Community Personal Development Workshop

Worksho-at_Waynes_0005A few weeks ago I had the benefit of joining a weekend workshop on relationships, organised by several local people, none with any particular expertise, most coming from following various schools of personal growth. The hallmark of that weekend was, not the professionalism but the adult communication and vulnerable nature of the work. The group might be defined as people who want to make a different world, a new world, a peaceful world, a respectful world, in praxis more than oration. And this waa amply achieved. Myself, I put aside intellectual arguments I might have thought of about certain techniques of understanding our health. And, even if my argument was right, perhaps the health of all is achieved by not resisting the exploration of something unusual, just because it is unusual. I wonder, ‘Is this love?’, allowing that everything is unusual, and that it is okay that something seems unusual, and okay for that something to exist as unusual and exist as a relationship, as acceptable.

The workshop provided an opportunity to write a poem through a facilitation of a word web about relationship and human reality. My poem constructed itself from a reverie of observations by a creek that ran through the property.

I am a River

The water gurgles with a splash and a groan
over the basalt rocks,
while the leaves of the branch above
sway playfully in the gentle breeze,
disinterested in the stem of grass that
bobs and weaves in the rush
of the cascading stream.

Farm Workshop

Farm Workshop

I imagine that I am a small river,
the water rushing through and spreading
over a vast flood plain and
gathering to rush out again.
All the time moving on,
forward, faster, slower, still.
Yet jostled then, and then, and then,
as if small river, Me,
is bobbing and weaving
down a vaster river
that I cannot see
from withing each cascading moment.

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Arts, Dance, Science, Health

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Dancers 'spoofing' the science.

Dancers ‘spoofing’ the science.

Last year (2013), I had the privilege to attend two wonderful national events in the arts: The Inaugural DANscienCE Festival in Canberra hosted by the CSIRO Discovery Centre; and the 5th International Arts and Health Conference in Sydney.

The DANscienCE Festival in August 2013 was eight (8) days of presentations and demonstrations of: the science of dance; scientific ideas that can speak to dance and movement art; and dance speaking for science. Dance with ecological and ornithological themes; dance as sociological research tools; dance for healthy ageing; fluid dynamics; cognitive studies; and dancer’s health. I was asked to sit on a physiotherapy panel for an evening of presentations from 6 dance genres: ballet, hip hop, belly dance, hindu dance, african and contemporary (over 50s). The evening was, professionally, a great experience, especially as my co-panellist, Roz Penfold has previously held jobs with the Australian Triathlon Team and Australian Ballet. Evidence to that evening’s success, Glen Murray of MADEinTasmania, Australia’s best over 50s contemporary dance company, reported that he was using ideas from our discussion in his classes. The most ironical presentation of the week came from Deakin University’s Movement Studio who revealed that the Playstation NRL game was animated from the actions of dancers who can represent rugby moves better than rugby players (except the crunching tackles). As I now post this report, I am putting my support behind Liz Lea of Canberra Dance Theatre and organiser of the 2013 DANscienCE Festival, to organise another DANscienCE in 2015.

The International Arts and Health Conference focused on: creative ageing and mental health, which found me in workshops with Circus Mojo from the USA and clown doctor GP Mark Spitzer, Dancing with Poetry in the NSW Art gallery (among the Nolan’s); writing for resilience with Molly Carlille, palliative care manager; discussions on the design of nursing homes for happiness; conversations with the David Cutler,CEO Baring Foundation UK, Dominic Campbell Director Irish Beltaine Festival; UK Churchill fellow Paula Turner; Angela Lion of Arts Fusion, Singapore;and many delegates who brought a wealth of experience and aspiration to the place of the arts in the health industry, hospitals, and  community well-being. The conference coincided with public support from Federal Health Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, and his State and Territory counterparts, who endorsed a National Arts and Health Framework that was initiated by the Standing Council of Health Ministers in November 2011. As Federal and State Governments realize that there are not the resources to care for ageing ‘baby boomers’ unless there is a far greater increase in health and community support for the older person, it is becoming clear that the arts have a HUGE contribution to make in all areas of health interventions and a healthy life.

MultiCulturalism and ANZAC Day

Image of poem and graphic "Anzac Day"

Anzac Day by Owen Allen 1994

I am posting here the whole media release of Dr Farvadin Daliri who was, this year appointed by the Australian government, a People of Australia Ambassador.

My own response was: “My wife and I sing with ‘Sing Australia’ in Atherton and will be singing for ANZAC Day celebrations. This year we are also performing the New Zealand National Anthem in both English and Maori. Our Atherton group is rather white anglosaxon, however we often sing with the Mareeba group that has a large number of Italian and Spanish background people. The groups will also go to Ingham in July to sing in the Italian Festival. We sing for Australia Day, and also for small local community events. Everyone really enjoys each other’s company, especially in this common endeavour. There is one other community singing group in our local area – an acapella group – an offshoot of Beat Lehman’s ‘Acquapella’ from Townsville. I think there is hardly a song in their repertoire that is English.

So I agree with your main message, all people understand the gravity of ANZAC Day and most are enthusiastic in commemoration. There is definitely opportunity for ANZAC Day organisers to make space for new comers. And for those who come from cultures who weren’t so involved in that theatre, the opportunity of ANZAC Day is always the opportunity to reflect on how futile war is, in the context that most Australian families at the time lost sons, and I think everyone can empathise with that.

