You are on page 1of 12


Our Work Our Lives 2011 Dili, Timor-Leste 4th Conference on Women and Industrial Relations 1st - 2nd September 2011

Sub-theme: Building sustainable communities through women's workforce participation

Community Capacity Building: A fertile ground for change and development

Nugent, Rosemary Sahr, Rebecca Geelong West Neighbourhood House Inc., 151 Pakington Street, Geelong West, Vic 3218 Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic, 3125


Sustainable communities are the life-force for the wellbeing and growth of the people. As social beings we learn through our interactions with others and we rely on each other for our wellbeing (Mackay, 2010). We have the capacity to co-create positive, meaningful communities. This paper illuminates the skills and processes that the authors have found useful in building stronger communities. Drawing on an auto-ethnographic approach to inform cultural analysis and interpretation (Ellis, 2004), the authors share their grassroots experiences in Community Capacity Building (Chapman and Kirk, 2001) with the objective of creating opportunities for relevant dialogue with their sisters in Timor-Leste and beyond. Nugent reflects on co-creating and maintaining accessible spaces for lifelong learning within her immediate community of Geelong West, and much further afield by supporting Community Capacity Building (CCB) in Timor-Leste. Sahrs work in education over the past eight years has seen her actively engage in CCB within learning-teaching institutions. The authors of this paper are committed to the growth of sustainable communities and seek to share their insights with, and facilitate a support network among, the women of Timor-Leste. Key words: Timor-Leste, Viqueque, Geelong West, community capacity building, lifelong learning, learning-teaching, wellbeing, auto-ethnographic

Contents: Part A by Rosemary Nugent Part B by Rebecca Sahr Pages 2-8 Pages 9-11

References Page 12

Part A: Developing and Celebrating Community Written by Rosemary Nugent, 2011 The future is not a place to which we are going; it is a place we are creating. The paths to the future are not found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination. - John Schaar, Italian Futurist To a large extent we can direct our own future and destiny if we choose to, and the process can strengthen and enrich us and our communities. It is exciting to think that the people of TimorLeste, particularly the women, are working together, supporting and encouraging each other, to forge their own future to make it one that is full of hope, optimism and energy. There are many positive moves by active, enthusiastic citizens who are contributing to Timor-Leste's social and economic transformation, which will help build this emerging nation and assist it to flourish. As people who have been involved in community building at a grassroots level, we would like to offer our experiences in the hope that our journey might assist yours. This reflexive approach is utilised as a means of foregrounding the silent work of women, for women, and their communities. It is positioned within an auto-ethnographic and feminist framework (Ellis, 2004). Experiences and lessons learned I have seen communities flourish and become very effective when individuals work together using their local knowledge and networks to solve problems and bring about change while accommodating different opinions and interests through consensus. Successful, healthy communities build on their existing assets and resources. They develop when people's passions, skills and knowledge are tapped into and nurtured. Local residents in that community are the best experts on how to activate lasting change. Communities flourish when individuals; discover what they have to offer - they find power connect and develop relationships - they increase power become more productive together - they exercise their power to face challenges, find solutions and realise dreams A strong, functional community; has powerful leaders with effective communication skills has strong networks with other communities builds and nourishes relationships has a 'can do' community spirit and embraces change does not focus on the negatives and what it lacks, but focuses on its resources, capacities, strengths and aspirations which generates energy and creativity can grasp opportunities that come its way comprises community members who have a sense of belonging and connecting builds on the resources, skills, gifts, ideas, passions and hopes of the whole community

focuses on specific actions to improve community life is inclusive, promoting participation by people of all ages, races, genders and ethnicities ensures local decision making and ownership embraces all sectors to develop healthy children, families and community shares experience and knowledge to promote continuous community learning Encouraging others to support community

