My latest communication from Indigenous Community Volunteers in Australia, whose website can be found here, prompted me to reflect again, very positively, on the power of connecting and sharing experience, and the immensely encouraging effect on individuals and on communities when people reach out and collaborate with one another.
The vision of ICV is of an Australia “where all Australians live in harmony and where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share the same rights, respect and access to opportunities and rewards, and where their culture is valued and recognised as an asset to Australian society.” This they do by connecting people – volunteers come to Aboriginal communities at the invitation of the communities themselves, and share skills and experience, with the aim of enriching understanding and developing, very practically, a platform for further growth in expertise and proficiency in whatever area the individuals or communities think beneficial, be it in technology, gardening, medicine – or any other area.
One of the fundamental truths I have learned during my time in schools and in education more generally is that for partnerships to be effective, they must be genuine and reciprocal. Teachers teach best when they learn every day from their students; schools working with other schools do not succeed if they believe that they are there to impart knowledge – their success comes when all parties recognise that they are on a journey together. So it is with the experience of volunteers in Aboriginal communities – they have as much to learn as the indigenous communities themselves. Indigenous Australian culture has survived for over 40,000 years – the oldest identified culture in the world still in existence today – and it would be naive to think that its descendants had nothing to teach the world of today.
Our world is rich and varied, and there is so much of it to explore and appreciate. Of one thing I am certain – we owe it to ourselves and to others to reach out and connect. It is our responsibility both to share what we have learned, and to be open to understanding and sharing further the knowledge that others have accumulated.
Together we are stronger and better – and we take one more step towards living in greater harmony.