Term Four 2021 and Beyond
October 11, 2021
Welcome to Term Four! I hope you had the opportunity to rest and refresh during the break.
Here's what the Abraham Institute has on offer in Term 4 and beyond.
Pursuing Peace Workshops (P2)
Our intercultural understanding workshops fit into a double lesson and look at identity, shared values, diversity and what it means to live in a culturally diverse country. P2 workshops are suitable for students in Years R-10. *They can also be tailored to SACE courses such as Society and Culture, Women’s Studies and Integrated Learning.*
We offer half day Teacher PD in Intercultural Understanding. The PD explores the qualities we value in ourselves and others, what our values are, how beliefs and cultures may differ but values are universal and ways to create a culturally inclusive school. You can also use the excellent online resources of our partner, Together For Humanity.
Intercultural Understanding Partnerships (ICUP)
Keep an eye on your inboxes because the Abraham Institute, together with Together For Humanity and Jewish Christian Muslim Association (Vic) will once again be partnering with each other and schools around Australia to offer grants to help schools with intercultural challenges.
Our Religion Studies workshops have proved to be overwhelmingly popular this year! We offer double lesson workshops for students in Years 5 - 12. We provide at least a Muslim and a Jewish presenter to work with your students looking at the similarities and the differences between the three major Abrahamic faiths. *We also have access to a Hindu presenter.
Spiritualities, Religion and Meaning (2022)
If your school is planning to offer the new SACE course, Spiritualities, Religion and Meaning, in 2022, please let me know and I'll be in touch. I'd love to have a chat with you about how we can add value to the course for you and your students.
Believe, Belong and Blossom (BBB) (not available in Term 4)
A six week leadership course for girls from culturally diverse backgrounds. Suitable for students in Years 9 and 10.
Cultural Hear Ask Tell (CHAT) (not available in Term 4)
An eight week course for students in early high school in Intercultural Understanding. CHAT was devised by the Scripture Union of Queensland and is delivered in partnership with the Walk Humbly Initiative.
A Guest Post from a Young Friend
July 6, 2020
At the Progressive Jewish synagogue to which I belong, young members become Bar (masc) or Bat (fem) Mitzvah shortly after their 13th birthdays. It is a celebration of the fact that they are now considered adults in the faith, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. The young person leads an entire service and chants from the Torah scrolls. The Torah is written without vowels or punctuation so it takes a year for the young person to learn their portion. They also write a reflection in English on that portion. On Saturday, I attended a Bar Mitzvah and felt that the young man’s reflection would make a wonderful post for this website.
It gives me great pleasure to share the words of my young acquaintance, Ethan, who is thirteen.
“I am now going to tell you what happens after we left off in the torah portion. Once Balam arrives in Moab, Balak goes to meet with him. Balak tells Balam to follow him up a mountain called Bamoth-Baal to show him a portion of the vast numbers of Israelites camped below. In the morning Balam asks Balak to build him seven alters with seven bulls and seven rams. Once complete, they offered up a bull and ram on each altar. Balam then asked Balak to stay by the altars while he went off alone to seek guidance from the Lord. God spoke with Balam and put words in his mouth which he instructed him to say to Balak. Balam returns to Balak and speaks the words which God had placed in his mouth saying that instead of cursing the Israelites, he has blessed them. Frustrated with Balaam’s response, Balak then takes him to the summit of Pisgah to view even more of the Israelite’s camp. He asks him once again to damn his enemies gathered below. Again, Balam goes and speaks with God who places more words in his mouth. Balam then repeats these words to Balak explaining that that the Lord has once again instructed him to bless, not curse the Israelites. One last time, Balak takes Balam to another mountain top hoping that this would finally convince him of the need to curse them. Balam, seeing the tribe of Israel laid below, feeling the spirit of God upon him, replied ‘Blessed are they who bless you, accursed they who curse you’. After Balam told Balak that the Israelites were to be blessed instead of cursed, Balak was infuriated and said, “I called you to damn my enemies and instead, you have blessed them these three times”. Balam replied “I am instructed to say only what the Lord wants me to say and to do what the Lord wants me to do”. With this Balam sets out on his journey home. In my Torah portion, Balak asks Balam to come and curse a group of people because they have settled in his land and he is worried there are too many of them. This reminds me of how many countries around the world are dealing with COVID 19. The closing of borders, the exclusion of foreigners, and the growing racism towards people of different backgrounds, are all versions of what Balak was trying to accomplish. No matter the excuse, I think it’s really important that we continue to be a welcoming, open country that recognises the value of people from different cultures and backgrounds. Imagine how boring life would be without any diversity of language, food, music, religion, or ideas. Everyone would think and act the same. Not only would it be boring, but it would also be dangerous because if you didn’t have different perspectives in life it would be easy for toxic ideas to be accepted. At Passover each year, we recall that we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We know what it feels like to be excluded and our history has shown what it can lead too. It’s up to all of us to make sure that these kinds of attitudes are not accepted and to make modern day Balaks feel like the outsiders."