Becoming active in one's own community is often the result of feeling strongly about a cause or need, and wanting to make a difference by contributing in some way. Then as things progress and there are some achievements, it is useful to speak to others and share the enthusiasm with them so that they, too, start to become involved. When my children were at their local primary school, many parents had often said that they wanted to help improve the school and also get to know each other better. One afternoon, three of us got together in one parent's kitchen and had a meeting. We set some goals and developed a strategy, then spoke to the principal and other parents. We had another meeting with more parents, then eventually formed the Friends of Ashby Primary School in 2008, which has gone on to raise money for the school to benefit the children's education, and to have social events. In this way parents have felt much more connected and a part of their school community, and also more valued as they are contributing in a significant way. I am excited about further developing my links with Timor-Leste as I am sure there is a great deal that I can learn from the people and take back to my local community. For example, it is our understanding that the people of Timor-Leste have strong kinship ties and so provide great support and loyalty to each other in their local areas. This is a good basis for building the community's potential and capacity, and in the process empowering people and creating a strong, vibrant community. This is something that we can learn from the people of Timor-Leste and try to do better in Australia. Motivation for contributing to communities When I read articles and saw media coverage revealing the atrocities that were occurring in East Timor in the 1990s, I was horrified that this was happening to a nearby nation whose people had protected our soldiers during WW2, resulting in many East Timorese people losing their lives. I searched for more information, I wrote letters to the newspapers, I joined the Geelong branch of the Australia-East Timor Association (AETA) and I became active by holding stalls and organising fundraising events for the purpose of disseminating information and raising awareness of what was occurring. My motivation was simply wanting to address a wrong and wanting to make a difference and effect change. I was thrilled when the East Timorese were given the opportunity to shape their own future by turning out with great strength and courage to participate in a ballot for the first time. Then from my comfortable home in Geelong, I watched in horror the coverage of the devastation wrought by the departing Indonesian forces in 1999. However I rejoiced again when formal independence was granted in 2002. Having lobbied our local council to establish a friendship relationship with a district in TimorLeste, then representing the local branch of AETA on the Friends of Viqueque Committee since its inception in 2001, I believed that the role of AETA Geelong of advocating and lobbying for the people of Timor-Leste was over and I could now walk away. However, I soon realised that we had simply moved to another phase, that of supporting the East Timorese people in their huge

task of rebuilding their country, so my energies were redirected as I worked with our council, community organisations and schools to forge a friendship relationship with the community of Viqueque through the Friends of Viqueque. Our organisations in Geelong supported each other with a variety of awareness raising and fundraising events. This included AETA Geelong partnering with the Australian Breastfeeding Association and the City of Greater Geelong to sponsor a midwife from Dili, Angelina Fernandes, to spend two weeks in our city in 2004 to receive some training in maternal and child health care. We progressed when the City of Greater Geelong signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Viqueque in 2005. As a former teacher, I was also happy to be an inaugural member of the Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools Committee which was established in 2006 and which has extended the hand of friendship between schools in Geelong and Viqueque. While I was moved to step in to try to help right a wrong, and while my advocacy has been time consuming, I now reflect on how honoured and privileged I have been to have had this involvement. I have been enriched by my association with the East Timorese who have visited Geelong. It has been rewarding to influence others in my community by making them aware of the situation in Timor-Leste and to draw them into being supportive and experiencing aspects of the culture of East Timor. I am proud that at least in some little way, I have perhaps helped slightly to heal the wounds and assist with the gigantic task of rebuilding a nation. This is the same for many other causes I have been involved in - it is a problem-solving exercise whereby a need is identified and people who are passionate about the issue set about using all the resources at their disposal to try to fix it. They organise activities, raise awareness and set goals. They take small steps to achieve outcomes and improve society. One example is when I joined eight people who were greatly concerned about the way asylum seekers were being treated, and so came together in 2001 to form the Geelong Refugee Action and Information Network (GRAIN). Again, the motivation was a strong desire to oppose injustice and to help others so that they can have a better quality of life. Effective ways to achieve this included defining and publicising our aims, then working with others to achieve them. When we came across obstacles, we had to problem-solve. For example, when the overall situation for asylum seekers seemed to be deteriorating and public opinion in Australia was very negative, we needed to come up with new ways to be effective. This included collecting material goods from the Geelong community to take to Melbourne, which we have been doing for eight years; helping another local group, Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR), to sell the chutney they make in order to financially support local refugees and their families; organising the spectacle of a portable detention centre in a street parade at a popular local multicultural festival; organising guest speakers, petitions, letters to the editor etc. Another need identified by the local community and addressed collectively was when residents decided that they needed a community garden. Most people in Geelong West have small backyards with little room to grow vegetables, so when a local resident returned from holidays in England in 1984 where he had seen community gardens operating successfully, he suggested a similar initiative to residents who approached our council. Councillors and residents could see how valuable it would be for people's health, well-being and nutrition, and how it could draw the community together and give them a real sense of ownership. Our council was very supportive and provided the land, put in water pipes and taps, built a shed and put up fences. Community meetings were held, a committee was formed, enthusiasm grew, and the Geelong West Community Garden was born in 1985.

