Collaboration for a Transformed World
Honourable guests, Sisters of RSCJ, organizers. The purpose of my talk is to set the scene for the work of this gathering which is the beginning of the Australian Study Plan. This will then lead to the World Congress of World Association of Alumni and Alumnae of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans in 2006.
The theme is collaboration for a transformed world - and the hope is that we can do this (create a transformed world) by deepening our awareness of our own gifts, which will enable us to use them to their fullest.
As I understand it, my role today is to do 4 things.
- To introduce and explain the theme,
- To offer some practical suggestions about how "we" here today can go about doing using our gifts,
- To share with you some of what I have learnt about building community, building collaboration and building partnerships and to share a little bit of my experience of transformation,
- And to inspire us all to be agents of change - for the better within this community of alumnae
2. Structure of the Talk
So if that is my role, here how I thought I might approach the topic.
First: I'd like to know a little bit about us. About why we have come, what we expect and what success would look like.
Second: a bit about me and my experience of working for transformation - (lets use the word) change - in rural, regional and remote Australia.
Third: some of the lessons we have learnt along the way about building community, some strategies, practical things which work, and we have lots of research, knowledge and practical experience to draw upon for the study plan.
In conclusion: some thoughts on vision, voice, values and visibility - imagine if... creating a picture of what we could do if we all put our minds, hearts and energy into this.
3. Building Connecting
Some questions to the audience - where have you come from? where did you go to school (Sac School); why have you come; One gift you received from your mother, one gift you got from school, what are your expectations for this gathering?
4. About me
Images on the power-point - family; image of Indigo Valley; rural women.
Gifts: I would like to talk about two important gifts I have been blessed with - family & the heritage which came with this family. One aspect of this heritage was a connection to Sacre Coeur. Five of my sisters are "old girls" ( 6 of us came to Sac) four of my aunts are 'very old girls" my dad is an 'old girl/boy".
Another gift is being able to live in rural Australia. And closely associated with this is a great gift of being able to make a career working with rural women.
Some other gifts I have been given are travel, and access to education. I love travel and particularly enjoy mixing work with travel which has happened with my participation in the World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha and Ireland. Being a participant of the Australian Rural Leadership Program - whow - a great gift this one of confidence, access to the men's world, and a chance to reflect on the impact I was having on others.
As my career got underway I was blessed with some great projects - not all of them paid: Australian Women in Agriculture - I learnt about being part of a women's group and women's ways of knowing and working together and learning how to manage this - by distance, from home, using email, phone. My views changed, I changed and I learnt to listen, listen, listen and suspend judgment. I also learnt "if it was going to be it was up to me."
The Success Factors - for 3 years I chaired a national committee for John Anderson (The Deputy Prime Minister). I learnt about the power of the dinner party in getting and winning the ear of some of our pollies. He asked for some advice on the critical factors which helped communities manage change. Our research project The Success Factors also bought some important lessons. What are the critical factors for managing change ? Women said "its about belonging" - when you feel that you belong - there is a sense of connectedness - then - you are able to volunteer, you are able to give your time, and then the change comes. Of course, they told us, "the opposite happens too - if you don't belong, you won't / can't contribute and the connections are not made, nothing happens in fact something does happen, the community goes backwards."
Being part of the WTO advisory committee - that was a great gift in the most unexpected way. The overseas is so attractive and seems to be the place of most need, I was attracted to helping 'others' in need - of doing good, and I learnt that it's about here - about working within my own community where I have the connections, where I know the culture, the language, where I am know that I have real power for change. Not to say that overseas work is not important, rather that for me, the gift was to see that thinking globally and acting locally was the key. I learnt to work within my sphere of influence.
5. What we/I have learnt along the way about change/about building community- 10 minutes
Practical things that work.. Visibility, values, vision, voices,
Australian women in agriculture - I was in my late 20s when I discovered I had soil/dirt running in my veins. When I bought my farm I then set about learning from women about ways of lifting sheep, working with animals and fencing. It didn't talk long for women to connect and in 1993 established the national organization Australian Women in Agriculture. I moved through the ranks of inaugural secretary, newsletter coordinator to vice and then president.
