The long term aim of the Aboriginal elders is to establish a Bush University
where their knowledge would be taught on an equal basis with western knowledge. In
October 1997 there were discussions with the Directors of Desert Tracks, Diana
James and Anthony Judge, visiting Director of Research and Communication
from the Union of International Associations (UIA)
in Brussels. The urgency felt by the elders to establish such a University
was strongly expressed.
A detailed proposal of educational initiatives for a University of Earth has
been prepared by Anthony Judge and is currently being developed by Diana James
In consultation with the Directors and other consultants. This will form
the basis for seeking funding.
The Current Angatja Bush College Course will form the core programme. Links
with the University of Western Sydney and the Ngarinyin Aboriginal Corporation
Kimberley Bush University are being established. Groups from the Centre
for Aboriginal Studies at the University of Western Australia and Kyoto University
in Japan already regularly send student groups to Angatja.
A multi campus approach that provides formal academic recognition of bush
learning and integrates this into mainstream courses is the long term goal.
The elders wish their knowledge to be given the respect it deserves in our
institutes of higher learning.
Humanity is part of the intricate kinship web
that connects all living things, elements and the Land. Healing
the soul and spirit of individuals and the world requires activating our
ability to respond to each other as members of this family. The Land will
nurture us if we nurture it.
Traditional indigenous wisdom teaches
that man keeps country, family and Law alive by singing the Songlines .
Modern western scientists acknowledge that human imagination is a
powerful creator of the changing ecological and cultural environment.
We need to honour the power of our imaginal world and participate
in the continual recreation of the world - culturally, environmentally
, socially and spiritually.
The different ways of knowing of
all peoples of this Earth must be heard and understood to allow humanity
to develop new strategies to ensure the sustainability of it's biological
and cultural diversity. We must co-create new methods of joint custodialship
of the Land.
|Western language (Anthony Judge)
||Aboriginal language (Diana James)
|Pattern of Initiatives
The purpose of this document is to sketch out some ideas for the design
of a pattern of initiatives.
These initiatives are to be "positioned" at different "stages" between
western economic rationality and a cultural framework more congenial to
Aboriginal tribes people.
Those closest to the economic rationale would naturally be easiest to
develop and sustain according to conventional business approaches. Those
closest to an Aboriginal cultural framework would require most creativity
in ensuring their economic viability. They might however offer the greatest
opportunities for challenging new insight to non-Aborigines -- as well
as being of most value to Aborigines themselves.
|Campfire Dialogue Circles for the Exchange of Different Ways of
The purpose of this document is to elaborate on a set of learning situations
and teaching 'camps/ campuses' where the exchange of different ways of
cultural knowing can be explored in depth. These have developed primarily
in the context of the interchange of knowledge between the Pitjantjatjara
people indigenous to Central Australia and Western culture.
The Pitjantjatjara elders of Angatja and Cave Hill established
Desert Tracks as a cross-cultural Bush College in 1988 with the long term
aim of developing a Bush University to teach their cultural
knowledge and the western skills necessary to their communities. Their
aim is to provide cross-cultural learning situations where all traditions
of knowledge were honoured and bridges of understanding developed between
the different ways of knowing. Indigenous intellectual knowledge is controlled
by the elders at all times and any material produced appropriately
The type of learning camps or campuses and the subject areas to be studied
are in development.. Some will be more geared to economic, environmental,
social and cultural sustainability. While other areas of knowledge exchange
will have a more philosophical or spiritual value.
These initiatives can best be understood as interface contexts, whatever
their organizational or material form. They are to be designed to facilitate
interaction between cultures or paradigms.