While our community garden is on council land, and therefore land that belongs to the whole community, in other places community gardens have been set up on land belonging to churches, schools or other organisations. It depends on what is available at the time and what suits the group of people who are interested in setting it up and making it viable. Any community organisation is as vital and dynamic as the composition of its members, and the Geelong West Community Garden is no exception. Many people have worked hard over a number of years to develop this facility, but it has all been worth it. The cost of a family's membership is roughly the equivalent of the cost of a soccer ball, and there are numerous benefits. I have been a member of this community facility for over twenty years. While it attracts those who believe in sustainable practices and who wish to grow vegetables in the company of others, it is much more than this. The value and influence of the garden extends well beyond its physical precinct. It is a community asset which provides a focus for people of different backgrounds to meet, share knowledge and ideas, develop friendships, foster a sense of power and ownership amongst residents and develop a sense of community and belonging. A diversity of age groups and ethnic representation contributes to the make up of the garden community, providing the opportunity for social interaction for pensioners, students, toddlers, parents, single dwellers and others. It is a surprisingly peaceful oasis nestled in a bustling urban setting. It has the capacity to reinvigorate and renew. For example, when we have organised workshops for members and the wider community such as creating a wall mural and mosaic sculptures, participants have gained a great deal of joy and satisfaction when connecting with each other and sharing stories while being involved in a creative process. People have later commented that the experience of participating in these events and projects had made them feel highly valued and more confident, and that ultimately this participation improves their health and well-being and that of the wider community. The garden plays a crucial role in our community and we enjoy sharing it with others, such as school groups, other gardening groups, senior citizens and local ethnic groups. We have gained much from connecting with such a broad range of people, and have been greatly enriched by forming these relationships. We believe it is important to have a welcoming, inclusive and supportive approach to all that we do, and so we embrace and link with the wider community in a variety of ways and, in so doing, develop the capacity and well-being of Geelong's residents However, we are merely the custodians of this community land, and so are continually aiming to make improvements, to cater for people's different needs, and to cultivate and utilise it with respect. Grant money has been sourced to build raised beds for elderly or infirmed people; a sandpit for children; a barbecue area for members, friends and families; water tanks for members; and an outdoor kitchen area to hold functions and workshops for members and visitors. Women, who form the majority of the membership, desire to nurture and sustain their families, their environment and the local community. They have thus played a pivotal role in establishing, supporting and guiding the direction of this garden. They have described the venue as a haven and a place for them and their families to commune with nature. It is an area where children, who are the gardeners and conservationists of the future, can become involved. They can have fun and play safely at the community garden while learning how to grow vegetables and observing nature's cycles.