“You know what’s happening. You know you don’t want it for you. Why are you so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others?”
May 31, 2020
Last week – interestingly during Reconciliation Week – I completed an Indigenous Cultural Awareness Foundations course. It was really just a brief introduction to thousands of years of culture and history but some parts of it made me cry. I was staggered to read that the number of deaths in custody has increased by 150% since the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody. INCREASED.
At the same time as I was working through the course, halfway across the world, a man of colour was murdered by police right before our eyes. I write “our eyes” but the truth is not my eyes. I refuse to watch it or even read anything about it. If I can cry reading about an increase in Indigenous deaths in custody, how can I read about George Floyd?
This comes only a couple of months after a marked increase of acts of racism against Asian Australians in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
I recently saw footage of anti-racism activist, Jane Elliott, in which she said, “You know what’s happening. You know you don’t want it for you. Why are you so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others?” She said it after she asked all the white people in the crowd to stand if they would be happy to be treated in the same way as people of colour. Not one of them did.
“You know what’s happening. You know you don’t want it for you. Why are you so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others?”
I think I have an answer for her. As long as we see people who are different from us as The Other or less than us in some way and deny or ignore our common humanity it makes it okay to treat them in a way we don’t want to be treated. We tell ourselves all kinds of stories about others, label them, stereotype them and dehumanise them. But it’s not okay. No matter where someone was born, what language they speak, what colour they are, what they eat, how they worship, how they dress, how they arrived in Australia, that person is human and we shouldn’t allow any treatment that dehumanises them in any way.
George Floyd’s murder has left me – and people all over the world – stunned at the level of cruelty and sadism to which racism can give birth. His murder, however, was not in a vacuum; roads have been leading to this for a long time. There has been an awakening in the United States in the aftermath, which I hope will lead to a decrease in racist acts.
Many people have pointed out that we can’t be complacent here in Australia because we have our own issues with racism. It is important that we’re not smug about what happened in the U.S. and think that we’re fortunate that something like that couldn’t happen here. Because it could. Little incidents every day that could lead to a big one. Our Indigenous and other populations could probably tell us stories that would leave people reeling.
I imagine that I’m “preaching to the choir” in a sense because those of you reading this probably believe as passionately as I do in our common humanity and treating all people with respect and dignity. The beliefs we hold and the work we do is more important than ever. We need to keep asking Jane Elliott’s question of people and challenging the stereotypes that make people think it’s okay to dehumanise others.
What ICU challenge would you address with $15000?
May 15, 2020
In one week the applications for the Together For Humanity, Intercultural Understanding Partnerships grant applications close.
Grants of up to $15000 are available for schools with intercultural challenges. If that’s your school and you haven’t applied yet, time is running out. This is an amazing opportunity and many SA schools have already applied. Don’t miss out.
For more information go to Together for Humanity’s ICUP page.
Generous Intercultural Understanding Partnership grants available
May 12, 2020
Our partner and funding body, Together For Humanity, is offering generous grants to help schools with an intercultural challenge to create a program to address it.
The deadline for Together For Humanity's (TFH) Intercultural Understanding Partnership (ICUP), which offers grants of up to $15,000 to schools with an intercultural challenge, is fast approaching. ICUP is a chance for schools to improve the learning and wellbeing of all students by addressing an intercultural challenge in their community.
The Expression of Interest form is due by May 22, 2020. The form, which consists of three questions, enables schools to tell the story of their intercultural challenge. For example, the return of students to school due to the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions may highlight an emerging intercultural challenge for your school community.
It is anticipated that shortlisting will happen in early June, with the announcement of the grant recipients by early Term 3.