It is expected that people and processes would transfer with greatest
facility between neighbouring initiatives. Cultural acclimatization at
any particular "stage" might be required before transferring on to another
stage - whether towards western economic rationality or towards an Aboriginal
The pattern of initiatives might therefore be understood metaphorically
like a sequence of sub-surface staging posts at which divers can work --
or like a series of camps required in the course of climbing the highest
of mountains. They might also be thought of as a paradigm "bridge".
|Moving Between the Camps
Each camp /campus will have several 'fires' burning within
each of the areas of knowledge being explored. Around each' fire' students
will sit in one of the rings at various distances from the central fire,
their position dependent on their stage of knowledge. Different skills
are required to sit near the inner fire of traditional medicinal herb usage,
than near the inner fire of the western economic skills needed to run a
To move from one camp to another you travel slowly, walk to the nearest
camp, wait like a stranger on the outside to be asked in, do not presume
acceptance or recognition of prior learning from the outside it might be
meaningless on the inside.
Ngapartji, ngapartji! in return. Those on the inside must walk
carefully out, needing to learn new skills. Learn the language .Sit and
observe, walk behind with respect and earn your right to be respected.
People may alternatively be learners and teachers in their cultural knowledge.
As with all systems of knowledge, people will have to go through several
stages of acquiring knowledge and complete these to a satisfactory level
of accomplishment to be recognised by the community as one who 'knows'
Then progress to the next ring around the core fire of one discipline
or movement to another fire or camp can be made.
Each culture has a complementary series of social, moral and other codes
that protect the individuals, therefore movement of individuals into other
cultural norms should be by careful steps with protection.
More generally, the sequence of initiatives might be seen as a social
experiment in providing institutional staging posts between paradigmatic
extremes such as economic materialism and psycho-cultural well-being:
|How do we make Camp Together - These camps are designed to foster
understanding between these two worlds - the western world and the indigenous
way of Land.
Both cultures need to co-create new ways of ensuring economic, cultural
and spiritual sustainability. The aim being, as Nganyinytja says, to keep
their 'spirit strong'.
|1. Recognising that ultimately one extreme cannot survive without the
other, a first challenge to design feasibility is to find ways to step
up or down between them, reframing the design criteria at each level.
||1. Bridges must be built for people to move between the different ways
of knowing. One system is mutually dependent on the other for survival.
Sensitive design of 'campsites'/ learning exchange sites, the paths between
them and the stages of access necessary for movement between them is crucial.
Elders from both cultures in all disciplines will need to work together
on these design challenges.We all need to work together, to keep both
Laws strong. We need 'separate camps' for people learning at different
stages of knowing. We need 'elders' to work with them at each camp, who
know how to move and guide others between the camps.
|2. A second challenge is to describe the stages meaningfully in relationship
to one another and as a whole -- for without creative imaging the pattern
as a whole will lack credibility. This is probably as important in terms
of economic rationalism as it is in terms of any Aboriginal Dreamtime perspective.
||2. These teaching 'camps' must be 'dreamed/ designed' by Aborigines
and westerners together. The kinship model that links all people to each
other and their environment through creation ancestors may form a credible
system for patterning the system of 'camps' and 'fire' of these initiatives.
The Two Laws need to be able to move together in a 'true' way. For both
groups they must be real and hold the essence of their Law.
|3. A third challenge is to recognize the constraints on development
of projects according to purely economic criteria -- and the corresponding
need for resource-light projects capable of responding both to the progressive
erosion of social safety nets within any purely economic context as well
as to the increasing demand for meaningful lifestyles.
||3. Nganana maralpa angkupai! We must travel lightly!
All initiatives/ campsites must be geared towards sustainability. The
emphasis needs to be on resource light development that uses existing facilities,
enhances existing community initiatives, links areas of study and
students , universities, TAFE structures, formal and non-formal cross-cultural
educational institutions. To build strength by creating support systems
between isolated and often small centres or courses.
|Transitions between Paradigms
This transition between paradigms and logics is far from being abstract
or unfamiliar. It is most familiar to everyone in daily life when moving
between contexts. In some, such as management of a business, the economic
criterion may be fundamental. In others, such as recreation, then interest,
relaxation or amusement may be the criteria. And again, in community contexts,
the well-being of others may be the prime criterion. Spiritual concerns
may determine other criteria. In personal relationships, quite other criteria
may apply, notably with respect to children and parents. The criteria of
one context may be totally neglected in another.
|Moving between the Worlds
We know how to be different people in different places.