While there are rules and certain expectations of members, such as the requirement to attend at least one meeting and one working bee per year, each member and the contribution that she or he makes, is valued. Indeed, it is the different ideas and gifts that people offer and weave into the garden's fabric that enrich us. We are proud of our efforts at the Geelong West Community Garden to engage in and promote sustainable gardening practices, to help maintain healthy and strong communities and to provide important community connections. It is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by local people identifying a need, and working hard together in partnership with others to see the dream come true and improve their local community. As a member of another organisation, Greening Geelong West (GGW), some residents were drawn together in their desire to address the problem of climate change and to improve the vegetation and aesthetics of their urban environment. It was the same pattern of people seeing a problem and feeling passionate enough to address it by meeting together, planning realistic goals and setting a long term vision and strategies. The organisation has had peaks and troughs depending on such things as people's energy levels and work and family commitments. The important thing, therefore, has always been to keep the vision in mind and to review the vision, aims and strategies to keep the dream alive and continue to do positive things, no matter how small or how infrequently. It was also important for Greening Geelong West, and all the other community organisations with which I have been associated, to celebrate successes as this is a great motivator and a wonderful reminder that we are on track and the cause is worth pursuing. In 2009 Greening Geelong West had a special celebratory shared meal to mark its twenty year anniversary, with a focus on its positive contribution to the promotion of environmental and cultural values in Geelong West. It was wonderful to reflect on all that had been achieved during those years, and to realise that this was the result of our combined efforts, even though at times members had lost heart and enthusiasm - and this can be quite a normal cycle as it is not always possible to sustain the momentum and energy. One goal that Greening Geelong West had pursued for five years was the establishment of a neighbourhood house in that suburb as members had seen the need to have a focal point to connect people more and to offer low cost activities, courses and events for local residents. For five years we spoke to people from the different levels of government and all were supportive, but said there was no money. It was difficult not to lose heart and give up, so we constantly reminded ourselves that this was something that residents had said they needed and that would make our neighbourhood healthier, happier and more inter-connected; we therefore deemed it worth pursuing. We finally had a breakthrough when additional lobbying resulted in a senior council officer inviting us and other government officials to a meeting. We took along a concept plan and letters of support from many organisations and individuals which we had acquired by using our extensive networks. Then there was much planning for a well attended public meeting in 2009, which resulted in the formation of a Steering Committee for a Geelong West Neighbourhood House (GWNH).

Thus through perseverance and being organised and focussed, we were eventually successful and I started on a new journey with the formation of yet another community organisation. Local people were empowered by seeing a need for a neighbourhood house to strengthen their community, then working in partnership with council, government agencies, businesses and other organisations to make it happen. Again it demonstrated what a community can achieve when like-minded people come together for a common cause and work hard to realise the dream. With no building in which to base ourselves, we had a big task, but remained undeterred as we began the process of establishing a neighbourhood house. An early task was a Planning Day where we were helped by outside facilitators to collaboratively devise our Vision and Mission. Vision: Celebrating Diversity, Building Community Mission: We will enrich, empower and connect our community by developing partnerships fostering a sense of belonging building strengths and capacities advocating and resourcing encouraging lifelong learning in an innovative, sustainable, inclusive and welcoming way. With this framework, and with some strong leaders and an enthusiastic committee, we set to work to improve community life. After forming working parties, we systematically set about visiting other neighbourhood houses, talking to local businesses, investigating the setting up of a website and the production of a pamphlet, conducting a survey to see what people wanted from a neighbourhood house, listing local halls, seeking tutors and eventually offering a variety of activities and courses in halls that we rented. In the process, we have developed our own skills and tapped into our own talents, while creating opportunities for others in the community to do the same and to engage in lifelong learning. In this way, our community has been enriched. We have worked hard and had wonderful support from our council, businesses and individuals, but we have encountered challenges such as people asking, "So where is the neighbourhood house located?" We would continually explain that we have no physical home as we rent spaces but can easily be found in cyberspace on our customised website. Another challenge was the lack of start-up capital which saw us approach local Members of Parliament to gain funds for petty cash. We progressed to receiving funding from council and a supportive business, and we are now applying for grant money. Also, there were a few of us spending countless hours on numerous tasks, so we recruited some other local people to join working parties. From time to time we have stumbled, but we continue to support and encourage each other and remind ourselves that we are all volunteers working to the best of our abilities and within our own time constraints. Occasionally we give ourselves a boost by celebrating our achievements in some way, or by just getting together for coffee or a shared meal. We recognise that we live in a vibrant community in Geelong West where people have a sense of identity and belonging, and we are able to build on their resources and talents. Benefits of community involvement