We are conscious that, as Australia emerges from the COVID-19 situation, schools will want as much face-to-face student learning as possible. The initial planning phase for successful ICUP schools, which would occur during Terms 3 and 4, will have minimal impact on face-to-face teaching.
ICUP is for all schools, regional and metropolitan, in all Australian states and territories. If successful, your school's ICUP team will be supported by me, a local TFH facilitator. My role is to work with your team to develop an ICUP plan that is unique for your school, provide networking opportunities, share ideas and assist your team to meet accountability requirements.
The ICUP plan will have links to the ACER National School Improvement Tool, the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework, ACARA Intercultural capabilities and other strategic planning frameworks used by schools. Therefore, ICUP is a wonderful opportunity for schools to plan and implement lasting transformation.
Below are links to two videos of schools that received Intercultural grants a few years ago
Please feel free to contact me (details below) the Together For Humanity website for more information.
To obtain an Expression of Interest click here.
To email click here
Click here to arrange a phone call or Zoom meeting
March 18, 2020
As our community faces challenging conditions with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of our staff and the students and teachers at the schools we work with is our top priority. For that reason, we are currently postponing current bookings but intend to stay in close contact with those schools so that we can deliver them when the crisis is over.
At this time of social distancing and P2* workshop postponements, I’m busy working behind the scenes at the Abraham Institute planning and preparing so that, when the Covid-19 crisis is over, we can “hit the ground running” and continue to deliver the high quality workshops that you value. We’re still taking bookings for Term 2 onwards, as well as being available to chat and answer any questions you might have.
Keep safe and well.
To book a phone or Zoom meeting click here.
To email me click here.
*Funding for P2 programs in 2019-2020 has been provided by Together for Humanity via the Australian Government Department of Social Services MUSTER grant.
The End of a Great Term One
April 17, 2019
The Abraham Institute had a strong start to the school year, doing seven Pursuing Peace (P2) presentations in Term One.
Our first presentation for the year was at Tatachilla Lutheran College, where we presented to the entire Year 8 - 12 cohort during chapel. It would not have been possible without the use of technology so we took on-board some new skills at the same time. The staff and students made us feel very welcome and we’re keen to go back and work with individual classes.
We received an invitation to be involved in a Year 11 seminar during Harmony week at Mercedes College. The Year 11 Religion classes were looking at the Abrahamic faiths, as well as harmony and diversity, and what happens in societies where there is none. It was the first of our collaborations with the Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Steiner Education Centre (AHMSEC) and we hope there will be many more. Mercedes College now refers to both the AHMSEC and Abraham Institute as “dear friends.”
Most of our presentations were to the Year 9 students at Scotch College. Our contact there jokingly suggested that we might need to wear school t-shirts since we’re there so often. We presented to four classes at Scotch College and most of the sessions involved extended Q and A. We were very pleased with the students’ curiosity and openness, and feel we learnt from many of them, as well.
We also did a P2 at Thebarton Senior College to the Year 11 and 12 Peace Studies class. What a morning that was! Thebarton Senior College is a school of high diversity so we had a huge variety of cultural backgrounds in one room. We did some activities that looked at the need to feel part of a group, how -despite one’s background - our human values are very similar and then had a long discussion on issues that were important to the students. We were blown away by the maturity and openness of the students.
If you’d like us to come to your school in Terms 2 or 3 or both, please register your interest before Friday 3rd May in order to receive a fully funded presentation.
Going with the Flow
April 9, 2019
I used to be a secondary school teacher and would go into most lessons with a comprehensive lesson plan, as well as an extra activity, in case we got through everything early. I also used to go into most lessons knowing that there was a chance that my carefully prepared plan could be blown out of the water by things out of my control. Things like immunisations, excursions, inter-school sports and instrumental lessons meant that there were some days when, despite my careful prep, I just had to “go with the flow.”
This year we’ve been doing an increasing amount of “going with the flow” during our P2 school presentations. We always arrive with a carefully thought-out plan for the class to whom we’re presenting. The fact is, however, that we don’t know the students yet so the plan may look great in theory but might need to be restructured, added to or subtracted from on the day.