Sometimes we are bosses for Inma or business, sometimes we are father
or mother, son or daughter, uncle or aunt, grandfather or grandmother.
The law is different for each role in society. We are one person but
also know how to be many different people. We move between different camps
|However, in each of the contexts indicated, economic or other "external"
criteria may nevertheless have a strong influence - whether beneficial
or not. Similarly, even in a purely economic context, other criteria may
exert an influence, whether ethical, aesthetic, spiritual, ecological --
or to give form to a personal dream.
||Money story or Inma Way may work together or fight each other in some
camps. New economic solutions to achieving community goals and continuity
of cultural traditions may need to be devised. The 'camps' - learning
stages - will be part of the whole community process the aims of the exchange
to contribute in a real way to practical on the ground life issues.
|The challenge here is to see the proposed initiatives
as stepping stones, allowing people to move one way or another.
||People may want to stay in one main camp of learning or they may wish
to move to closer to the inner fires of the knowing, or change to
another camp of learning. Pathways must be created to allow meaningful
fires within camps and between different camps.
|Initiatives - and their distinctiveness
In envisaging how a pattern of initiatives might be designed, several
distinct concerns need to be kept in mind: Differences in domain or focus
(e.g. health, education, etc.), which could contribute to the complementarity
of the initiatives.
|Camp fires with different stories
Some camps might be health business, others might be education business.
Some will talk both education and health business. Camps of learning will
relate in different ways. Health may be the 'grandparent' camp the oversees
housing, which is 'parent 'camp to essential services. All these camps
may contribute to teaching the grandchildren's camp.
|Ways in which each particular initiative could involve more or less
resources, whether as initial investment or in its ongoing activities.
For example, visitors, participants or residents might be present in a
high resource ("first class"), a low resource mode, or somewhere in between.
||Some camps will have hostels, showers, and air conditioned buses. Some
camps may have tents and wilytjas .Other camps may be bush way, swags and
billy cans on the fire. Different facilities for different purposes.
|Differences in preoccupation, communication, attitude or expectation
of people who might be simultaneously present and involved in any one initiative.
Ways in which any pattern of apparently external differences amongst the
initiatives is in fact a reflection of a pattern of internal differences
within each individual - whether consciously active at any one time or
||Students and visitors will come with different prior knowledge, different
abilities and expectations. Depending on their intended length of study
and aptitude they will necessarily achieve different understandings. There
will need to be legally enforceable controls on the use and abuse
of shared traditional knowledge. Just as there are legal consequences of
misuse of knowledge in both cultures, the cross-cultural interface requires
a sensitive and sophisticated legal control system.
|These considerations make it clearer that the
notion of "tethering" initiatives at different "levels" (as discussed above)
needs to be treated in a more subtle matter. For a start the notion of
"level" can be criticized as unnecessarily hierarchical when the complementarity
of the pattern of distinct initiatives offers a more fruitful insight.
To the extent that the initiatives can be compared to community energy
"chakras", for example, any competitive evaluation could only marginalize
vital energy foci. It is not useful to perceive one chakra as "better"
||The camps and fires of each initiative or discipline will be positioned
in relationship to each other in terms of kinship relationships that acknowledge
different levels of knowledge in a subject. Separate camps will be set
up for young men and women in the early adult stages of learning.
The 'katja / son' and 'untalpa / daughter' camps will be taught by 'mama
/ father', 'ngunytju / mother', kulypalpa / uncle or kuntili/aunt
- possibly equivalent to lecturers and tutors. They will also be instructed
by 'tjamu / kami / elders / professors'.
Each camp/campus of each discipline will be related to all other camps,
thus ensuring deep interdisciplinary respect and co-operation on all kin
levels of grandparent/ grandchild, parent/ child, sibling, and the
new ideas from grandchildren camps being listened to by grandparent camps.
kinship model of interrelationships between camps/ campuses.]