Personally, I often use the day to remember that it was Australian and British troops who, at the end of WWI, saved the life of Abdu’l Baha and the fledgling Baha’i community based in the Haifa area, and that lead to the inauguration of the ‘Save the Children’s Fund’ in Europe, a British knighthood for Abdu’l-Baha for his services in preventing famine in the Haifa region during WWI, and the extraordinary service that has grown across the world through Baha’is of all cultures who have been inspired by Abdu’l-Baha.”

My poem on Anzac Day, here, was written in 1994 after watching an ANZAC Day parade in Perth. For those of you who know your Qu’ran, you might recognise the reference to it in “clots of blood’ (Rodwell translation).

Acceptance of the ANZAC day is a reality of Australian Multiculturalism
Media release
Dr Farvardin Daliri OAM, People of Australia Ambassador
On behalf of the
Townsville Intercultural Centre Ltd.
Office of the Cultural Fest 2012
Transition for Change 2012; Unity in Diversity International Conference

Anzac Day is historically a significant Australian commemoration. ANZAC day is about remembering those who gave their lives for the greater good. Soldiers do not make decisions about going to war, rather they offer their life as a service to their country and in this respect, soldering is a universal phenomenon and is trans-cultural. The celebration of Anzac Day is one of the highlights of Australia’s cultural traditions and calendar and is part of what Australian people do in this country. Multiculturalism is also an Australian innovation, meaning that every member of the community respects and accepts other people’s cultures, celebrations, ideals and expressions. In this context Multicultural Australia must respect ANZAC day and there should be no doubt or discussion about it. If for a moment one considers opposing the ANZAC day commemoration, the whole idea of Multiculturalism will be challenged and invalidated, that is because, within the framework of Multiculturalism, acceptance is essentially inclusive, and cannot exclude respect for ANZAC day and those who are passionate about it.

The recent suggestion that the celebration of Anzac Day is not compatible with multicultural aspirations is an unfair and divisive attack on the social fabric of Australia. This is clearly an attempt to divide Australians on the very issue, on the very basis on which they are united.

The report claims that there have been consultations and focus groups costing some millions of dollars. I have lived in this community for long enough, I have never been consulted with and know no one who has been consulted on this issue. No one asked me whether or not I have an opinion about Anzac Day. Who does this report claim to “represent”? Whose views are represented here? Is it the faceless men behind the scene again having a go at the very roots of the community and at our unity and harmony? Making people take a stance against each other? People; immigrants, refugees under whatever circumstances or conditions or categories have chosen to arrive here in Australia, they “choose” to come here because of what it is and how it is, a wonderful free and inclusive nation “as it is”.

What is unique about Australia’s multiculturalism is the fact that many cultural groups and individuals have made Australia home because of one thing; acceptance and freedom and this has been the ground rule for everybody. On the same basis and by the same token Anzac day commemorations should be accepted by all as a prominent part of Australian diversity.

The prediction that in 2015 Multiculturalism will be non compatible with ANZAC day is figment of few people’s imagination and has nothing to do with the reality of multiculturalism. The announcement of this report is very upsetting for me personally because I have worked hard almost a lifetime with people in this community to address the issues of community cohesion and acceptance. I tried hard to add value to Australia through enhancement of cohesion and unity. So when I see that the whole bandwagon of multiculturalism is being derailed and high jacked by these baseless assumptions that do no good to anyone I feel disappointed. I feel that if there is anything wrong in Australian it is exactly this aspect which is related to limited pockets of wasted interest who have a divisive mindset in our community and is un-Australian. I have never heard in over 30 years of one single person having an objection to Anzac Day. People may choose not to attend ceremonies for their own personal reasons. To say that this is something that should not happen is absolutely based on someone’s dream of dividing this community on the basis of the colour, ethnicity and culture. There is no way that we can deduct multiculturalism from Australia’s social fabric. Whenever there is an attack on multiculturalism and whenever someone tries to demean or project a negative image, it is like attacking the heart of Australia. It is a fact that this negative energy will carry through to young people, through the school yards. People will start looking at each other with suspicion and that will become a real problem of division.

Australian multiculturalism is not an ethnic multiculturalism but a uniquely Australian concept that has evolved into the most beautiful of social combinations with the heritage that we have from both indigenous and Australian mainstream cultures and the many cultures and ways of life that have come in peace and have settled in together forming this wonderful nation Australia.

Every now and then someone attacks this marvelous achievement and tries to draw the lines between us and them, an “it doesn’t work so let’s give up” approach. This report has gone too far. ANZAC day is part of our Australian tradition. Why would anyone want to wreck it? People can celebrate whatever they want from significant cultural events to religious festivals and traditional ceremonies. Wonderful Australians support such events, and enjoy them no matter how strange they seem to be. We have so many reasons to celebrate life. People can go and celebrate and do what suits them. The government and community supports them. This whole fiesta of celebrations also includes those celebrations
and commemorations that are important to mainstream Australians. Welcome to Australia Multiculturalism.

I personally respect those who celebrate ANZAC day and their aspirations. I try to learn more and understand and be educated about this great day. I would encourage and support other people to do so. If I do not respect the mainstream culture and traditions how can I expect them to respect and understand newcomers to this land? It is my view, my common sense and sense of decency, telling me that I need also to understand the culture of my host community. Then I can expect a mutual acceptance and respect. Then I can hope that multiculturalism and mutual acceptance and integrity of being equal in the community is working.

I hope that Cultural Fest 2015 will organise activities in commemoration of this important centenary of ANZAC day. This is my commitment.

Dr Farvardin Daliri OAM
Townsville Intercultural Centre Ltd.
Office of the Cultural Fest 2012
Transition for Change 2012, Unity In Diversity International Conference
http://www.culturalfest.com.au http://www.unityindiversityconference.com
Mobile: 0414356875