Life Stories Circle

Creating life stories with isolated older people

Project Description

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Life Stories Circle


Campbelltown, South Australia

Ongoing since since 2013



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“I have enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and the support that the Circle members provide to each other. We have a great time, often with a lot of laughs.”
— Graham, participant

Why was the project run?

The volunteer-run Campbelltown Life Stories Circle aims to bring together elderly and socially isolated people who might otherwise have little contact with others. They aim to tackle loneliness, particularly amongst those who have lost their spouse.


Annie and John Payne, founders of the charity Life Stories Australia Inc.


Elderly and socially isolated people, currently aged between 62-97 years old. Usually 10-15 people participate each week.

What happened

The group meets every Wednesday morning at a local library. Each week, participants give a three minute talk and share relevant photos on a particular topic, varying from the entertaining – “Funny situations that still make you laugh” – to the philosophical – “Perceptions of the self”.

Volunteers record their stories and scan their photos. After the session one of the volunteers adds some of the best content to

Links to their stories are passed on to relatives where possible, who can enjoy them wherever they are in the world.

If anyone brings in photos of particular historical significance they are scanned and passed on to a relevant archive – Australian War Memorial museum were “absolutely rapt” by a particular batch.

What was created
  • A weekly social session for elderly and socially isolated people
  • A digital archive on containing a small selection of the 1,100 photos and stories gathered to date

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“It’s the highlight of my week”
— Bill, 96, participant

“I feel it’s vital that our life stories are told and preserved. I’m very, very glad that they are recorded for our young ones to tap into, as they should know how their ancestors moved and settled here in Australia from other lands. I came as a 6 year old child from post-war Italy. They need to know how life was back then.”
— Lisa, participant

One woman had not left her house for four and a half years after her husband died. “She had become a recluse,” says the programme organiser. Now she is the first person at the story sharing circle every Wednesday.


The organisers said:

  • “It opens their eyes to what happened in other parts of the world.”
  • “The recordings help strengthen family ties – it doesn’t matter where in the world the family is – one woman has family in nine different countries and they can all hear and comment on her stories.”
  • “It definitely has a social impact. These isolated people have formed a tightly knit group. They look after each other and phone each other outside sessions to find out if they are coming that week. They have become friends.”
Ongoing activity

Once the project is sustainable in Campbelltown, they plan to approach other councils in Adelaide, or even other cities, to run similar projects.

They also aim to set up a program in which they visit people in their homes if they are unable to come to the library sessions.

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