peace

THE VOICE OF TRUTH SPEAKS AT A PEACEFUL PROTEST CAMP.

At the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy they ask you not to take photos of the sacred trees. Here, instead, is an artist’s impression.

At the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy they ask you not to take photos of the sacred trees. Here, instead, is an artist’s impression.

This post is written in response to the Australian government’s plans to cut down 3000 trees, including 250 sacred and old-growth trees, to build a stretch of ‘duplicate highway’ on the Western Highway, Victoria, Australia.

 4 September, 2019

Yesterday I heard the voices of truth speak at the peaceful protest camp of the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy.

 

As I drove down the Western Highway, nearing the camp site, I could see a small group of casually dressed people engaged in earnest discussion with another group clearly defined by their fluoro-Visy vests, trucks behind them, at the ready. VicRoads.

 

What happened next is the power of peaceful protest. The ability to remain calm and explain facts. To everyone’s credit, this calmness pervaded on both sides. Finally, it was when one of the women supporting the Djab Wurrung protest pointed out, ‘You haven’t done your due diligence,’ that the group in Visy vests moved away.

 

The trees were safe for another day.

 

It seems that well-informed protester is right. Due diligence has not been done. It has been well reported both in The Age and other sources, that a 128 page report citing the importance of the cultural heritage of this area has been overlooked and disregarded by the Federal Government who approved the stretch of ‘Duplicate Highway’ set to remove 3000 trees, including 250 sacred trees and old-growth trees 600-800 years old.

 

Later that same day I heard Aunty Sandra, a Djab Wurrung Elder, being interviewed by the ABC. Again, calmly explaining the sacred cultural relevance of this area. She spoke of the sheer frustration that the government has not chosen an alternative route that is cheaper and does less damage. A former VicRoads adviser has openly stated, the current marked route can be avoided.

 

How many times has Aunty Sandra had to explain this?  Over and over and over? How many times will it take before they listen? And yet somehow she maintains her dignity.

 

Calmness has a pervasive power. It is through calmness and stillness that the voice of truth can be heard.

 

That is not to say anger does not have its place. We are angry at what is going on. We are angry that something that seems so obvious was ever put forward in the first place. We are angry that given a new set of facts, given viable alternatives, the government still seems hell-bent on cutting down these 800 year old trees, destroying nature and culture. An environmental threat and a sign of an ongoing cultural invasion.

 

Yet anger does not need to translate to violence. This is what I teach my students - it’s ok to be angry. It’s your subsequent actions and behaviour – how you handle yourself- that counts.

 

If we look to the past, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr – social activists who never caved into violence. They utilised ahimsa – respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards others – to achieve the seemingly unachievable. Nelson Mandela moved from a more violent stance to an understanding of the power of non-violence, realising the truth at its core.

 

Back at the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy, out there on the Western Highway, Victoria, it’s not over yet. Pressure needs to be applied. Go to  https://www.facebook.com/Dwembassy/  to find out how you can call / email / write a letter to the relevant ministers to put a stop to this needless action.

 

Come and visit the Djab Wurrung peaceful protest camp and help maintain that crucially needed presence.

The camp maintains a calm presence to ensure these trees live.

The camp maintains a calm presence to ensure these trees live.

 

Truth – Voice – Treaty

 

If you would like to know more about this issue, a very comprehensive article written by Sophie Cunningham, author of City of Trees: Essays on Life, Death and the Need for a Forest, can be found here: https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2019/july/1561989600/sophie-cunningham/djab-wurrung-birthing-tree

HANDS UP FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS! These young boys are speaking up!

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HANDS UP FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS! These boys are speaking up!

This was incredibly heart-warming.

Having discussed and shared activities in my Leadership Within workshop, it was time for an Open Space activity. The idea was to allow these Yr 6 Heidelberg Primary students to lead their own discussion groups through topics of their own choosing, and then to create actionable and solution- focussed steps.

Students stepped forward to lead groups on topics such as 'Ending poverty,' 'Raising student voices', 'Equality,' 'World Peace,' 'Reducing bullying,' and 'Animal Rights'.

Then one young boy stood up. 'I want to lead a group on Women's Rights.'

