Preliminary Report, 2015 – 2016

P1030305

Oasis offers hospitality, promotes well-being and fosters inclusive spirituality – inspiring a culture of care at Flinders University and in the wider community.

  • Oasis does this by providing a safe, inclusive drop-in centre, facilitated by a team of volunteers who enable interpersonal, intercultural and interfaith respect and understanding.
  • In this friendly, informal environment, students can meet, make connections, find friendship and support and create initiatives in the spirit of Oasis.
  • Oasis also supports initiatives by staff, hosting inter-disciplinary, inter-cultural, and inter-religious endeavor.
  • Oasis also offers its experiences of innovation and transformation to the wider local, national and international community.

 

Background

Over the last three years the primary task of the Oasis Coordinating Chaplain has been to guide the transformation of the former Religious Centre, home for religion and religious clubs and societies on campus, into an interfaith centre, inclusive of the spiritualities of all, and an asset to the well being of the university and wider community.

The means of transformation has been the practice of a particular understanding of hospitality – the making of space for the other. A team of volunteers, inclusive of chaplains appointed by religious communities but not limited to them, enacts pastoral care directed toward the well being of the University without discrimination.

2015 Activities 

Oasis (Bedford Pk)

Bookings for formal meetings were deliberately restricted during 2015 to make space for informal student socializing, given the lack of such spaces during the Hub development.

In particular, lunch between 12 and 2 became very popular, particularly for international students. Significant supportive interactions occurred between students themselves and with members of the Oasis team. Several students volunteered that they would not have been able to complete their studies without this support. Music and dance were also significant Oasis activities initiated by students among themselves. Opportunity for ‘power naps’ in the Quiet Space was also appreciated.

However, Oasis also hosted a number of events and gatherings in 2015: a Harmony Day lunch , a public seminar, ‘The Muslim Mind’, in association with the Hawke Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, and a staff Farewell celebration. Oasis also held one of its public evening celebrations to provide information about the Oasis redevelopment and provide opportunity for community networking.

Among student-initiated gatherings, the Indonesian Association (PPIA) held a number of Friday afternoon seminars on issues of concern to them, including an interfaith dialogue.

In support of other University agencies –

  • International Student Services continued their regular morning or afternoon teas in Oasis
  • the ISS-Oasis partnership, providing weekly English Conversation for Spouses, has continued.
  • Oasis provided one of a number of venues for Mental Health Week, in partnership with Health and Counselling.
  • a Volunteering Expo, organized by the Career Centre.
  • Social Work has used Oasis throughout the year for special support for Masters of Social Work students with difficulties in English language.

Two Master of Social Work students undertook course placements in Oasis.

2015 has been dominated by two over-riding concerns:

  • adaption to the Function Room space and plans for its refurbishment
  •  provision of prayer rooms in the University

Oasis will continue an open, hosting, supportive, informal approach in 2016 and foster student-initiated activities in keeping with its mission.

For example, we expect that Nutrition students will utilize the new Oasis kitchen for their ‘Students Eating Well’ (StEW) program and we will begin to encourage more interfaith/intercultural activities among students.

Oasis at Sturt

Dr Sheila James, supported by Krystyna Court-Kowalski, Morgan Pankhurst and Nuur Aimi Binti Benjimin offer morning tea as a focus for support of international women students and their families.

Limited use of the FUSA room at Sturt has restricted International Morning Teas to once a week.

Oasis at Tonsley

A small multifaith group facilitated by Dr Shaowen Qin and Rev Dave Williamson meets weekly as Oasis at Tonsley for diverse activities, including Meditation and Yoga.

The Oasis team

In 2015 four team members retired and six have joined.

In 2016, a member of the Flinders Health and Counseling team will interact with the Oasis team to offer informal support and professional skills development, and strengthen the relationship between Health and Counselling and Oasis.

The Oasis Administrative Officer, Lisa Chandler, continues to be the lynch-pin for welcoming, communication and organization within the Oasis centre.

Oasis as networking catalyst

During conversations with university staff in 2014, it became clear that the category ‘well being’ might capture the goal of spiritual care expected of Oasis by the University; in fact the term was already being employed in research and teaching in diverse parts of the university.

In keeping with its lean/agile conception, and strategy of embedding across the university, the role of the Oasis Coordinator as networker and Oasis as catalyst promoting well being began to crystalize.

As a result, a number of collaborative ventures are in train for 2016.

  • A three day international cross-disciplinary conference on the theme of wellbeing in July 2016, organized by Education’s SWAPv (Prof. Phillip Slee)
  • ‘Cross –cultural Conversations’ (Verity Kingsmill, Career Centre)
  • Masters of Social Work placements (Assoc. Prof. Carol Irizarry)
  • Social Entrepreneurship (Kathryn Anderson, NVI)

Oasis is also a strong supporter of

  • the International Office’s ‘Jembatan’ project  (relationship with Indonesia)
  • the work of the EO Officer, particularly supporting the Ally network and as a reconciliatory agency working positively to ameliorate various forms of discrimination on campus.

Oasis also has strong connections with Yunggorendi and the Art Museum.

Management

A ‘lean/agile’ approach has been adapted to manage the work of the Oasis team:

  • The ‘Owner’ is the University.
  • The ‘Scrum Manager’ is the Oasis Coordinating Chaplain.
  • The ‘Creative/Development Team’ is the Oasis team of volunteers, acting autonomously within the ethical and professional mandate of Oasis and the context of the values of the University.
  • The Scrum meets weekly; open communication is by Facebook and Whiteboard.
  • The Scrum Manager meets individuals of the team as required to encourage, reinforce the direction of Oasis and to listen for feedback.

Community Engagement

Geoff Boyce and Alan Larkin were invited to the University of Tasmania to present a seminar on religious diversity in the university setting. They also conducted a workshop at the invitation of the Spiritual Care Australia national conference in Hobart.
Geoff and Rev Dave Williamson attended the Conference of European University Chaplains in Holland.

Geoff’s community engagement in 2015 has included:

  • continued relationship with Western Sydney University, as a member of the selection panel for their first Coordinating Chaplain.
  • the keynote speaker for International Pastoral Care Day in Canberra.
  • continuing to assist efforts by bodies negotiating religious pluralism in their organisations, such as schools/school chaplaincy, hospitals and prisons
  • has been re-appointed to the national ‘Relations with Other Faiths’ working group of the Uniting Church for the next three years.

 Further Report

A more detailed report is being prepared to clarify how Oasis is tangibly contributing to the social capital and financial sustainability of the University.

I hope that broad engagement with the University in 2016 will enhance Oasis’ contribution to the University, with the goal of maximising the University’s investment in it.

Geoff Boyce
Oasis Coordinating Chaplain
November 25, 2015

 

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