Learning to listen

13 Feb 2018

Conferences are, by their very nature, ‘talkfests’. And I’ll admit that Green Cities is no different. Each year, we have called on the industry to join us in debate, dialogue and conversation.

But not this year.

We are asking you, our industry, to do something entirely different. Radical even. We are asking you to listen.

According to Aboriginal writer Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, the act of learning is about waiting and listening, not asking questions.

Deep listening, called dadirri by some Aboriginal people, is an ancient practice that stretches back 40,000 years and is at the heart of knowledge and understanding.

This is a hard concept for most of us action-oriented people to grapple with, but one we have the opportunity to practice when we host our Reconciliation Breakfast on Thursday 15 March as part of Green Cities.

We will be bringing together some incredible Indigenous thought leaders – including Rueben Berg, co-founder of Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria, Supply Nation’s CEO Laura Berry, Andrea Mason, CEO of Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council Aboriginal Corporation, and Lendlease’s Cath Brokenborough – to explore how to better integrate the rich cultural heritage of our Traditional Owners into placemaking.

As Laura Berry says says, Green Cities is an important event “because it allows us time to pause”.

Listening is also at the heart of the Green Building Council of Australia’s first Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which I will be launching next week.

Our RAP is the result of 18 months of internal collaboration and external consultation with our industry and stakeholders. We recognise the GBCA is in a unique position to influence how reconciliation and sustainability intersect. As Rueben Berg says in our insightful article in Green Building Voice this month, “living sustainably can be an act of reconciliation”.

We have a role to play as our industry’s storytellers, and to share the inspiring work of our members. You’ll find one great story of reconciliation in this month’s issue of Green Building Voice. (Incidentally, Lendlease was applauded at the annual CareerTrackers awards and gala recently for helping Indigenous university students transition into professional jobs).

But we also acknowledge the importance of listening.

And this is why the GBCA is honoured to be hosting a delegation of property industry professionals to Garma, Indigenous Australia’s answer to the World Economic Forum, which will be held in Arnhem Land from 3-6 August 2018.

Last year, I was privileged to take part in Garma with Reconciliation Australia as part of a Chief Executive Women’s group, and whether it was sitting around a campfire or walking through the bush at dawn, I learnt much about the culture of our First Australians simply by listening.

To find out more about how you can be part of Garma, please contact the GBCA’s Head of Market Engagement, Michael Manikas.

Our industry has taken the first steps on a long journey of reconciliation.

It will take time and patience. But by listening, we can learn new ways deepen our understanding of Indigenous culture, of Aboriginal people, and to strengthen the relationships, respect and trust critical to reconciliation.