Access to the teaching fires of the elders or professors will be by
acknowledgment of attainment of knowledge and readiness judged so by the
elders. Prior knowledge or achievement in other systems of knowledge may
or may not be judged sufficient.
|Avoiding any commitment to "better", the general concern is to create
environments that allow for initiatives and ways of being that are less
governed by economic criteria and their problematic future. This means
that whilst each initiative might be said to have a presence at every "level",
the main focus or centre of gravity for many of those involved might be
at a quite distinct level. It is there that the sustaining processes would
be most apparent -- an through them the credibility of that initiative
to those participating most actively in it.
||Within each camp/ campus will be several 'fires' of learning. Depth
of knowing will be acquired by moving gradually in towards the inner ring
around each fire, then progressing on to the next fire within the systems
of fires inside each camp. The emphasis is not on a set progression, which
may not be exactly the same for each student,
but rather on the quality of being, listening and understanding displayed
by the student at each fire.
The shortest way between two points is not necessarily a straight line
in the desert. Survival may require knowledge of the longer circuitous
route. Knowing the 'songline' allows students to find the waterholes and
food along the
'learning' trail . Those who try to travel too fast ignoring the 'songline'
|A preliminary outline
In considering the following pattern of initiatives, it is important
to bear in mind the points of the previous paragraphs.
Whilst an initiative may have an apparent economic dimension, this could
be quite secondary to sustaining processes important to key participants
- for whom other criteria would apply.
Whilst even in the least economically focused initiative, some participants
may be found who are well-resourced or with strong economic preoccupations,
of far greater importance is the level of subtlety at which most participants
there choose to operate - or the level at which some there may be able
to operate. It is that which ensures the "tethering" at various "levels"
of meaning -- or degrees of opening to the unconscious.
|A first overview
The core principles must be continually returned to
in designing each camp/ campus of study.
Mutually enchancing ways of cultural knowledge sharing are being sought
Economic considerations are only one aspect of the sustainability criteria,
cultural and spiritual dimensions light the fires of deeper intensity.
Reciprocity /Ngapartji-ngapartji : deep sharing of knowledge;
Kinship / Walytja : kin relationships between students/ teachers,
learning camps, and campfires;
Songline Way / Inma Way: honouring the power of our
imagination to co-create new 'songlines' to maintain cultural and ecological
Listening / Kulini: - will determine the depth of the exchange.
|1. Lifestyle initiative:
This could be envisaged as a blend of intentional community (semi-
permanent residents) and alternative eco-tourism facility (1 to 7 day visitors).
Aspects of eco- villages provide models of the first dimension; features
of the Club Mediterannée offer models of the second dimension. It
could be succinctly described as a spiritual or ecological Club Mediterannée,
of which Findhorn is an economically viable example.
Clearly the purpose would be to attract paying visitors to offer them
an experience of an alternative lifestyle in relation to the land and those
who choose to live there. It would be an essentially safe environment,
although distinctly less commercial than the main tourist complex at Yulara.
In contrast to Yulara, for example, special attention would be given to
the interface through which visitors and Aborigines interacted. The style
might be usefully compared to the complex at Manyallaluk (near Katherine).
As with Findhorn, the infrastructure might be initially limited to caravan
facilities sensitively designed to blend into the environment. The centre
would be used as a base for eco- tourism exploration of the land.
|1. Bush Camp: lifestyle experience.
Eco-tourism camp with semi-permanent accommodation and facilities for
staff and visitors. Some visitors could stay for long periods of study/
alternative lifestyle experience, others could come on tours from 1 to
Atal campsite with low key environmentally suitable accommodation.
Angatja Bush College type tours.
Reciprocity: working as guides, learning tourism business, economic
Kinship: becoming friends, family with people from other cultures.
Songline Way: teaching the Songlines, keeping tradition alive.
Listening: teaching awareness of Land. Learning western ways of
|2. Healing initiative:
This would be partially inspired by the traditional model of
the mountain sanatorium for convalescents and the terminally ill.
