University response to the ‘Anthropocene’ epoch

Photo of Associate Vice-Chancellor Queensland Professor Jim Nyland.

A message from Associate Vice-Chancellor Queensland Professor Jim Nyland: We are entering the 'Anthropocene ' (no longer a passive, stable and clement world) is a fractious, chaotic and unpredictable world now.  Migrancy and population movements are unsettling vast swathes the developed world, as well as many parts of the developing world and it is imperative that universities are not neutral ground in this unknown and dangerous world.

Responding to these momentous struggles is challenging for universities, let alone individuals committed to creating cultural capital and transmitting the best of what has been thought and said. One of the most notable ways in which staff at ACU Brisbane have sought to actively engage with some of these emergent big challenges has been through the successful ‘Narratives of Hope’ series.  Special thanks goes to all those involved in this ground-breaking program – to Melanie Seal-Moradi, Keith Skelton, Dan Klar, Elyse Flavel, Nica Tsakmakis, Erin Dougherty, Jake Hardiman, Jane Scott, and Michael Sobek; and students Cian Cattelini and Imogen Johnson.  Particular thanks goes to Janine Quine for her successful leadership of this amazing program (detailed below) despite it being put together on the smell of an oily rag.

Now in its third year, Narratives of Hope, continues to grow and evolve in its reach and impact as a story-telling platform for those voices who are often not heard.   They are the voices of youth and adults from diverse cultural, social and religious backgrounds who constantly have to negotiate the social expectations and structures that are oblivious to their needs.  It is an opportunity for them to challenge public perceptions and help us grow in understanding with the support of volunteer ACU staff and students who act as mentors.  In actual fact, it is a reciprocal learning experience, because no one walks away untouched by the experience.

This year, we had two very well attended events around Narratives of Hope.  The first was a Narratives of Hope Ensemble puppetry production held at Sandgate Town Hall. WHO ARE WE? WE ARE was a collaboration between Elysium Theatre’s Sharyn Henry and former ACU mentors (Elyse Flavel, Keith Skelton and Janine Quine), former NOH participants (Rosalba, Nur and Mohammad) and new student volunteers (Jack – business and Krishna – OT).   Using large brown paper puppets, it drew on previous stories with specific reference to Imtiaz’s story. Imtiaz came to Australia by boat as a 15 year old from Pakistan and nearly drowned.  It was followed by young Muslim speakers who have been, and continue to be involved with ACU. The response was more than expected.  The 4.30pm session attracted over 40 people with the 6.30pm attracting around 80. People from the public have been asking if we will show it again.

The second event was last Thursday night where both digital stories were shown and oral presentations given.  Attended by around people 80 people, including principals, families, ACU staff and students and various people from the public, it was a joyous night.

Whilst the volatility of political opinions which are current across the world impact on our capacity to provide continuity and stability in our region, leading at times to despair about our future generations, the young people who spoke with such passion and confidence during the Narratives of Hope series filled allwith a more positive vision for tomorrow. As one audience member wrote, “You like to think you know and understand, that you don’t hold negative ideas – but really we do……the content is amazing – they need to be heard “louder!”.

Image of Narratives of Hope Ensemble.

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