Category Archives: The Orality Center

Our First Memory Workshops were wonderful

The first Memory Workshops run by The Orality Centre were a huge success. We want to thank all those who came – especially the enthusiastic participants who travelled all the way from Queensland and New South Wales.


The Orality Centre staff from left to right: Paul Allen, Lynne Kelly, Alice Steele and Damian Kelly

Details of the workshops on offer are in the previous post.

0-paul-connections-1000Paul’s two Memory Palace workshops ran morning and afternoon. Participants were guided through the crucial skill of how to link seemingly unconnected concepts to places. Initially, they linked the first 20 most populated countries in the world to different abstract art works.

They did it brilliantly!


How would you link this artwork to Thailand on your memory trail?

And this is the type of thing they were puzzling over: Paul’s sculptures! Participants linked this to Thailand.

At the end of the workshop they could name the first 20 countries despite not having thought about them for a few hours.

The Memory Palace workshop then went outside to use a memory trail in the landscape to encode information of their choice.



0-Alice-lukasa-1000Inside Alice ran a Winter Count workshop in the morning and a Memory Boards workshop in the afternoon.

The memory boards are based on the mnemonic device of the African Luba people known as a lukasa.

0-lisa-minchin-1000Lisa Minchin encoded the local wattle species to her memory board. Rumour has it that her partner has since been treated to numerous enthusiastic demonstrations of her knowledge of the first 20 countries and the local wattles.

We will be running Memory Workshops in schools and other locations. Please email for more information.

Lynne Kelly








Memory Workshops – Saturday 17 June

The first  Memory Workshops will be held at The Orality Centre in Castlemaine, Victoria, on Saturday 17 June 2017.

Dr Lynne Kelly will give a short talk to all participants about the background to the memory methods. But most important will be the practical workshops. Lynne will oscillate between parallel workshops to be led by Paul Allen and Alice Steel.

BOOK HERE: Workshops can be booked through this link

You do NOT need to do two workshops, but are welcome to come morning or afternoon only.

Morning: 10 AM to 1 PM  $60 per workshop.
Memory Palaces OR Winter Count (Tea / Coffee / Biscuits provided)

Lunch: 1 PM to 2 PM Optional. Main course and desert for $20 catered by Caroline Cook. (Lasagne (meat or veggie) & salad OR Pumpkin Soup & bread then Sticky Date Pudding OR fresh fruit platter.)

Afternoon: 1 PM to 5 PM  $60 per workshop.
Memory Palaces OR Memory Boards (Tea / Coffee / Biscuits provided)

Memory Palaces (also known as the method of loci or memory trails)

800px-Hans_Vredeman_de_Vries_Nachfolge_Ideale_PalastarchitekturA workshop on Memory Palaces has been the most requested workshop, so it will be run twice, from 10 AM to 1 PM and then again from 2 PM to 5 PM. No materials are required for this. Paul Allen will lead the workshop. The memory palace consists of a sequence of locations in which information is stored by linking it to the physical properties of the location. It is the single most effective memory system known, used by all indigenous cultures (such as Australian Aboriginal songlines and Native American pilgrimage trails). They are best known from the orators of the ancient Greeks from Homer to Cicero. All contemporary memory champions use this method.

Paul will teach the method using the example of the countries of the world in population order. The workshop will then adjust to working with participants to encode the information of their choice to the memory palace. Participants will need to bring their information with them.

Winter Count
lone-dog-winter_count-1000Winter Counts are best known from the Sioux Indians of North America. The Sioux add one image per year, decided at the first snowfall of winter. The image represents the most significant event of the previous year. Tribal history and learnings are then attached through story to that image. By retelling the stories, the information is retained. The Orality Centre has been discussing recent research about the impact of dementia and feel that one component may be our lack of links to the stories that define our history and identity. By creating a personal TOC-WinterCount participants will discover how effective this method of storing information can be. As a bonus, participants will have the fun of creating a beautiful object to be constantly updated and valued by their family. They will need to bring dates for defining events of their lives. This workshop will be led by Alice Steel and will certainly lead to a great deal of discussion.

This workshop will be held in the morning, 10 AM to 1 PM, so the conversations can continue over lunch. All materials will be covered by the $5 materials charge.

Memory Boards
3-reefe-lukasa-fig1Memory boards are incredibly effective portable devices and found in various forms right across indigenous cultures, from the songboards and birchbark scrolls of Native Americans to the tjuringa of Australian Aboriginal elders. We will model our memory boards on the well-documented West African lukasa of the Luba people.  In its simplest form, the lukasa consists of beads and shells attached to a piece of wood, just the right size to hold comfortably – which we will call a TOC-lukasa. A personal TOC-lukasa is a gorgeous object which is hugely practical as well.

Participants will encode information of their choosing and design their memory boards accordingly. Please bring information for any topic with you. We will also have examples of suitable information on offer. The TOC-lukasa at right is encoded with an entire field guide to the birds of Victoria.

A charge of $5 will cover all materials needed. The workshop will be lead by Alice Steel from 2 PM to 5 PM.


The Malmsbury Rapscallions

Our founding school in The Malmsbury Project is Malmsbury Primary School in rural Victoria. One of our first tasks was to develop rapscallions with the students. We will be dealing with two forms initially, personal rapscallions and those we are making in class for the entire school.

Personal rapscallions are any character who already exists for the student – a toy, pet, or tree. (More about the trees in another post). We have yet to find a student who doesn’t have at least one rapscallion in their imagination already. This is a natural thing to do!

As part of the art curriculum, students are learning about sculpture. But the sculptures they are creating will then form a pantheon of characters which can be used in the stories which will tell of the knowledge from all aspects of the curriculum. These rapscallions will talk about science, be the audience for persuasive text – and the creators of alternative persuasive writing. They will perform mathematics and debate spelling. We are just beginning to see the potential. But first we need our rapscallions.

Art teacher, Paul Allen, has devised a sequence of steps to create varied and animated characters. First the students draw the character they wish to create. That is all students from Preparatory year to the Grade Six. Students then use bits of small branches from the local trees. This ensure that they have strange twists which become striking characteristics.


A rapscallion ready for the next stage.


Making sure we understand the action of the rapscallion.

The skeletons are then wired into place. Paul does this for the younger students, but the older students can do it themselves.


Then they start adding the ‘flesh’. Paul has them bulking out their rapscallions with paper and tape.


The rapscallions are already gaining individual character and the students are already talking about the way they want to paint them and what their personalities will be. We have people and bears, horses and skull-headed critters. We have trees and angels and fairies and … a whole pantheon coming into being.

Unlike art projects which then head home, the rapscallions will stay at school to be learning tools. But it is only Week Two – we have to give them skin and paint them first. That will be another post.

Lynne Kelly

The Orality Centre is founded

The founders of The Orality Centre met for the first time at the end of the 2016 school year. As a very new venture, this site will grow rapidly as the various aspects of the Centre are added.

What is orality? Cultures which have no contact whatsoever with writing, referred to as primary oral cultures, have developed a suite of mnemonic technologies in order to memorise the learning built up over the millennia. Without literacy, many of the communication and knowledge functions that we associate with writing were conducted using a vast array of extraordinary memory methods.  We wish to learn from indigenous cultures to explore how orality can be used to enhance the literacy with which we are so familiar.

Director Dr Lynne Kelly and Deputy Director Paul Allen along with committee members Alice Steel and Damian Kelly will work in 2017 to explore the practicalities of using the memory methods of oral cultures in contemporary education.

We also have a Board of Advisors and Student Advisory Panel being established to assist with the research. More of that soon!

For more details, see the About Page.