A couple of weeks ago, we did back to back presentations at Scotch College. We ran out of time during the first lesson so the students barely got to ask us any questions. We believe that the time spent doing a Q and A is extremely beneficial to the students and we usually do it at the end because, by then, we’ve all gotten to know and trust each other. We made a quick decision between the two classes to do the Q and A in the middle of our presentation rather than at the end. It worked. The students asked a lot of questions because they had time to do so. A week later we did back to back presentations to the remaining two Year 9 classes at Scotch College and went to the Q and A early during the first class. We didn’t get to our next activity with them and, at the end of the class, the students had many more questions to ask so that class was able to join up with the next class to continue asking questions. The plan was to spend the first part of the lesson answering questions and then move on to our other activities. The students were so engaged, curious and receptive that we ended up doing a double lesson Q and A to two Year 9 classes.
It was not what we arrived thinking we would do but we believe - particularly in the wake of the Christchurch and Pittsburgh murders - that demystifying “The Other” is the most important thing we can do. Those lovely students now know much more than they did before about Judaism and Islam. We also have a Catholic educator who was with us on that day. In the wake of the George Pell case, it’s important also to separate Catholics from what some of their priests have done. We’ve been able to address that, too.
In between our two Scotch dates, we did a P2 presentation to the Year 11 & 12 Peace Studies class at Thebarton Senior College. Again, careful planning went into it as TSC is a school of high cultural diversity so we needed to approach it differently than we would at a low cultural diversity school. Furthermore the students are older. Our first activity went well and - as planned - it opened the students’ eyes to the fact that very few people have not been treated unkindly for one reason or another. We sat down on the floor to “unpack” that activity and the conversation, questions and comments just organically flowed. We did another activity, after which we sat down again. From then until the end of the double lesson, the students were so open, honest and curious that we discussed many more topics than I’d have thought possible. We did so from both a secular and religious point of view. Among the topics we touched on were good and evil, mental health, homelessness and sexuality. It was a fantastic morning and I was very glad we’d gone “off script.”
Most of the time, our presentations go as planned. It’s important, however, to “read” the room and make any necessary changes so that the students can fully benefit from a P2 presentation.
March 6, 2019
Today we did a Pursuing Peace presentation in a format that was new to us.
A usual P2 presentation involves us working with one or two classes for a double lesson. In that time we do a variety of activities. In some there is a whole class Q and A, in others we get the whole class up and moving and in some we break into small groups.
Today we presented to all the Year 8 - 12 students in a large gym at Tatachilla Lutheran College. Instead of getting the students to stand in certain places to signify how they felt about a certain issue, we used phone polls with live results on a large screen and instead of intimate Q and A, school captains went around with microphones so the students who wanted to ask or answer questions could be heard. We used microphones, as well, so we could be heard by all the students. We usually end with a Q and A with questions about us and our cultural/faith backgrounds, which we do in stations in a classroom. Today questions could be sent through via text message.
It all ran almost seamlessly. Kudos to the school.
We love doing our Pursuing Peace presentations and have done enough in a classroom setting to be very comfortable. Today we were taken out of our comfort zone. Even more importantly, however, we know that we can offer schools large presentations and use technology to do so. This adds the ICT capability to the others that we cover.
An introduction to me :)
January 8, 2019
My name is Rachel Gillespie, and I am the director of the Abraham Institute, which I took over from the fabulous Kitty Goode in 2017.
I love the fact that I’m the director of an organisation that reinforces on a daily basis that we live in a state where it’s possible for any Australian to become whatever they want to, regardless of where they were born, what their first language was or what colour their skin is.
It is true, however, that many Australians live in a state of fear in relation to “The Other,” and politicians, the media and forces on social media often try to take advantage of that fear, and lead us into mistrusting one another. I believe that the Abraham Institute is one of many organisations that are working hard to combat that fear and mistrust.
We do so in the form of our P2 presentations, which can be used as an adjunct to any curricula or pastoral care topics that look at identity, cultural diversity, intercultural understanding, conflict and racism. As the facilitator, I liaise with school staff prior to a P2 presentation in order to pick activities that reinforce students’ learning outcomes, using informal education techniques, small group work activities and brainstorming solutions to problems caused by intercultural assumptions. I usually have three educators working with me. Each presentation is unique, depending on the wishes of the school.
We’ve had some wonderful feedback from the schools where we’ve presented and my favourite is this from Michael Mattei at Paralowie R - 12 School, “I would recommend this cultural diversity session to all Middle-High School sites in South Australia. You are promoting such a powerful message to all young Australians about acceptance and diversity. In our current world climate, this is the type of program which needs to be at the forefront of education.”
We love what we do and are very passionate about it so please contact us and we’ll answer any and all questions you may have about P2.