I have learnt a great deal from being involved in many community groups and causes. I have realised that there is much potential in people and everyone has something to offer, if only they are given the opportunity and encouragement to become involved in some way. I have seen a thought become an action due to a small number of people's enthusiasm and commitment, and as a result individuals and communities have changed. I have learnt that it is important to set goals, but not to be discouraged if it takes a long time to realise them, or partially realise them. I understand that there will inevitably be obstacles, but generally they can be overcome by working together to problem solve, and sometimes being creative in the process. I have seen the need to remain positive and focused, and to encourage others to have a similar mindset. I have realised that we all contribute in our own way, with some being natural leaders and others not. I understand the importance of leading by example as people will be inspired by this. I have seen people become more confident when undertaking tasks or participating in activities, and realise that it is empowering for them to be involved in their community. I have been gratified when I have seen other people receive encouragement and be given opportunities to improve the capacity of themselves and their communities, to have some small wins and then to realise, "Yes, we can do this ourselves"; this is very empowering for them. I have been inspired by the way many women have readily taken on roles of responsibility in these community organisations, and have generously committed their time and expertise. I have seen how life-changing collective action can be. Sustaining communities My experience with different organisations has been that the process of community building is best when it is organic and people are supported and encouraged when taking on roles or tasks according to their abilities, availability, interests etc. When people become involved in what is going on, they become increasingly interested and motivated and then more willing to keep moving things forward and to work collaboratively to effect change. As people have become more confident, trusting, skilled and happy with their development and the organisation's success, they feel empowered and are prepared to do more and to bring others along to share the journey and enjoy the fruits of success. The process thus involves being inclusive and forming a series of partnerships based on voluntary collaboration. It involves setting a clear long term vision and achievable goals, and then committing to a series of actions to achieve them and to thus take greater control of their lives. It is also important to seek community input, to actively develop networks and forge numerous partnerships, and to celebrate successes and milestones. It is also essential that once some funding has been given and a group of interested and committed people from the community gathers to develop a program or further a cause, that support structures are put in place so that the group can operate and there is long term viability. It might mean having a government officer (in Timor-Leste, this might mean someone from the District Administrator's office) who helps to organise and run meetings, and teaches others how to do this. It could be as basic as providing some spades and shovels for a project and a space to store them. It could mean providing meeting rooms or giving advice or putting groups of people in touch with each other. In this way, those who are already established can assist those who want to become established and make a difference. The provision of a small amount of

money and support can result in big outcomes.

Part B: Sowing the Seeds of Purpose and Participation Written by Rebecca Sahr, 2011

From little things big things grow From little things big things grow - Kev Carmody & Paul Kelly

Rosemary Nugent (then Cryan) was a teacher at the catholic secondary college where I first learnt about Timor-Leste. It was 1992 and the world could no longer ignore Indonesias blatant disregard for human rights. We didnt just learn about the atrocities; we were encouraged to actively channel our outrage. We wrote letters to then Foreign Affairs Minister, Gareth Evans, pleading for him to end Australias shameful history of turning a blind-eye to the atrocities committed by the Indonesian government. My social conscience was truly awakened and I had a thirst to learn more.