A relevant economically viable model is Nowo Balance (Kreuth, Tegernsee)
which specializes in alternative therapies. There are many other interesting
examples of health centres. The purpose here would be to create an environment
offering temporary and more permanent residence, at different resource
levels. This assumes that a range of patients and illnesses would benefit
from desert conditions and the healing properties of the land - on which
attention would be focused, if only with respect to psycho-spiritual healing.
For the terminally ill, the aim is to offer a hospice environment conducive
to death with dignity and meaning, in contrast to death in institutions,
however well-resourced. This initiative could also respond to the challenges
of substance abuse that affect both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal society
- if only as a "drying-out" centre. Another possibility is to provide a
context for the mentally and physically challenged (as with the Steiner
Camphill community model). Special attention would be given to the healing
skills of the ngankaris.
| 2. Healing camp:
A desert healing centre for sick or those with serious illness
to receive healing from ngankaris and dry desert environment. 'Dry
out' centre for indigenous and non-indigenous alcoholics and drug addicts.
A place for people to rest and regain their faith in life / Law.
Listening - sickness of spirit as separation from the Land is
Reciprocity : economic return for traditional medicine knowledge
and teaching of western sciences related to plants and healing.
Kinship: relationships between western and indigenous knowledge
Songline Way: traditional spiritual healing knowledge kept alive.
Links to modern psychology, counselling and therapy taught.
indigenous knowing that man's spiritual relationship to Land affects
|3. Information initiative:
This initiative is inspired by the manner in which Aboriginal culture
uses the land as a mnemonic device to carry large amounts of information.
One purpose would be to explore ways of holding and representing Aboriginal
songline information, experience and insight using modern multi-media technology.
A corresponding purpose would be to explore ways of using insights from
songline (and analogous) forms of organization as a means of devising new
approaches to organizing knowledge - notably on the Web. This could extend
into using virtual landscapes onto which information could be embedded
and configuring such landscapes in meaningful ways. This initiative could
also offer a context for other new approaches to information inspired by
non-western mind-sets -- notably as a means of exploring ways in which
Aborigines could be jump started into the information society, using advantages
from their own cultural framework not available to those basing themselves
on the western model. This work would be designed to anticipate the development
of broadcast media facilities accessible to Aborigines into forms integrated
with computer-based forms of communication.
|3. Songlines and computers:
"The Law is written in the Land" says Nganyinytja. The University
of Earth could include a research facility that is used by Aboriginal people
to put their knowledge of the Land into modern multimedia - CDs, computer
games, films and other media.
Reciprocity: Western systems of organising knowledge could be changed
by learning from indigenous ways - ie. Oral story traditions. Extensive
indigenous knowledge of land could be recorded and taught to children in
Kinship: the world wide web opens great possibilities for indigenous
and other peoples from around the world to share systems of knowing. These
links can support and enrich ways of knowing of all cultures especially
those not of the dominant western mode.
Songline Way: Knowledge encoded in song and dance can be recorded
and used in multimedia teaching. Thus traditions are keep alive and
adapted to forms that the next generation will gravitate to.
Listening: Indigenous expertise in visual and spatial frameworks
of knowledge could develop exciting new ways of presenting cross
cultural knowledge so new learning contexts could develop and different
cultural learning skills be rewarded . Indigenous students thus learn easier
and are not discriminated against in teaching methodologies and western
students develop an appreciation for a broader range of skills.
|4. Arts / Design / Culture initiative:
The outback is a major inspiration for art and design in Australia.
Sale of art is a major source of income for some Aborigines. This initiative
would create an environment to encourage further artistic exploration,
both by Aborigines and non-Aborigines.
There are a number of artist colonies that are worth critical examination
as possible models. The envisaged scope would include painting, music,
song, dance, theatre, story telling and design (including architecture).
Special attention would be given to new multi-media possibilities of
experiencing the significance of songlines. Emphasis would be placed as
much on experience as on production, recognizing that for the Aborigines
art has a vital role in relation to celebration of the land -- rather than
being a consumer product.
|4. Artists' camp:
Art as part of life, process rather than product, is essential to
the indigenous celebration of Land.
