action and research in Australia

colist-admin at colist-admin at
Wed Apr 12 11:38:55 CDT 2000

[ed:  James' comments invite general discussion, but particularly 
discussion from Australians, on the list.]

From: "James Whelan" <James.Whelan at>

Thanks to Comm-Org and Paul Loeb for the discussion about Rosa Parks. Thanks
also to Kelly, Mike, Nelda, John and Amy for your contributions to the

My PhD topic "teaching and learning for environmental activism" is based on
my belief that effective advocates do not spring fully-formed into social
movements. Or that, having done so, they function as machines. It certainly
wasn't that way for me. I have benefited from wonderful mentors, structured
workshops and through formal studies. And, of course, from the day to day
David and Goliath act we refer as "sinking or swimming". Social movements
are or can be wonderful sites of learning. having said that, I also feel
that (at least in Australia) the environment movement consistently fails to
realize that potential. In my home state of Queensland, I am pleased to find
a growing (but still small) number of activist researchers encouraging
collective reflection and participatory research.

I would love to hear from others on this subject.

The chapter I'm working on presently includes a discussion on Highlander,
the Antigonish Movement and other expressions of popular adult education.
Just as Freire is inevitably mentioned in discussion about educational
philosophy (even amongst school teachers), Highlander seems essential to
discussions about links between educators and social movements.

I dream of going to Highlander one day. A centre based on Highlander's
philosophy has been recently established in New Zealand. Friends of mine
hope one day to follow suit here in Australia. Now, I'd love to see that!

James Whelan

[ed:  just a quick note to affirm James' comments that Highlander is a 
fascinating and magical place, having been there once and always looking 
for reasons to return.  And there are also links to Australian networks of 
action researchers available from the COMM-ORG Action Research page.]

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