Celebrating Indigenous Tasmanian Culture


I grew up in 1960’s Tasmania where the myth had been populated that Indigeous Tasmanian culture had died with the passing of Truganini. This falsehood impoverished Tasmanians growing up as I did without knowledge or experience of the efforts to keep cultural konwledge and practices alive.

More recently I have been privileged to connect with some Indigenous Tasmanian artists and craftspeople who are reinvigorating and sharing their cultural practices in local communities and beyond.  One of these women is Lola Greeno who has been nominated by her peers as a Craft Australia Living Treasure. Lola is not only the second Tasmanian and third female recipient of this honour, but is also the first Indigenous craftsperson to be recognised through this program.  Collaborations is proud to be supporting a touring exhibition of Lola’s work in 2014.

My connection with Lola and other programs such as the luna tunapri shell project , through the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, have provided me with the opportunity to support the profile of Indigenous culture and it’s contribution to our identity, particularly as Tasmanians.  For me this is such an important part of our maturing as a nation, that we have an informed understanding of the full history of this place and celebrate the role of contemporary Indigenous culture in shaping who we all are and what connects us.

I invite you to build your own connections, to look at who you are and where you have come from with fresh eyes. Identity is a complex thing as that great philosopher Shrek acknowledged, “Onions have layers, Ogres have layers!” – we all do.

There is extraordinary potential for our understanding of ourselves and each other if we can integrate and facilitate reconciliation at a personal level in our lives.

Look our for Lola’s exhibition this year at a gallery near you.


Bringing our whole selves to our facilitation practice

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“The question we most commonly ask is the ‘what’ question – what shall I do? When the conversation goes a bit deeper we ask the ‘how’ question – what skills do I need to accomplish my task or goal? Occasionally we go a bit deeper and ask the ‘why’ question – for what purpose and to what ends do I seek to accomplish this goal? But seldom, if ever, do we ask the who question – who is the self that I bring to this work? How does the quality of my selfhood form – or deform – the way I relate to my work, my collaegues, my world?” (adapted from Parker J Palmer)

Facilitation is much more than a set of techniques or skills, it is our presence and our ‘being’ that defines who we are as facilitators. It is through our being not our doing, that we ‘hold space’ in a way that groups can do the work they need to do together. So what is it that we consistently bring to our work with groups? What aspects of ourselves do we call on to be the ‘best that we can be’ in diverse and difficult circumstances?

At the AFN  national conference last year I ran a half-day workshop exploring these ideas – not to teach or promote a new technique, but to deepen our knowledge of who we are as facilitators and how to bring a strong sense of our ‘being’ into our facilitation practice.  The feedback from participants was overwhelming. Many people wanted to spend more time exploring and building their awareness of how to bring greater authenticity to their work.  So in march next year I will be running a full day workshop using a range of creative and contemplative activities to explore our key values, the strengths and vulnerabilities and other aspects of our whole selves that we bring to our facilitation and life.

Please email collaborations through the contact page if you would like more information about this exciting 2014 workshop.


There is a crack in everything


“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
(Leonard Cohen)

On Saturday night Leonard Cohen reminded me in his concert of how, if we allow it, our greatest insights are often from when things don’t go as we expected. That beauty is a flawed thing and believing in perfection really gets us stuck!

This week a brave group of facilitators gathered to hold their flaws and triumphs up to the light and see what shone through. It is tough to go public on your stuff-ups and bombs – perhaps even tougher for some of us to acknowledge where things really worked and our contribution to that resonance.

So the learning for me from our VFN meeting was to keep stripping things back. Look for the light shining through the cracks and relish any gifts or unpolished gems. And also – that peer learning is a great thing!


Victorian Facilitator’s Network goes Southside for November!


18th November 6.00pm at the Palace Hotel 505 City Rd South Melbourne

“Celebrating our spectacular successes and awesome failures!” with Lose the Plot

What a roller coaster year it has been. From consultation on major government projects to emerging local activism. From strategic panning to team building. Facilitators everywhere you look!