Reciprocity: indigenous and western artists can camp together and
share knowledge of their crafts and experience of land, life, community
and the arts.
Kinship: all aspects of the arts - music, song, dance, storytelling,
theatre, storytelling, painting, architecture and design- are in kinship
Songline Way: continuous recreation through dance, song, story and
performance of cultural songlines is essential to all cultures as they
seek to keep their spirit and Land alive.
Listening: to songs of another culture and learning to dance to
it's rhythm is a creative entrance to the heart of another's reality. This
enriches knowledge of one's own culture.
|5. Adventure initiative:
A number of locations in the Northern Territory indicate the potential
of adventure initiatives. These include short camping tours into the Kakadu
National Park and trekking around Katherine. The challenge is to transform
such models into ecologically and culturally sensitive opportunities and
to design out their destructive features.
This initiative could offer numerous possibilities for involvement of
Aborigines, especially given the necessity to avoid sacred sites. The purpose
would be to present, notably for young people, the kind of existential
challenge sought and experienced by climbers. Features of these have been
adapted to management education experiences (for example at Pecos River
near Santa Fe). As with Outward Bound and white-water rafting, graded experiences
could be offered, including survival courses. These could be associated
with the developed format of vision quests. Semi-permanent desert bases
could be established using features of desert pioneer camps (as in Israel).
|5. Adventure camp:
Survival Trails of various difficulty could be designed for youth,
women, men, business executives and other special interest groups.
Reciprocity: indigenous knowledge and western knowledge of
survival working together.
Kinship: respect for the sacredness of land, plants, animals
and man's place in the eco- kinship system.
Songline Way: learning to read the land by the information
held in Songlines. Adapting this to include scientific knowledge of the
land - creating survival songlines.
Listening: learning to listen to the Land and respond appropriately
|6. Retreat initiative:
The desert retreat formula is one of the oldest known to modern civilization,
dating back to Biblical times. There are many contemporary models of retreat
centres serving different needs. These range from western models through
eastern ashrams, with both contemplative and secular (academic) extremes.
The purpose of this initiative would be to offer a mix of three kinds
of retreat: collective, based on shared facilities and residence; separate,
based on units scattered over walking distances with optional shared facilities
(notably at Crestone, Colorado); isolated (hermitage), based on units scattered
over longer distances.
People could move between the three experiences according to need and
could remain there according to need and resources. The focus would be
experiencing solitude in relation to the land, although it would be for
the individual to determine whether this was seen primarily as a spiritual
experience or simply as an opportunity for relaxation, writing or the like.
Any relationship to Aboriginal ngankaris could develop spontaneously.
| 6. Retreat camp:
Place for peace, quiet and time alone. A residential facility and a
linked group of individual huts/ tents where people can spend time alone
away from the main camp. Minimal shared facilities. Time for spiritual
renewal. Safety and comfort provided by minimal staff. Elders available
to talk to if desired.
Reciprocity: mutual respect for different spiritual practices, joint
honouring of sacredness of Land.
Kinship: discovering and celebrating the kinship between all human
beings and their common aspirations for strong spiritual expressions in
Songline Way: exploration of sacredness of Land and the traditional
sacred mapping in all cultures.
Listening: to each other and the Land, "opening our hearts to share
the spirit of the Land."