In these early days, women were invisible in agriculture and we needed to become visible. We knew that economics was a very important part of that visibility - so we did the research, got the statistics and used them. Our work is important. It matters. Women in agriculture matter.
Stats on women in ag:
"Adding together the value of farm women's on-farm contribution, their off-farm wage income and the value of household, volunteer and community work, women contribute 48% of total real farm income.
This contribution was worth almost $14 billion in 1995 - 96. $4 billion in on-farm work, $1 billion in off-farm work, over $8 billion in household work and almost mce_marker.5 billion in volunteer and community work."
Source: Missed Opportunities report 1998 Jennifer Gordon Vol 2
We also needed to find our voices. This involved getting together in small groups. Talking to each other and listening and hearing. Knowing that our experiences were our reality - that often our reality was different to that of men's. We needed to be able to articulate this - clearly. It took and takes practice to do this.
Now AWiA is a connected and web based organization.(www.awia.org.au) Many of us live in isolate areas of Australia and are not able to get together for meetings on a regular basis. We communicate and work very effectively and efficiently by email and phone.
The Success Factors - The main lesson from the project is the value of belonging. How easy it is to create this feeling where there is a will. How hard it can be where there is difference and lack of trust. The value of a gift of time - time to talk to neighbours, to offer a hand, to organize a local activity, time to build community - the gift of being able to say that community building is value- able work. The gift of acknowledging all the people who do community building - and saying thanks regularly and often.
And from the WTO experience: I came to appreciate that this organization, based on competition and competitive advantage - may not be the best way to structure a world - it plays to our basest instincts. It implies a winner and losers. (I am all for trade - but not at any cost)
That if this system has its way and our globalised economy eventuates - then the negative consequences will be obvious and clear - that if capital moves, labour moves to find the jobs -people move - and - we have refugees - seems to me that our current situation with refugees and immigration is a direct and knowing consequence of our trade policy and our foreign policy and our values. We want cheap food, cheap clothes, low cost tourism - then labour moves. I suspect I have very little chance of changing the values which underpin the WTO, so I decided to work within my sphere of power & influence - rather than my sphere of concern.
6. So what does all this mean for the study plan.
6.1 We all share an experience of Sacre Coeur and I suspect for many of us it was transformative.
My experience of Sacre Coeur: the process transformed me and "marked" me.
Teachers such as Mrs Waziac (Maths) , Madame Screeney (French), Frau Huppert (German) and visits by international speakers- helped make me a citizen of the world,
Teachers such as Mrs McCarthy (History) , Mrs Quey (sport) Mrs Nolan (Eng lit) made me a feminist - the world was our oyster.
The experience of boarding, moving from a loving & fun loving family to the cold and drafty dormitories of Sacre Coer woke in me empathy for others - especially new boarders and compassion for the underdog - the unsophicated rural kids who had no idea about urban life - as Mother Authur once said of me 'an unpolished diamond" - Sac certainly began the process of transformation of polishing and it was painful.
It also introduced me to the joy of community theatre - ironically often linked to religion - of participation in events such as the - liturgy, procession of the lanterns, and the excitement and fun of The Call.
I think it was at "Sac" that I got my first real experience of leadership - being a blue ribbon, captain of Digby, president of a table and the perks of a prefect's room.
And of course, being so far away from home, embedded my love of the country - coming home in summer - the smells of fresh hay and the joy of reconnecting with my sisters and brothers. Interestingly I now live in close proximity to some of my extended family and enjoy playing the role of aunt, sister and daughter to my father.
Probably the most useful gift of all was access to University, and entry to Monash in the very early 1970's. Where I promptly failed my first year - and all those earlier lessons of being an underdog were reinforced as I got factory work and came face to face with poverty and working class Australia. I studied economics and history.
By my mid 30's, the themes were well established-education, community, participation, rural, citizen of the world, and of course we did it with others in partnership.
6.2 - The goals of Sacre Coeur
In preparation for this talk I went to the Sacre Coeur web site and found the following goals and was really surprised to see how many of these are now part of my work. I asked Liz Vinning Chair of the Board about the school today - and how it was in our day and she said that then it was the nuns who embodied these goals, now its much more transparent - and its the work of the school - to actively do this - its their study plan. Maybe there are lessons for us in this.