'Excellent', says I, beaming at him.

When we had all the topics sorted - 11 in all, the rest of the year level got to choose which group they would go to.

Six boys joined the Women's Rights group. It became an all boys group, and I wish you could have all been privy to the mature, rational and inspiring conversation that ensued.

Congratulations to the teachers and parents of these boys for raising such consciously aware individuals.

Cheery blessings,

Marg

Margaret Hepworth is the founder of The Gandhi Experiment. Margaret facilitates Global Citizenship and Leadership Within workshops across Melbourne schools and internationally.

"MANDELA DID NOT CARRY BITTERNESS." LESSONS FROM MADIBA AND SELLO HATANG

Sello Hatang, CEO Nelson Mandela Foundation, speaks at the opening of Mandela, My Life exhibition, Melbourne Museum.

Sello Hatang, CEO Nelson Mandela Foundation, speaks at the opening of Mandela, My Life exhibition, Melbourne Museum.

“Mandela did not carry bitterness.”

 

There were many ‘aha’ moments listening to Sello Hatang, the quietly measured, impressive speaker - CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation - at the opening of the Mandela, My Life exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. I had the privilege to meet and hear Sello speak again, the very next day, to a more intimate audience at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission where I was working with the Mandela 365 organisation, the Commission and 20 young African Ambassadors seeking to become advocates for their communities.

 

Sello’s ‘ahas’ were coming thick and fast: stories of Mandela – his ability to remain humble in the face of potentially usurping adoration; his willingness to travel the journey that we should all be travelling; and that Mandela saw hope as a gift.

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God knows how he held on to that hope, spending 27 long years in jail.

 

Yet this is the ‘aha’ that resonated with me that day and left me wanting to unpack it – to discover its secrets for education: “Mandela did not carry bitterness.”

 

In my leadership workshops with community groups, I call on Mandela as a role model. Only two weeks earlier, with this very same group, I had placed the name ‘Mandela’ on the whiteboard, circled it, and invited the group to explore the values that this man exhibited. They swiftly came up with a weighty list: courage, inclusiveness, empathy, the ability to self-reflect, forgiveness, tenacity – that ability to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. And more.

 

Then came the real challenge: ‘You see, any one of us knows how to answer this question – to throw a list of impressive qualities up there that reflect really great leadership. Any one of our current world leaders could do this. Yet, the real questions are these – ‘Do I carry these qualities? Have I really learned how to be humble? To genuinely feel equal – with everyone? To treat everyone with respect? How am I going to learn to do these things? How am I going to work on not only my capacity to ‘get the job done’, but also on my character?’

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But one of Sello’s observations had not been on our list. ‘Mandela did not carry bitterness.’

 

I guess you could argue that this is another way of saying Mandela had the ability to forgive. Not just say it; really do it. Forgive. Yet, for me, this statement was beginning to reveal to us clues we all need if we want to build a more forgiving world. Not carrying bitterness is one of the keys to learning how to forgive. It is the what comes before forgiveness. And forgiveness is paramount in a world that needs healing.

 

‘Mandela did not carry bitterness.’ Let’s unpack this a little. You will note the statement does not say Mandela never got angry; Mandela never got bitter / upset / frustrated. What it says is that he did not maintain it.

 

Was this innate for Mandela? Was he born like this? I am not sure and certainly he may have been somewhat wired that way. However, his early years and actions with the ANC would suggest otherwise. Or was it a learnt trait? And if so, if he could do this, then surely so can we all.

 

Thank you Sello Hatang for your insights into an incredible man. He told that small, attentive group, ‘We must find the Mandela within ourselves. We must be the legacy.’

 

What is the relevance of this to today’s world. Imagine the inter-generational / inter-racial / inter-communal / inter-cultural hatred that could literally be halted in its tracks, right here, right now, if we were all better able to not carry bitterness.

The CEO of the Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang, has put it out there. Yet the mantle has passed to us. How do we teach ourselves and our young people not to carry bitterness?

 

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I, for one, am going to keep exploring this. I believe it already exists in the lessons of my forum activity, The Best Forgiveness Role Play Ever, yet I will seek to emphasise it, draw out the learning so that we may all benefit. And I will keep you posted as to new ideas and tools that will come. And of course, the outcomes!

