Sept. 7, 2011

Skills equip graduates to revitalise communities

For participants, the third day of Spring 2011 was an auspicious start to the season of growth and abundance as they stepped forward to receive their certificates for completing the latest Living Smart course and the first of a new course in sustainability leadership. Awarding the certificates were Grahame Collier, perhaps the most respected and experienced sustainability educator and consultant in NSW, if not Australia, and Fiona Campbell, courses organiser and trainer.

The courses are offered once or twice a year as part of the community sustainability education program at the Randwick Sustainability Hub. The Hub is a community centre retrofitted for energy and water efficiency. It features a combined public park/educational facility, dubbed the Permaculture Interpretive Garden, and is a Randwick Council facility. The Living Smart course, which originated at the Murdoch University School of Behavioural Psychology, is based on behaviour change and goal setting and focuses on the types of personal values change that support sustainability thinking and making positive changes in personal life, in the home and in the community. 

The course incorporates concepts such as systems thinking and includes a great deal of group work. With the periodic Permaculture Gardening and bushcare courses, Living Smart is offered to skill-up people living in the urban east in sustainability at home and in the community. 

The two leadership courses - one focusing on leadership qualities and led by Grahame Collier, the other focusing on group facilitation for community leaders and led by professional facilitators Richard and Maria Maguire - attract participants from a wide range of community organisations including those not directly focused on sustainability. Some participants use the skills they gain in their workplace. 

Participants in the Living Smart and Sustainability Leaders courses just ended came primarily from the eastern suburbs, with some from Marrickville, City of Sydney, the north shore and others from Pittwater on the far northern beaches. That people travel so far to gain the skills of community leadership attests to the value of offering the courses. 

Participants from past courses have joined the 'Living Smarties' team around the Sustainability Hub, organising monthly meet-ups to share learning, share the conviviality of a group and maintain the Permaculture Interpretive Garden. 

For the organisers, it's also about placemaking and developing a role for local government as the enabler of community initiatives and in providing a pleasant, safe and welcoming place where people can come together. For the organisers, the suite of courses associated with the sustainability Hub is a means to train people to participate effectively in public life in the region and to build the region's resilience to change. In doing this it goes further than the workshop format offered by many local government sustainability education providers and enacts the Transition Towns idea of personal and community skilling-up.


..written by Russ Grayson


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