Goal 1 - Faith Which is Relevant in Today's World
Goal 2 - A Deep Respect for Intellectual Values
Goal 3 - Building Community as a Christian Value
Goal 4 - A Social Awareness that Impels to Action
Goal 5 - Personal Growth in an Atmosphere of Wise Freedom
Two of the goals and criteria stand out. Perhaps, as Liz said, we absorbed these values subliminally - however it happened, these goals are part of my feelings about my life.
Goal 2 - A Deep Respect for Intellectual Values
Serious study and a love of learning are encouraged.
Program development is based on research and evaluation.
Teaching/learning styles promote the development of persons who are knowledgeable, questioning, thoughtful and integrated.
Opportunities are provided for experiential education which includes the element of reflection.
The curriculum encourages the development of aesthetic values and the creative use of the imagination.
Goal 4.A Social Awareness that Impels to Action
The school awakens a critical sense which leads to reflection on our society and its values.
The curriculum includes study of the problems of the world community.
The school provides the knowledge and skills needed for effective action on the problems of oppression and injustice.
The school has programs which enable students to become actively involved in the wider community.
7. To the Study Plan. Collaboration for transformation
In 1805, Madeleine Sophie Baret drafted her first plan of study - this year is the bicentennial of that event. (May 25th her feast) Numerous revisions were undertaken but always the same emphasis. There were four main elements
* serious study
* educating to a social responsibility
* laying the foundation of a strong faith
* concern for the total development of each student
This gathering is about us preparing our own study plan.
What can we do?
What do we want to do?
What do we have in common?
What will motivate us - to begin, to come together again,
What resources do we need?
What would success look like?
What works ?
From my experience I would suggest that Values, Visibility, Vision and Voice - are important parts of the plan.
Communities work - lets make communities visible and give them voice. Let's work in communities - let's collaborate with others.
Belonging matters - it's an important value - it's not about the "what" we do, so much as the "how" we do it.
Act within our sphere of Influence/concern/power - work from our strengths (concern, influence, power) work where we have voice.
We can make it up as we go along. We can learn our way into the future.
Some one famous once said that the future it is not a destination... "The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found, but made, and the making of those pathways changes both the maker and the destination."
There must be fun,
8. In conclusion
Today is about creating our plan of study. We belong: We have in common our Sacre Coeur education; we share a type of faith - perhaps more accurately a type of hope for a better world; we have today - and tomorrow - time together - our shared experience. We have our gifts.
We have our lived experience, our knowledge of the world; our experience as women in the world and all its diversity, emotions, knowledge, relationships and resources. We have our differences of age, race, interest, time, motivation, resources, Lets believe we have enough in common and the belief that we could grow to be the embodiment of the dream of the Madeline Sophie - feast on the 25th of May.
We need to believe there is room for everyone to bloom where they are planted - and the diversity and richness of a thriving garden. It's a multicultural garden we are creating.
We need to put our hand out to others and invite them into our garden - where there is good water, shelter and nurturing.
More good has been launched by more people from kitchen tables than any other platform in the land.
We need to have the confidence that we can achieve - that we can work together and get positive, practical change.
We need to give voice to our experience - to our experience of being Australian, to being Christian. To a faith which is relevant, for respect for intellectual values (rigor), for social awareness which impels to action and to personal growth.
I am told that Mark Twain's mother once gave this bit of wisdom. "The secret of success is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking the complex, over whelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then, starting on the smallest and easiest."
In bringing this talk to a conclusion, I'd like to share some of my vision, to explain why I accepted today's invitation and ask you to imagine if.....
When I completed the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) - our group committed themselves to a vision. "Where rural Australia was prosperous and caring, alive with opportunities for everyone" in short a transformed world. We can't do it by ourselves. It's about us all working in collaboration. It's about rural and urban working together and widening our spheres of power and influence. My issues are around trade, refugees, sustainable food systems and managing change in rural areas. Using my gifts within a rural context.
And for us here today - our plan of study is an opportunity to think about our gifts and how we can use them.
Where we can let our lights shine brightly and be proud of our talents and gifts. Where the lives we live are heavenly.
And to finish with the words attributed to Nelson Mandela
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are born to manifest the glory of god that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Nelson Mendela, 1994 Inaugural speech.