Preparing the future...

A message from the Executive Dean (Faculty of Theology and Philosophy) Professor Dermot Nestor: 

Following Professor Skrbis’ recent announcement that ACU is to embark on a university-wide program of work that is inspired by Pope Francis’ integrating vision and which embraces each of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I am delighted and honoured to provide an update on what this work means for the academic portfolio.

There have been many exciting and energising acknowledgments of Professor Skrbis’ initial message, citing myriad examples within course offerings where some of the specific Sustainable Development Goals are already evidenced. Yet while each of the development goals are intrinsically important, it is in their collective representation that they carry force as a vision for an alternative future. This totalising logic is pushed further by Pope Francis when he reminds us that Laudato si’ is not simply a blueprint for a green planet. Rather, it is a clarion call for a change agenda that encompasses social, ethical and environmental issues. It is a call for dialogue and for collaboration; across discipline areas, and organisational boundaries. It is a call for collaboration with each other and with the students who are at the centre of all that we do.

Sustainability Week is thus a catalyst for change in the academic portfolio. It asks us to reflect not on why things are the way they are, but rather on how things might be. It invites us to reimagine academic postures, academic practices and academic product. It is a week that calls us to think of the questions we need to ask rather than the solutions we have grown accustomed to implementing. Who are we as educators, as practitioners, as philosophers? Who are we in this work together? What is it that we value about the offer of our scholarship? What do we understand and what do we need to know about the complex, diverse and changing environments in which our learners live and work? What are the questions that they are grappling with? It is stimulating and reflective questions of this type, and in the kind of dialogical framework envisaged by Pope Francis, that the “stable core” referred to in our Innovation Strategy emerges and from which we can venture to and ultimately go beyond the “disruptive edge”. By enabling new patterns of thinking, of learning, of working and of being, the program announced by Professor Skrbis looks to recapture some of that initial motivation we all had for becoming scholars. It looks to define a sense of community in, and identity for, the academic portfolio that is driven neither by policy nor procedure, but by agency and the spirit of exploration.

To contribute to this necessarily shared task, I encourage you to join the Sustainability@ACU Workplace group or to write to me directly. Let this be the time when insights and expertise are shared, when ideas emerge, and from where actions unfold. Let us work together to prepare the future rather than simply preparing ourselves, and others, for it.

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