At the moment I’m helping to coordinate a visit by 27 Indonesians who are visiting Newcastle to learn about community engagement at the University of Newcastle, especially the Family Action Centre. The delegation has been organised and funded by the Directorate General of Islamic Education, Ministry of Religious Affairs for lecturers and officials from:
- The State Islamic University Medan, Sumatera Utara
- The State Islamic University of Raden Fatah Palembang
- The State Islamic University of Walisongo Semarang
- The State Institute of Islamic Studies Mataram
- The Directorate General of Islamic Education.
During their five days they are:
- Hearing about the work of the Family Action Centre (including Uni4You, Community Connect, Hunter Outreach Program, SNUG, the Fathers and Families Research Program, SMS4Dads, the expert panel, the Master of Family Studies)
- Hearing from other community outreach programs of the University (The Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, AIM High, the Children’s University and Teach Outreach)
- Visiting University facilities and programs (Wollotuka Institute, The UoN Legal Centre and the library)
- Participating in workshops exploring strengths-based approaches to working with communities
- Reflecting on how they can apply what they learn to the Indonesian context
- Seeing a few of the sights of Newcastle.
The academics come from a range of disciplines but are mostly involved in social sciences including education, Islamic law, Ushuluddin (philosophy), economics and business, and communication.
We have been very fortunate that one of the key organisers, Jarot Wahyudi from the Directorate General of Islamic Education, is a wonderful translator. I’m sure he improved a talk I gave on strengths-based practice.
They organised the visit after hearing of our work of the Family Action Centre through Dee Brooks from Jeder Institute who used to work with us. When we started planning the visit, I thought the focus was on strengths-based practice and asset-based community-driven development. It soon became clear that they were wanting to explore community engagement in the University context and we adapted the agenda to reflect this focus.
I think the visit is quite valuable. Hopefully they have gained some ideas or been inspired by some of the examples we have heard about – I’ve certainly found some of them inspiring – and it looks like some exciting potential partnerships are being discussed.
It is also important, however, because it helps to build links between Australia and Indonesia, and provides us with the chance to meet with moderate Muslims. In Australia, Islam rarely seems to be discussed outside of the context or radical extremism. The Muslims who are part of the delegation provide a very different face to Islam.
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