In November the VFN will welcome the team from Lose the Plot to work with improvisation and storytelling to explore our spectacular successes and failures form 2013. This will be an interactive, dynamic group experience using improvisation, performance and storytelling – a chance to reflect, share our stories and experiences as facilitators. Share a drink and a meal and of course your wisdom – what have we learnt bout ourselves and facilitation?

Be brave, be reflective. Share and learn from others. It’s time to have a laugh at ourselves as well as celebrate the great work that we do.

Come and test out our new Southside venue, upstairs at “The Palace Hotel” – accessible by light rail (St Kilda or Port Melbourne) and bus – as we aim to alternate our monthly gatherings north or south of the river! http://www.thepalacehotel.net.au

No RSVP required.


The Power of the Honest Conversation

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Over nearly 30 years of working with groups and exploring different ways of moving through information and issues to support effective planning and decision making I am struck by how it is the simple approaches that seem to have the most power. Working up in Kinglake after the Black Saturday bushfires the only thing that was appropriate was to sit around in a safe space with some nice food and talk to each other about what should come next.  This was a simple and profound reminder for me about the importance of creating space for meaningful conversations to take place and trusting the process of dialogue to draw out knowledge and wisdom that can lead to an effective decision. 

So for all the colour and movement, speed and ‘accessibility’ that is offered by the plethora of techniques currently being employed to ‘engage’ with communities there is nothing like the power of an open and honest dialogue.

“We can take courage from the fact that this is a process we all know how to do. We can also take courage from the fact that many people are longing to converse again. We are hungry for a chance to talk. People want to tell their stories, and are willing to listen to yours. We are awakening an ancient practice, a way of being gathered that all humans intimately understand.” (Meg Wheatley)

I am inspired by this quote and have enrolled in Meg Wheatley’s one day workshop on ‘Engaging Communities in Challenging Times’ being hosted by Kimbra White on November the 21st 2013 from 9:00am-4:00pm at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne (for more information go to http://www.megwheatleydownunder.net/inhere-and-kimbra-day-event.php). We need more people to be willing to host conversations on the big issues of our time and sow the seeds of future change.

“Change doesn’t happen from someone announcing the plan. Change begins from deep inside a system, when a few people notice something that they will no longer tolerate, or when they respond to someone’s dream of what is possible”. (Meg Wheatley)


Victorian Facilitators Network

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The Victorian Facilitators Network (VFN) is a great environment for peer support and professional development.

Under the umbrella of the Australian Facilitators Network, monthly meetings of the VFN offer the opportunity to catch up, discuss projects, ideas, challenges and explore new ways of working. This month’s focus is “Empowerment and self organising systems”.

Empowerment and Self-Organising Systems

We live in interesting times! “Empowerment organisations are social forms and processes which can embody the spirit of inspired change and transformation. They both support and challenge their members to keep growing in a balanced way and make room for the continued evolution of the orgnaisation’s vision and methods as it and its members bring forth new realities and LEARN in the process.”

What have we learnt about empowerment in our work and community involvement? What are the conditions, processes and practices which support individuals and groups to take ownership and responsibility? Let’s explore our experience and knowledge and look at how these learnings might apply to the future of the VFN. The new team of VFN convenors invite you to an energising peer learning process.

Everyone is welcome and there is a small charge for tea and coffee. So join us on Monday 21st of October at the Kent Hotel (370 Rathdowne Street Carlton North) from 6pm for a light meal and some lively discussion.

Michelle Howard 

Co-convenor Victorian Facilitators Network



City of Melbourne “Our Community Engaged”

City of Melbourne

Collaborations is excited to be working with the City of Melbourne to undertake a unique research project to understand community engagement in the complex context of a capital city undergoing rapid urban change.

What matters most to residents, workers and businesses?