|7. Research / Educational initiative:
This initiative would provide an environment for research and education
inspired by the relationship to the land - especially in the light of Aboriginal
understanding of it, but taking account of other traditions (deep ecology,
Chinese geomancy, etc.). Steps in this direction already include the establishment
of the Angatja Bush College in which visitors (brought by Desert Tracks)
learn from Aborigines. The focus could include: ecological and resource
management issues; land-harmonious architecture and construction; exploration
of Aboriginal cosmology and its relevance to the wider world; strategic
issues common to indigenous peoples faced with encroaching cultures; development
of human relations skills in working across cultural and economic interfaces;
development of low-resource lifestyles. A central concern would be to explore
attitudes appropriate to the interaction between western and Aboriginal
paradigms as inspired by the encounter with the land. In this respect work
would be as much concerned with underlying mytho-poetic and archetypal
issues as with more obvious material matters. Whilst some preoccupations
might be recognized (and approved) by mainstream educational authorities,
and therefore be eligible for funding, every effort would be made to explore
issues beyond such boundaries (even to facilitating, to the extent appropriate,
the training of ngankaris as cultural exemplars). One interesting model
is the ecostery, which is a facility, stewarded land, and nature sanctuary
where ecosophy (ecological wisdom and harmony) is learned, practised, and
|7. Research / Educational camp:
A centre for developing deep understanding of the various cultural
ways of knowing the Land.
Kinship: bonds between traditional and modern:
Bringing together - western deep ecology, traditional indigenous
knowledge, environmental science, Chinese and European geomancy and other
approaches to Land.
Equal balance of courses designed by indigenous people and those from a
western knowledge base. Research priorities to be set by both groups .
Ethno-botany studies including setting. Apprentice schools where young
Aboriginal people are taught the traditional and western knowledge
of plant use.
Songline Way: all peoples of the world coming together to
create new songlines for joint custodialship of the Earth.
landcare and resource management
gura- camp design and architecture of the earth
Aboriginal and western cosmology interrelate
cross-cultural human relations skills
cross-cultural economic management skills
development of low- resource lifestyles
Listening: learning to listen to other ways of knowing -
understanding of the deep belief structure of western indigenous
peoples - deep myths, Dreaming, Law and kinship relationship to land
exploration of the 'imaginal reality' of the Dreaming honouring
this as a powerful dimension of reality that to be recreated in western
academic traditions in philosophy of the imagination.
explore new learning ways, outside current academic knowledge-learning
from elders in ways they structure - Inma Way.
language teaching and study that honours traditional languages and
their sacred voice.
Language, the study of translation methods that the beauty
and depth of the original, from indigenous languages to English / French/German
and back to the indigenous languages.
|D. FEASIBILITY AND PRACTICALITIES
||HOW CAN WE BUILD THIS UNIVERSITY OF EARTH ?
|Clearly the range of initiatives above may be
seen as overly ambitious and unrealistic, especially at a time of budgetary
constraints and severe economic challenges. However part of the interest
of this pattern of initiatives is to seek ways past such constraints through
approaches which take advantage of non-economic priorities. It may well
be the case that, in the desperate search for a new paradigm to remedy
inadequacies in economic rationalism, there are features of the favoured
administrative conceptual language which themselves inhibit success. Specifically,
there may be something in the way that "proposals", "programmes" and "projects"
are envisaged and implemented which is incompatible with the kinds of initiatives
which can survive despite economic rationalism. There maybe something wrong
with the "pro" mode or at least something incompatible with what is to
be learnt from Aboriginal cultural reality. In considering options,
it is useful to reflect on the contrast between top-down implementation
of complex projects and means of growing initiatives in a bottom-up mode.
Desert Tracks is a concrete example of this.
||From the ground up !
These aims may seem difficult in the current economic and political
climate. But there are already existing centres of Aboriginal Studies
at several universities that are including the Angatja Bush College in
their programmes. Links can be developed between Angatja ,the Institute
for Aboriginal Studies in Alice Springs, the Kimberly's Bush University
, Uni of Western Australia and Uni of Western Sydney. A multi campus approach
may allow many of these 'initiatives' to be coordinated at little capital
We may need to envision or 'dream' new ways to allow this concept to
grow and form. It is essential that it be grown from the ground -
up if it is to reflect the aims and objectives of the Aboriginal elders
inspired to share and teach their way of knowing with the wider community.
