, a young Aboriginal man, to rescue his daughter and find his family.

The men of Stanley Station are no match for the battle hardened Miro and in a thrilling showdown they pay the ultimate price for their cruelty.

Miro walks away determined to reunite Akala with her mother.

From teaching to film

Fran came to filmmaking through her teaching. She saw a need to support students when dealing with life issues and conflicts such as bullying and anger issues.

As part of this support she implemented personal skill based activities and processes that empowered the students to take positive action to improve a situation. Earthstar Productions provides workshops that create healthier individuals through skill based activities. The students at Patrician Brothers also benefitted from these skills as Fran would integrate them.

Culture talk

“Some of the students have come from quite challenging backgrounds. I provide pastoral support, help them with their assignments and talk about their culture,” Fran said.

“Many don’t know their Aboriginal background. So sharing stories about culture and providing them with cultural opportunities is an enrichment that many of these young people don’t have.”

In 2004 Fran started a charity called Essere Living Skills.

“I was concerned that as an educator I spent a lot of time as a counsellor, working on conflict resolution, bullying, people not being nice to each other.

“The charity was curriculum based, aimed at providing resilience, anti bullying strategies and self esteem “

Fran approached NITV to pitch an idea for an anti bullying documentary, which evolved into a 13 part series called On the Edge, which aired on NITV and ABC3.

TV documentaries, shorts and comedies followed, including producing My Grandmother’s Country, Little Towns, Big Voices (domestic violence documentary), being producer, director and writer of Can You Hear Me? about Otitis Media in the classroom and producer of Men Don’t Cry, about fighting addictions.

“I showed Men Don’t Cry to the boys at Patrician Brothers and they found it relevant to their lives,” Fran said.

“Storytelling works really well to teach children because it becomes part of their own fabric,” Fran said.

Fran Dobbie has been nominated for the Pride of Australia medal in 2007 for the category ‘Peace’ by Vodafone Australia, and was nominated for the Deadly’s Television Show of the Year 2011 for On the Edge. For more about her work see http://www.earthstarproductions.com.au.