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Students help deliver social change in their communities


Sharlene King
17 December 2013
Students with a passion for making a difference in the world have partnered with Lismore-based community organisations to help deliver real social change through two new hands-on units being offered at Southern Cross University.

The outcomes of the students’ collaborations with Wilsons River Landcare Group Inc, Winsome Soup Kitchen, and Remembering and Healing were presented at the University’s Lismore campus today (December 17) during a showcase and celebration event. Representatives from the partner organisations and the students were present.

The capstone units ‘Community Partnerships for Social Change I and II’ (CPSC) were offered for the first time this year.

The CPSC units were delivered by Mr Ben Roche, Head of Sustainability, Partnerships and Community Engagement, and Professor of Cultural Studies Baden Offord in the School of Arts and Social Sciences.

Mr Roche said the University introduced CPSC to further realise the University’s vision of enriching communities through the achievements of its graduates.

“By combining students’ strengths, experience and passion with the social change agenda of community organisations we not only deliver real projects that help partners make a difference but we create inspiring and valuable learning experiences for students.

“Through an emphasis on real world projects, students are given an opportunity to activate their knowledge and develop skills to help them make a difference in their future careers and lives,” said Mr Roche.

Students doing CPSC work on real world projects in a collaborative environment with fellow students, academics, practitioners and community partners from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences. Through a process emphasising critical reflection, collaboration and experiential learning, the projects are defined and delivered, whilst engaging students in diverse perspectives of social change, active citizenship, collaboration, ethics and values.

Professor Offord said the opportunity and challenge of working together with community organisations had been a very positive experience for the students.

“Drawing on the scholarship that they have gained in their studies at SCU, they have been able to use their skills in thinking and communication to make a difference in the community.

“Overall, I think for the students, the units and projects have been an illuminating learning experience, and at times quite transformative. It has been inspiring to see them step up and make a commitment for social change in such a practical and thoughtful way,” Professor Offord said.

The partnerships:

Project: Stories of the Winsome – documentary; website update
Partner: Winsome Soup Kitchen - Mieke Bell

Lismore is an area with a high number of people that are, for varying reasons, without a home. The Lismore Soup Kitchen Inc has been in operation since 1990 to provide meals, accommodation and social support to various groups of marginalised people looking for social contact as well as the basic essentials of life. In 2009 the Lismore Soup Kitchen purchased the Winsome Hotel and has been providing accommodation and daily meals at its new home since then. The Soup kitchen is staffed entirely by volunteers and has about 50 members.
The students made a documentary about the Winsome Soup Kitchen’s history, people, projects and challenges. They also updated the Winsome’s website to make it more informative and added a capacity to act as a fundraising platform. They also created a social media network.

Project: Remembering and Healing - video/ad
Partner: Remembering and Healing - Sabine Baltruweit

Remembering and Healing (RaH) is a Lismore-based community group that wants the values of Anzac Day to be relevant and meaningful to all of multicultural Australia. RaH organises Anzac Day events that model how commemorations of wars can be inclusive, remembering all who have suffered through war, on all sides, civilian and military, without any glorification of war. RaH believes that remembering of war always needs to go hand-in-hand with the strong commitment to work towards peace. Only by striving to prevent the suffering of war in future can we truly honour those who suffered in the past.
With five years’ experience organising multicultural and multi-faith peace events on Anzac Day locally, RaH is now seeking to initiate a discussion of the values of Anzac Day at a national level. The students created an audio visual resource promoting the values of RaH that can be used an advertisement and educational tool.

Project: We Keep it Fun & Funky – social media
Partner: Wilsons River Landcare Group Inc - Vanessa Tallon and Vanessa Ekins

The Wilsons River Landcare Group (WRLG), formed in 1993, is one of the oldest Landcare groups in NSW. The WRLG originally worked on private land to the north and south of Lismore, but the focus has shifted to working on highly visible publicly owned land in urban Lismore. As well as regular working days, WRLG organises Lismore’s annual National Tree Day riverbank tree planting, participates in many stakeholder forums and undertakes planning for the restoration of the urban river reach in Lismore.
WRLG needed to tell its story to members and the community by broadening and strengthening its use of social media. The heart and soul of the group are the volunteers and their families. Children have grown up while being actively involved in planting, playing and having fun on the riverbank. Over the years, the group has watched children grow to become leaders environmental projects in their schools and for the oldest of the children become a leader in national youth environmental movements. The students created the WRLG Blog, Twitter account and YouTube channel to integrate with WRLG’s existing use of social media and the social activities of the group.

The ‘Community Partnerships for Social Change I’ and ‘Community Partnerships for Social Change II’ units are offered in session 2 and session 3 respectively as part of the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Social Science degrees for those students who have completed 16 units of study.

Photo: Remembering and Healing's Micky Foss (back row, L to R), Margaret Loong and Sho Wakejima with student Arden Exley, and in the front row (L to R) students Emma Tunbridge and Ben Roberts with RaH's Karen Alexander.