Recently I found an article about the ‘Melbourne 2030: Planning for Sustainable Growth’ document that involved 3 years, $5 million, around 5500 people and consultants who appear not to have kept to their community consultation brief.
The writer asked:
When you read about the devastating Little Children are Sacred report, about uncoordinated strategies and the need for political will, you can feel the imperative to LEARN HOW to engage so goals CAN be achieved…lives saved from the scrapheap…and our taxes working well!
Talk about improved education and law enforcement is fine but don’t we have to also engage Aboriginal communities themselves to take responsibility, as Noel Pearson has suggested previously, and for them to work out individual community responses – in a supportive environment?
Study Circles are designed to encourage both personal growth and social responsibility. For the Swedish people since the late nineteenth century, learning from the collective wisdom of the group has been an answer to their problems of poverty and illiteracy.
It seems around one-third of Swedish adults are engaged in some form of adult education – usually a study circle – linked to a broader educational movement called ‘folk schools’. The government has subsidized this form of education since 1947, and uses it not only to educate people about government policies, but to receive feedback from the public.
The idea was imported from America a century ago and today Americans are re-embracing the concept after a period of lack of involvement in community affairs.
Historically Australian Aboriginals have a strong sense of family-kinship-community which could be re-embraced.
Folk schools are a cooperative community of learners and teachers, promoting individual growth in the community…similar to our Neighbourhood Houses(?) They emphasise awareness of, and appreciation for, a shared background, through direct, person-to-person interchange.
Unlike the traditional classroom – where inequality affects not only the student/teacher relationship, but the relationships between students – in a study circle, value is placed on generating and communicating ideas of one’s own.
Usually there is a facilitator whose job is to keep the discussion going. Facilitators need be ‘expert’ only in managing the group so that all are heard and the conversation stays lively and on topic.
This emphasis on the responsibility to work for the common good seems to fit well with the growing realisation that we cannot deal with the tremendous social and environmental problems we face unless everyone is part of developing the solutions.