At around this time I became involved with an underground music community in Geelong. A network of like-minded people in other cities and countries had gained momentum; producing/supporting socio-political music on their terms. Through the mail I would order vinyl records, CDs and magazines from small independent record labels and distributors, as well as support gigs in my hometown. I was drawn to music that challenged the status quo; positive lyrics that promoted resilience, messages of advocacy and social awareness. These all resonated with me. I sought out the meaningful existence I required to lead a more fulfilling life (Webster, 2009). In the twenty years that have passed since I first learnt about Timor-Leste, I have steadily built upon my skills-base, knowledge and understanding of processes, specifically in relation to learning and teaching, and the interconnectivity that binds us all. I was recently asked to Chair a unit at Deakin University entitled, Learning-Teaching Communities. This unit primarily encourages aspiring teachers to practice inclusion in education. Paramount not only to effective relationships in learning-teaching communities, but to relationships in general as Rosemary writes about above. Both Rosemary and I strongly identify with a desire to be useful and a desire to connect with others. Social researcher, Hugh Mackay, writes of these two human desires, amongst others, in his book, What Makes Us Tick? The ten desires that drive us (2010). He believes that whilst individuals may not relate to some of the ten desires, we all share a desire to be taken seriously. This has become increasingly clear to me since I began my career as a teacher. My early

experiences saw me resettle far from home, ensconced within new cultures and communities happily strengthening new connections. I absorbed different rules of interaction and was at times, so overwhelmed by new ways of being and seeing, that I wrote notes for my future self to reflect upon. Living in South Korea, I learnt that yes can often mean no. Hired to teach English as a foreign language, I soon grew tired of feeling like the mere tokenistic westerner whose main function was to push the play button on the US-produced English language learning tapes. I attempted to buck this rote-loving, yawn-inducing system by devising units of work that would give students a sense of purpose (Webster, 2009) whilst creating a stronger perception of community. I ran some innovative ideas past the Director. I was jubilant when I exited his office. After all, he had smiled lots, nodded and only said yes to my suggestions. This was going to be ace! My Korean colleague and close friend soon informed me that the boss did not care for my revolutionary ideas in education. I was confused! Our communication styles and interpersonal strategies clearly conflicted. His smiles had to be reinterpreted as discomfort and the affirmations as awkward negatives. With this new understanding, I managed to regroup and quickly make a small win with a reciprocal one-off mail-art workshop arrangement between the language academy and a school in Melbourne. It was a success! However, the natural growth of this triumphant seed was stunted by a lack of support. I chose not to renew my contract in South Korea, and the following year I started teaching at Katherine High School (KHS), in the Northern Territory. Here, I was fully supported to extend myself and the indigenous students with whom I wholly worked in my first year. The learning was two-way! I further explored intercultural communication theories and conflict negotiation strategies around the notion of saving face (Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998); I learnt that a win-win could be achieved when I successfully addressed sensitive issues that affected me or the class without compromising the person in questions sense of worth. For instance, I might calmly instruct a distracting student to move elsewhere and then refocus on the learning task at hand with another student, thus limiting negative attention towards negative behaviour. This allowed said student to reseat themselves at their own pace, without me glaring at them and repeating the instructions at an increasing volume. This self-development was the key to a better understanding of others and a valuable strategy in building more effective relationships, as well as facilitating more cohesive group dynamics. Effective Learning-Teaching Communities The current trend in Australian education is towards an integrated curriculum. This approach sees a team of teachers from diverse disciplines devise units of work together (often based around a theme), co-operatively teach (in my experience with as many as 60+ students) and assess student progress. I was part of the teaching team for the first semesters trial of an integrated curriculum at KHS in 2006. We were fortunate in that the three main teachers involved were allocated the necessary planning time together. Even so, we also worked long hours in our own time to kick-start the inaugural learning-teaching community. A highlight was the student-centered art exhibition where students chose to invite their families and cater the event. It was a celebration of a vibrant learning-teaching community. The multi-teacher scenario lends an exciting synergy when teachers happily volunteer to work cooperatively within such a program. In the first part of this paper, Rosemary makes the causal link between nurtured interests and healthy communities. Within another integrated curriculum scenario, this time in an outer Eastern Melbourne suburb, we decided to offer elective units as a component of the integrated stream. Each unit offered a real purpose and a real audience, and

