The Art of Listening

By Rev Philip Gardner

Posted in Culture

A couple of years ago I was participating in a course which had a smattering of people from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) background. I would have said that they were good participants in class discussions but not the most active ones, and I gave little thought to it. That is, until during an intensive later in the course we had a presenter from a CALD background. It was fascinating to experience his significantly different style of presentation.

Moreover the CALD members of the class were clearly the most active members of the group in discussions. It was one of those moments when the penny finally dropped for me, or perhaps it dropped with extra force. Having someone from a CALD background present, empowered other CALD members and helped them find their voice in the group. Furthermore it prepared the ground for more respectful listening from other members of the group.

Among the ten principles from the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is principle two: ‘Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously,’ summarised in our early work on the principles as ‘listening to the voice of the child.’ This isn’t a one off programme or communication but a consistent and persistent effort to listen and to help children find their voice. It isn’t just valid for children but for all vulnerable people in our midst. My experience during that course reminded me of the importance of allowing a diversity in ages, gender, and cultural backgrounds to present up-front in events.

This week we observe NAIDOC week. It reminds us of the importance of listening to the voices of our First Peoples. That it isn’t just about one off gestures but a persistent and consistent effort at working for reconciliation. The Royal Commission and NAIDOC both invite us to be communities where we listen deeply to one another and thoughtfully empower the voices of others, so that we can be a community marked by justice and one that is enriched as we discover each other’s stories.


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