Some responses to ‘Oasis in the City’

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Ideas like Oasis in the City require a long gestation, but it has been good to get some feedback so soon after putting it out there.

It took nearly twenty years to get Oasis at Flinders to where it was when I retired; it has been relatively easy to extend what I learnt at Flinders to a new situation.

More input, critical feedback and continual modification of the vision, and finding diverse partners committed to bringing it to fruition, will be the next step.

I think that such a centre might work at at least two levels:

  • As a meeting point for organisations and individuals concerned with nurturing well being – hopefully to get synergies across that diversity – connections and collaborations.
  • As a place of practice, where those ‘passing through’ (if envisaged as an Oasis) – tourists, students, refugees –  experience the benefits of those collaborations, supported by committed volunteers.

The centre could therefore be both a service to ‘travellers’, and at the same time, an ever-evolving radical model of respect, inclusion and care, fostering global understanding and friendship that might be a resource for the city.

In response to some feedback, it could:

  • act as a hub for multi-faith spiritual care.
  • with a working model at hand, it could also be a school for chaplains and others, equipping them to better support their practice in the pluralist, public domain.
  • it could also be a place where spiritually supportive start-ups might be nurtured.
  • it might be a meeting point for networking among those who share the vision of a more equitable, caring, wholistic world and want to contribute to it.
  • as a likely place for placement of Masters of Social Work international students, and possible synergies with university social work people.
As long as we are heading toward human flourishing, and exploring and promoting spirituality within that, the sky’s the limit!
All of De Bono’s thinking hats will be needed in the first instance!

Flinders Yunggorendi

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Auntie Josie

I didn’t realize, until it was pointed out to me, that the Flinders University logo is problematic among the Aboriginal community. It’s the image of the sailing ship, of course, and all that symbol has come to mean in terms of colonisation and dispossession, echoing to today’s need for reconciliation and ‘closing the gap’.

But yesterday I discovered that the word Yunggorendi is more than the Aboriginal name for the ‘First Nations Centre for Higher Education and Research’. It is a Kaurna word for university. And it means, ‘to impart knowledge, to communicate, to inform’. From a Kaurna perspective, knowledge lies sleeping in the land. So I get the picture of education as creating awareness of the knowledge that is already there, waiting to be awoken – not so far removed from Flinders and ‘The Investigator’.

This is what Yunggorendi says about its values on the Flinders website:

The name Yunggorendi was given to the Centre by Kaurna people, traditional owners of the lands and waters on which the Bedford Park Campus of Flinders University is situated. The values by which Yunggorendi conducts our affairs are framed from our name and core purpose – ‘to impart knowledge, to communicate, to inform’ in and through higher education:

  • Respect – for First Nations Peoples’ knowledge systems.
  • Commitment – to ourselves and others to explore and define the depths of knowledge locally and globally, to enable us to re-enrich ourselves, to know who we are, to know where we came from and to claim our place in the future.
  • Empowerment – of the descendants of Indigenous Australian people to claim and develop their cultural heritage and to broaden and enhance their knowledge base so as to be able to face with confidence and dignity the challenges of the future.
  • Reciprocity – as a guiding principle of sovereignty, reconciliation and nation-building.
  • Inclusiveness – of the aspirations of our students, staff and Communities for the purposes of positive transformation of Indigenous social, political and economic life and well-being.
  • Collaboration – in culturally safe environments to serve the needs of Indigenous peoples, their Communities and the broader community.
  • Interconnectedness – by recognising that our collective future involves connectedness, relatedness and synergies, where sharing and trust are critical to pathways by which knowledge and understanding within, between and across communities of interest can be fostered.
  • Integrity – through transparency, commitment and high standards.
  • Generosity of spirit – through a desire to share joy, knowledge and insights with others.
  • Creativity – by drawing upon human and non-human spirit, emotion, intellect and physical capability to find solutions, seize upon opportunities and create gifts for the world.

    http://www.flinders.edu.au/yunggorendi/values-statement.cfm

These are values Oasis would also affirm.

In the ‘old Oasis’ the entrance foyer was designed to ‘say’ that everyone who entered was on Kaurna land – as is said in acknowledgements before public meetings. The facing blue wall represented sky, the side yellow walls represented sun and the burned-orange floor the red sands of the desert. All five paintings on the wall were Aboriginal.

Most people who entered were probably not aware of this symbolism, but we hoped Aboriginal people would get it, and feel at home.

But this intention was not just to pay respects to the original and continuing custodians of the land.

All religions are imports! So religious leaders themselves ought to acknowledge the secondary place of their religions with respect to the indigenous religions of the land. It is a matter of humility among religions, and justice and respect for others. We all stand on Aboriginal land and that should contextualize our own faiths!

The ‘new Oasis’ will need to give priority to Aboriginal culture and engender humility among its users.

And maybe the University might change its title from Flinders University to Flinders Yunggorendi, to reflect that priority.