Venus at Wolfe Creek

Dear C and M,
We have just completed another election. A moment in time that allows us to choose who we would like to manage our government. Aren’t we lucky to live in a place we can make our own choices and share in the care of our Country?

I am repeatedly surprised by our fellow residents inability to think for themselves. The Australian voting system is pretty amazing – not only does it give us a chance to nominate who we’d like to govern, but we can say who we’d like to have a go, if our first preference is unsuccessful. How cool is that? The problem is, many people who voted recently don’t seem to care a whole lot. You saw on election day, the folks outside the polling booth handing out how-to-vote cards. Those cards list how each of the political parties would like you to vote. Most voters in Australia simply grab a how-to-vote card from their preferred party and follow along. The political parties know most folks do this, and use it to their advantage. They spend a lot of time and money making deals with other political parties to have their preferred voting order listed on each other’s how-to-vote card.

This deal making might be ok, but if we take this year’s federal election as an example, the system can get hijacked. Why do we find it so hard to think for ourselves and make our own decisions? I guess you could spend a lot of time considering an answer to that question. 

My hope is that you do learn to think for yourself and make your own decisions. It is easy for me to say, but it’s an incredibly hard thing to do every time. There are so many competing things that seem to get in the way. How will my family be affected by my decision? Maybe I can’t afford to do what I’d prefer to do, or what I think is right. Maybe my friends all want to do something different, and I feel like I should follow them – even though I don’t think it’s right. Maybe the shop doesn’t sell the milk I want, but I can’t be bothered going all the way to the next shop. So many things getting in the way.

Sometimes, I might ask someone I respect, or I feel knows more than me, what they think I should do. In the past, I would simply do what they said. These days, I still ask, but I make my decision based on lots of different information, from different sources. There are times I really feel like I just want to make a snap decision, a random choice, rather than researching everything for days and days. And that’s ok too. But some things are really worth asking the questions for.

You both have such a wonderful curiosity. You are really good at asking why, at lifting up the rock and looking at what is underneath. It takes persistence and energy to do that. It can be exhausting.

Keep looking and asking.

Lots of love,

The future

Image of Cradle Mountain

Dear C,
I am sorry we have not yet had the chance to meet in person. I am currently on seven months leave without pay, but usually lecture in Outdoor and Environmental Education as part of what is the new School of Education. You began your new position, just as I began my leave. As required under the conditions of my leave, I am writing to inform you of my intentions once my leave is complete.

During my leave I have been travelling around this wide, brown island of ours. As you may imagine, journeying long distances provides one with plenty of thinking time. Being away from the daily business of the university, has afforded me many hours with which to contemplate the second half of my life – metaphorically and physically. My leave was prompted by my partner, who was observing the effect my work was having on me. I am so grateful for her intervention. The time on the road has been cathartic at the very least.

I write to you from one of Australia’s great World Heritage Areas, Cradle Mountain National Park. I am sitting in the type of country I have spent many hundreds of hours, shared with hundreds of wonderful outdoor education students from Fed Uni. I have helped them to connect with the natural world, hoping they might pass that connection on to their students once they are out working. It is this time with students, in and out of the classroom I feel I have the most impact. I found my way to academia by following my desire to have a ‘ripple effect’, hoping to encourage behaviour change in bulk by teaching our future teachers. If I can support one student to engage with the natural world, and they in turn support a handful of keen young people, then the impact can be swift and strong. Continue reading “The future”