was enthusiastically developed by the relevant teacher with support from the team. One group explored how sound reverberated in the large open-learning area, with the premise of problemsolving the issue of amplified sound levels. Another group became local historians by conducting audio-interviews within the greater community. With my background in history and media, I was responsible for this latter group. I happily established relationships with and gained pre-approval from both proprietors and workers at the local shopping square and with the manager at the nearby retirement village. Expectations and enthusiasm were raised and students happily took on these new active challenges (Sarra, 2010).

Knowledge is Power! In the Northern Territory I received relevant and engaging Professional Development (PD). The governments investment in broadening my skills and understanding continues to have a positive flow-on effect in subsequent educational settings. As a team leader on an integrated learning unit investigating endangered species, Year 7 students democratically opted to host a talent quest and bake-sale. This student-centred quest to raise funds to adopt orangutans was a huge success. Their enthusiasm was contagious! These young students managed to also raise awareness of the plight of the orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra due to large scale deforestation. On the day of the talent quest students happily cleaned the communal area, setup the cake stall and some performed to the majority of the school population (including staff that were not on duty). It was nice to sink further into the background as these twelve-year-old adolescents conveyed a message that they collectively felt passionate about. Last year, when I was building my own home, my social conscience was put to the test again and again. When sourcing windows, I came across many local shops that only used timber from Indonesia. I could not support the possibility of unsustainable and unethical deforestation. Wherever I could, I used second-hand materials in my new home. Most of the walls are made of straw a cheap crop by-product and excellent insulator. I also invested in a large tank to collect rainwater which is automatically pumped into my laundry and flushing toilet. Due to extended periods of low water supplies, we are becoming extremely conscious of our freshwater usage in Australia. Lifelong Learning

My solo stints of teaching in South Korea and in the Northern Territory were initially quite confronting and yet some of the greatest formative learning curves I have experienced. Like an innate ethnographer I craved the idea of immersing myself within communities far from home and what I knew. What I found truly confronting was being with me. Alone, in a new place where I initially had few distractions and was far from the loving support networks I nurtured. However, I learnt to better embrace my vulnerabilities and feelings of uncertainty as they seemed to be a necessary part of the growth I craved. I also learnt how to foster quality connections with others. Between stints of teaching in Asia, the Northern Territory and Melbourne, I have returned to my home grounds of Geelong West and observed a blossoming community spirit. It is a nice place to be and it is easy to take all of its offerings for granted. Fortunately, I am aware of the machinations behind the scenes so I can truly appreciate the community capacity building that is perpetually in motion thanks to the good will and energy of people such as Rosemary Nugent. In this paper Rosemary and I have both reflected on our individual experiences related to

community capacity building, lifelong learning and human relations. We are keen to visit TimorLeste to participate in the discussion at the Our Work Our Lives conference. It will be our first time in Timor Leste. We look forward to meeting local women at the conference and in our journey to Viqueque. We are eager to listen to the stories of women so that we can better understand how community capacity building is working in this new nation-state, and how we may be of support.


Chapman, M and Kirk, K (2001) Lessons for Community Capacity Building: A summary of the research evidence. Research review to Scottish Homes. Ellis, C (2004) The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press Mackay, Hugh (2010) What Makes Us Tick? The ten desires that drive us. Sydney: Hachette Australia Sarra, Chris [Blog] Mabo Oration, posted 29/10/10 URL: Ting-Toomey, S and Kurogi, A (1998) Facework competence in intercultural conflict: an updated face-negotiation theory (in) International Journal of Intercultural Relations Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 187-225 Verity, Fiona (2007) Community Capacity Building: A review of the literature. South Australian Department of Health Webster, Scott (2009) Educating for Meaningful Lives: Through existential spirituality. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers