Fresh Eyes on the Prize

An update from the Executive Director, Roger O’Halloran

Recently, a new group of volunteers have started assisting us in our Sydney office. A couple of otherwise spare desks have been filled every day with the equivalent of two full-time staff members. Their work provides great back-up, but more importantly they bring fresh eyes and ideas from outside the “industry”.

One volunteer wondering out loud “Who would want an old axe from Mount Hagen as an Easter Raffle prize?” saw Kevin’s (our Network Assistant) face turn quickly from surprise to sadness. For those of us who have volunteered, a Papua New Guinean axe, Samoan tapa cloth or Timorese tais can evoke more than a feeling of connection to those cultures. However, this reminded us that our work is not mainstream, and the beauty of it is not universally identified.

Like all icons, cultural artefacts allude to a story in human history. They might remind returned volunteers of time spent working and living alongside the ancestors of the craftspeople. As such, they may embody close and deep relationships with the people, but they do not encourage everyone to purchase a raffle ticket. However deflated our new office volunteer might have made us feel, I was pleased of the reminder that another reason for people to buy in is required.

Roger O’Halloran demonstrates one of this year’s raffle prizes.

I have tasked said office volunteer with finding a more mainstream, popular and perhaps shiny material object for our next raffle, but for this Easter Raffle, here are the reasons for buying a ticket:

  • Parents in Bedois, Timor-Leste, will have access to a quality preschool program, which will give their young children the best possible start in life, something we likely take for granted;
  • Preschool teachers will receive mentoring so that improved education outcomes continue for generations to come;
  • Palms Australia has prepared Christine Davids for relationships of understanding, acceptance and care with the Bedois community, that will assist her to share the priceless gift of solidarity and
  • To assist Australians to reach beyond every barrier of culture; religion, nationality, gender, class and individualism, to cooperate in achieving a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty.

Palms Australia’s mission to liberate the marginalised is, by necessity, also a mission for liberating our own culture’s enthusiasm for shiny material objects. However, as mentioned in a recent Director’s Report, we may need to use signs, symbols and language of the culture to communicate the message. Our version of Australian of the Year, or the Nobel Peace prize, taps into a tradition of mainstream Western culture that acknowledges those who lead by example.

On Saturday July 14th Palms Australia’s Solidarity Awards will be presented at a great afternoon tea of Indigenous Australian food and opportunities to learn indigenous dance and song. It will be a milestone event where we also intend to commission the 100th group of Palms volunteers who will have just completed their week-long orientation. It will be held in Ryde, so Sydneysiders and others who can get here, please save the date and watch for more details of what will be a very special educational and entertaining afternoon.

In the meantime, you can nominate an exceptional individual, organisation or group for a Solidarity Award here.