[Note: the need to change the way 'proposals', 'programmes' and 'projects'
are envisaged and implemented is agreed . I feel this is a deep issue in
the western aid and current government funding models that needs re envisaging
This idea needs more dialogue before I can attempt to 'translate' it]
|From this perspective, despite the overall, long-term ambition, each
of the above initiatives could start small. Again the Angatja Bush College
is an example. The challenge would be to clarify exactly what was the minimum
infrastructure required to support semi-permanent and permanent initiatives
through different stages of growth. Starting small might also be seen as
a way of progressively obtaining approval for further stages from partners
such as the interested Aboriginal communities.
||The big picture can be built from small pieces gradually. The different
'learning camps' will differ in their infrastructure needs. Some semi permanent
some more permanent . All structures must be environmentally low impact
designs, appropriate to the culture of the communities of which they
|Another major consideration is the concern for low-impact environmentally-friendly
structures, especially if they have to be moved during early, more
experimental, phases of growth. The challenge might then be to work
in terms of how small such initiatives could be and still offer possibility
of growth. In reflecting on this, several models could be combined:
In the early phases of Israeli desert community development, volunteer
pioneer groups initiated communities that later acquired more substantive
form. This model points to the challenge to some people to engage
in unusual initiatives under arduous conditions for little economic
reward. Such challenges have been virtually designed out of western
societies to the considerable disadvantage of many, notably young
||Volunteer groups of people could be coordinated to work on developing
these desert camps. This has worked well previously at Angatja where young
people have happily worked for nothing but food and board, and the
joy of sharing with anangu in cultural exchange. Ilyatjari organised
a wilytja building team of young anangu men and volunteers to build modern
versions of this traditional structure. More experimentation with mixtures
of traditional and new techniques could result in some interesting new
|Well-established intentional communities, such as the 250 people at
Findhorn (Scotland), were housed for many years in caravans. Based
in a conventional caravan park, the requirement imposed on the community
(before the land was acquired) was that any structure could be moved
within 24 hours. Major construction projects in isolated areas
also make use of temporary construction, often based on "porta-cabins".
These models all point to the possibility of flexible, tentative
growth using portable units. The Australian national parks authorities
have skilfully demonstrated ways of minimizing impact of campers
needing water, toilet, fire and waste facilities.
|| Semi-permanent accommodation for visitors could be designed to
be removable in the early trial stages . In fragile environments
it may be desirable to remove all structures for several months of each
year, or change the camp sites. Examples of minimal impact structures
are available in National Parks.
|Whilst an approach along these lines may be feasible, it is far from
clear that it is desirable. What factors would make semi-permanent
habitation in the desert desirable -- especially in the light of the
complaints of permanent residents at Yulara, despite its numerous
facilities and resources? What would make people want to be there
for extended periods of time? The answer to this question clearly
has much to do with the relationship to the land.
||Structures will need to reflect the type of visitors / learners and
their intended length of stay. Intent is central to design of human
|The question is how communities can be designed in desert environments
so that people can both survive and thrive. The material challenges
associated with work and accommodation units are clear. Closely related
to these are the aesthetic and environmental challenges of how such
units blend into the land in an attractive manner. Somehow the clutter
of recti-linear porta-cabins and /or caravans needs to be overcome
creatively. (Options for consideration include accommodation)
||Aesthetics is culturally defined . The question of ' how it will
look ' must be asked in the context of 'for whom is it built'?
[These are complex issues that require careful research, consultation
, and inclusion of community development aims - if there are any. Again
- whose aesthetic is to be considered, for what purpose?]
|The availability of any resources will above all be determined by
the manner in which the image of this whole initiative is developed.
It will succeed to the extent that it is perceived as a challenging
social project for the daring who are weary of the promises of economic
rationalism, its failing social safety nets and the erosion in quality
of life and sense of well-being. But the special quality of this
challenge lies in the response it evokes to the land and to the Aboriginal
understanding of it
||The resources this project will attract depend on whom it inspires
and to what extent existing funding avenues can be used in various
initiatives . A challenge for the brave who believe that the integration
of indigenous knowledge into western society holds the possibility
of providing a new way of living in relationship with the Land and
all living beings . A deep knowledge that the Land is alive and we must
become active custodians of it.