Boingboing blogs from… Australia

Edith Cowan University and partners – great things going on there!

by Angie Hart – Boingboing blogger

Greetings. Me again. Been sweltering at Edith Cowan University in Western Oz and offered my sweaty palm to many a community member and their academic partner. What an exaggerator. The air con was on most of the time and I was fresh as a daisy. Hats off to Caroline (not forgetting Leanna, Neil and Jarni) for getting two very diverse groups of people together for both the morning and afternoon sessions – people from the uni, local council, police, schools and further education colleges to name just a few places from whence they hailed. I felt like I was almost back in Blighty with so much difference in the room – just like the monthly Resilience Forum where the presence and input of ‘anyone with a pulse’ interested in resilience research and practice is cherished. Not easy to pull off that kind of diversity, especially at short notice, so well done Caroline and co.

I won’t bother telling you what I talked about coz many of you blog readers (all three of you perhaps?) will know my recurrent themes and soap box delights only too well. But OBVIOUSLY they got to hear about what we are up to in the UK (whoever said Hart didn’t like the sound of her own voice is a shocking liar), but they also managed to get a few sentences out about their own very interesting work, and plan some follow up actions. If they read this blog, they might even chip in and tell you what they’re going to do.

I met the VC of Edith Cowan who explained that he was one of the pioneers of Engagement Australia (see previous blog, and can I have a tick please Dave?), and he was clearly very committed to the organisation. A highlight for me was hearing from the Joondalup Learning Precinct (JLP) project partners in a town 25 kms North of Perth. The Precinct brings together (or as the jargon goes, ‘co-locates’) three learning institutions in one geographical area – police, a university campus and a training institute. The City of Joondalup is involved too. They have various joint projects on the go, including a mentorship scheme. The programme focuses on the mentee/mentor gaining insights into an other organisation; while working to achieve the personal development priorities of the mentee within their existing organisation.  They’ve had loads of people through the programme now, over quite a few years. A key benefit of this is that they can just pick up the phone (or probably wander across the courtyard under their sun brolly) and find an appropriate mentorship opportunity really quickly. The mentee gets to learn about a whole different scene without having to stumble far out of the shade. Neat! They really must write that up. The world needs to know about it in stereo. Gateways or any other engagement journal, are you listening?

Let me pick out another highlight – apart from meeting the charming VC, the Engagement staff and reuniting with Prof Lynne Cohen who is a fellow resilience research chum turned senior manager for engagement in the university. All those go without saying. As is customary in Australia, one of my talks was preceded by a short speech about the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land that the university stood on. The short speech which Nyoongar Elder, Aunty May McGuire, made is referred to as a ‘Welcome to Country’ (this is a practice that has been part of Aboriginal culture for thousands of years and is now used as a protocol to open meetings, special events and official functions. It is a way of showing respect for the traditional custodians of the land where the event is taking place.

The Engagement Unit felt incredibly fortunate to have Aunty May McGuire deliver the ‘Welcome to Country’ and share some of her unique experiences and insights. Auntie May is the grandmother of Engagement unit team member Jarni. She has 28 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren. It was indeed a highlight listening to her, I had to get my hanky out. However, I felt a bit out of my depth talking about resilience with this phenomenal lady in the room, I can tell you.  Luckily she answered one of the tricky questions from the audience for me later on too. Auntie May, can we be friends? I’ve just had lunch in Brisbane with Prof Nereda White, Director of The Centre for Indigenous Education and Research (CIER) from the Australian Catholic University who knows you too. But I’ll come to that in a blog yet to materialise.

Edith Cowan has people whose job it is to support community university engagement, a bit like our Cupp. Tony Lazzara and Caroline Bishop are the names you need to remember if you want to get in contact with them to find out more about the Precinct. Tony has lots of other roles, and he is actually the very important Director of Planning, Quality and Equity. Tony seems to have engagement in his DNA – he reminds me a bit of David Phipps of York University, Toronto if any of you have met him. If not, here he is talking about engagement:

Both Tony and David are ‘mover and shaker’ university administrators.  It’s not all about the academics you know. Without champion administrators helping us through the bureaucratic hurdles we would get nowhere. Over here they are keen on the idea of memorandum of understandings to help commit to joint working between organisations. An excellent idea that can work really well. And yet, for me there is nothing like just getting stuck in with a project and defining it in the doing. Creating a few boundary objects as the CoP jargon goes is the way forward for me. Of course technically speaking, a memorandum of understanding is a boundary object, but you know what I mean. Doing a small project or something helps you see what people are like to work with before you marry them for life. In my experience we’ve mostly ended up with something quite useful too, but opinions vary on this.

I know it’s organisations that the literature says you should connect with in case your partner leaves and the show needs to go on. That’s true in many situations. Still, it’s brave, exciting, inspiring, committed people who make up community university partnerships, often against the odds. So I say follow your person to their new resting place. Unless they’ve retired of course. And even then you might be able to hook them back in for a couple of days a week. Ring any bells anyone?

Off to University of Central Queensland and Newcastle University next via various people in Brisbane. Will keep you posted. By the way, Victoria Molesworth a great former Business Development Manager from Brighton Uni used to work in Engagement at Edith Cowan, but now she’s back in Blighty. Too bad I missed her. Victoria. Did you read this? You loved it at ECU now didn’t you? And they all loved you.

Reblogged from The Cupp Network: Community University Partnership Programme at the University of Brighton.