SDN Workshop January 2017 at Seymour, Victoria

Since Ned and John Russell started the network in the 1970s, the key offering for people committed to personal and social change has been the annual and regional workshops. SDN workshops have now been held every year for over forty years.

The 2017 annual workshop was at Seymour, north of Melbourne - a session summary is included below.

The 2018 annual workshop will be held at Uralla, near Armidale, from 17-21 January – make a note in your diary.

SDN Workshop January 2017 at Seymour, Victoria

To help those who have not attended an SDN workshop to understand the SDN, and to keep updated those who have attended a workshop, included below are some notes on the sessions covered during this event.

SDN Workshop January 2017 at Seymour, Victoria
Active session in beautiful Commonground meeting room.

Wednesday 11 January

Acknowledging the traditional custodians of land.

SDN Agreement: SDN Agreement was read, setting the ground rules for respectful interaction during the workshop.

Active Listening: each person introduced themselves, their interests and activities without interruptions.

Ned Iceton: the legacy of Ned Iceton was recalled.

Thursday 12 January

Commonground: it arose as an intentional community from the Melbourne Health Action Collective, with a focus on self-help. The vision remains, but modes change. The venue is used by a wide diversity of groups.

SDN and NED Update: on progress with the SDN and NED since Ned Iceton’s death in 2015.

Manning Clark: a session inspired by Mark McKenna’s biography of Manning Clark (1915 to 1991), the well-known Australian historian. Clark had a passion for telling the stories of Australia’s past, and asking questions about Australia’s identity.

Hospicing the death of the old economy and midwifing the birth of the gift economy: Otto Sharman’s concept of ‘generative listening’ – being aware of the hidden depths of conversations, promoting dialogue, restorative circles, transformative communities, peace building and healing

Post-truth: has a long history, especially in Hinduism and Buddhism - the duality of truth and not-truth, provisional and ultimate truth. Linear and cyclic time cultures. Goebbels, fascism, Ortega y Gasset, conspiracy theories, David Irving, authenticity, authoritative institutions, fake news.

SDN Workshop January 2017 at Seymour, Victoria
Enjoying relaxed conversations - lunch table setting at Commonground.

Friday 13 January

Restorative Practice: how restorative justice is being used in responding to crime, by encouraging offenders to accept responsibility for their actions and for taking steps towards their own ‘restoration’ to the community.

Death phobia: showing the video Death Walker in which Stephen Jenkins explores different attitudes to, and practices around, death - ‘the cradle of your love of life’. Death as a community event, denial of death as an ‘anxiety buffer’, dying as a gift to make way for the next generations, cognitive dissonance from the survival instinct against the fear of death.

Living in community (Murundaka): a co-operative form of governance, one of 120 co-operatives linked through a single company structure, balancing the different needs as people age.

Collective/individual relationship: joining an urban collective in Melbourne, loss of ‘the commons’ in Europe and the resulting dismantling of communities, working in the Congo questioned as colonial imposition on the poor, the personal and the collective balance/tension. Questions about the meaning of social development, interdependence, social justice, and co-creation.

Humanism and the teaching of ethics in schools: Humanism stresses the natural universe, independent of divine intervention, and the need to affirm all human beings and use reasoned enquiry. The teaching of ethics in schools has been a focus for the Humanists in Victoria and after years of challenging the policy of favouring religious instruction, there has been a breakthrough in official policy. The Victorian curriculum now provides for the teaching of ethics in all schools using the philosophical “Community of Inquiry” method, and also provides separately for the teaching of the 5 main religions plus Humanism. There is now a rush to provide training for teachers.


SDN Workshop January 2017 at Seymour, Victoria
Kitchen at Commonground.

Saturday 14 January

Voluntary euthanasia: Australian laws do not permit the choosing of an end to life. Overseas experience has shown that it is possible to have protocols in place that reduce the risk of abuse of the choice, where the key criteria are ‘unending suffering’ and ‘in right mind’. Need for an open debate in Australia on voluntary euthanasia and assisted dying and palliative care.

Global political economy and the individual: David Korten’s ‘end of empire’ has arrived. Carl Sagan reminds us that we are a dot in the universe, the US government appointments by incoming president Donald Trump showing the extent of neo-liberal reach at the political level there, the concept of an ‘earth community’ based on co-operation and sharing. Included an exercise to speak in pairs about experiences of gratitude and compassion.

Free time: most went on a trip to a nearby winery to walk around the lake, enjoy the open air and an opportunity for unstructured discussions.

Conflict resolution on Facebook: social media can be helpful in enabling people to keep in touch, especially when isolated through geography or illness. Facebook as a both a personal and political tool – positives and negatives in a world of electronic media .But can attempts to reach out through Facebook, to explore and discuss issues of concern, elicit responses of an educational or learning kind?

SDN Workshop January 2017 at Seymour, Victoria
Unstructured time – walking through around pond at Tahbilk Winery.


Sunday 15 January

Political/economic, institutions, and everyday actions: can we live with integrity in the context of these three levels? Global cultural pressure to conform. Economists are looking for a way to move from the crisis of the current model - capitalism’s collapse from within. •

Deep listening: based on Quaker processes, allowing the group to reflect on the SDN experience as a unique event. Deep silence shared can give us opportunities to open to a transcendental way of being. Not an intellectual approach, rather a creative, imaginal one. From deep silence, we have the opportunity to share what is presenting itself to us in the way of feelings, images, thoughts, maybe presented through dance or music. ‘

Under the Soles of My Feet’: the issues of shame and shaming in our culture. Experiences from a South African childhood and an Australian adulthood, sharing of stories.

ENSPIRAL: an audio-visual and discussion of an emerging NZ/global enterprise with an innovative business model which encourages sharing of skills, knowledge and money.