 

Cheery blessings to all,

 

Marg


Margaret Hepworth is the founder of The Gandhi Experiment. She travels widely, running forums in teaching non-violence as a conscious choice.

‘The Best Forgiveness Role Play Ever’ can be found in Margaret’s new book: The Gandhi Experiment - Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens www.thegandhiexperiment.com Available at all amazon stores and bookstores worldwide

‘Fortitude’ - a compelling short story on Mandela, courage and expansive thought, can be found at https://thegandhiexperiment.teachable.com

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COLLABORATIVE DEBATING - HEAR IT FROM THE KIDS!

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On Wednesday I ran yet another Collaborative Debating workshop, this time for the Yr 9s at Donvale Christian College. It is amazing to see how quickly young people can re-frame a debate from being adversarial to respectful once they are taught how to do this. 

But don't take it from me - here it is from the students themselves: 

  • "The idea of Collaborative Debating is much better since it isn't about fighting the opposition but more about coming to an agreement." 
  • "I learnt that Collaborative Debating is about working together to resolve conflict, yet you can still disagree." 
  • "I liked how Collaborative Debating was less competitive and more about communication."
  • "I think Collaborative Debating helps the opposing sides to understand each other's statements without going straight to rebuttal. It was really informative."
  • "We gained a powerful insight on how we can change for the better."

Marg Hepworth is the "Go-To" for Collaborative Debating: Inquire at margaret@margarethepworth.com

My Mindful Coordinator (MC) and timekeeper, doing a sterling job of maintaining respect throughout our debate.

My Mindful Coordinator (MC) and timekeeper, doing a sterling job of maintaining respect throughout our debate.

#collaborativedebating #thegandhiexperiment #margarethepworth #peaceeducation #insightfulyr9s #debating

GANDHI'S PRAYER FOR PEACE - LET'S PUT IT TO GOOD USE!

At the Gandhi Smriti, Delhi.  Photo credit Margaret Hepworth

At the Gandhi Smriti, Delhi.

Photo credit Margaret Hepworth

This is Gandhi’s Prayer for Peace.

On the anniversary of Gandhi's death, it seems highly appropriate to call upon his prayer for peace now.

Rather than simply reading his prayer-poem and thinking 'oh isn't that nice', let's put it to super good use as a way of seeing those we view as 'the other' in a different perspective. We are about to read the prayer-poem a number of times, in a number of ways.

As you read, hear the words, the sound and feel the vibration.

1.) Read the poem.

Sit quietly for one minute with the thoughts of the poem. Be aware of what comes to mind. Your thoughts may be directly related to the words of the poem or may take you somewhere else. Be very aware of where, or to whom, these thoughts take you.

GANDHI’S PRAYER FOR PEACE
I offer you peace
I offer you love
I offer you friendship
I see your beauty
I hear your need
I feel your feelings
My wisdom flows from the highest source
I salute that source in you
Let us work together
For unity and peace.

2.) The scene in this poem is as though two people are sitting face to face, looking directly into each other’s eyes. Read the poem again, perhaps several times. Each time you read it, imagine two people who may be currently seen as oppositional, saying this poem to each other. For example, an Israeli and a Palestinian, a white supremacist with a Chinese-American, one world leader to another, a logger with a ‘greenie.’ Imagine what may have happened if the British had said this to the Native Americans, or the French to the Vietnamese, the Romans to the Jews of Bethlehem.

3.) Braver still, can you say the poem to someone you know? If not out loud, say it in your head, imagining someone you are currently experiencing difficulty with; where a relationship has turned sour. This may be your partner, your teenager, your mother or father, a work colleague perhaps.

Be mindful of your thoughts; be aware of the way your body responds; be conscious of your feelings.

4.) Finally, we all know that we are often in conflict with ourselves. Internally, one part of us arguing with another part of ourselves. Read the prayer-poem again, this time allowing the parts of you in conflict to speak to each other. 

Again, be aware of how you are feeling now.

It is simple, yet complex. Just as in life.

You can find these lessons and more in my book 'The Gandhi Experiment - Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens.’

Enjoy your experiments with peace,

Margaret