October 2014 found me experiencing early Spring in Tasmania. 14 seasons in one day.
To be accurate it was early Spring in Penguin, the delightfully named small town on the north coast of the island.
For those whose geography is poor, and like me are too stubborn and shy to ask directions, Tasmania is the island of the bottom of Australia, or if you arrive over the Pole, it’s at the top.
One of the things I liked about Tasmania was its ability to challenge preconceptions and expectations. It’s the kind of place where people need be reliant on their own resourcefulness. They have to find solutions to their own challenges. Which means it has a lot to teach.
You find examples of this all over the island in all walks of life. And the less you travel the more you appreciate deep social connections.
It’s noticeable in the incredible food scene, there are great cheese makers and bakeries and cool fisheries. Tasmania has even created an export markets for wasabi.
I noticed it most in the infectious nature amongst the woofer teams attracted to work really hard for generous people in amazing locations. Lucky enough to hang out I saw not only how hard its founder work, but how hard their voluntary staff who come to this remote location from all over the world, work too. They passionately believe in what they were doing. Social gatherings at the farm to eat the best of food were one of the best ways of promoting their product. The message “Come and see the joy in what we do, share” was inspiring. It even tested my vegetarianism.
But that was a side benefit of being on the Island.
I was there at the invitation of Creature Tales, an arts organization run by Chris Mead and Stephanie Kent who lead teams of freelancers working on diverse projects including arts and health, tourism, environment. They’d asked would I help them think about what a Creative Aging Centre might be.
In the last few years they’ve developed a strand of work focused on residential Care Homes. Their work is innovative and inspiring. Whether its focused on encouraging people to consider working in care, or questioning what care means.
Creature Tales are great and I could write a lot about them, but here’s not the place and I suggest you take a wander through their website. It’s worth noting three things.
Chris and I have something in common in that we have thought a lot about Carnival. His projects often bring the spirit of Carnival, its raucous enthusiasm, into Care Homes. After you’ve experience this you’re left wondering why few Care Homes feel enthusiastic. Why do we walk quietly though them talking in hushed tones all the time? Need they always be merely warehouses for those waiting to die?
Secondly Creature Tales are in a perhaps unique relationship with Island Care, a care home provider with a chain of six premises.
Because the two organizations have worked together repeatedly a level of trust has developed. They recognize the value of each to the other. It’s near the point where Creature Tales are becoming the “creative researcher department”.
Creature Tales are encouraged to do what they do best, remain creative, be risk takers. Considered from Island Care perspective its about trial and prototype. They can reflect on the creative projects of Culture Tales and articulate what is replicable, advantageous, can be mainstreamed. They’ve even adapted their staffing to make this possible.
It’s a really exciting relationship. I think its going to produce some extraordinary things as the two organizations articulate their relationship within an educational framework. Less “How do we evaluate this?” More “What did we learn from it?”
Finally, and for me perhaps the most interesting, was seeing how the Tasmanian culture of seeking your own solution could benefit aged care. Since I’ve been traveling widely looking at ageing and populations it’s become obvious that all the best responses are “local”. Principles can be transferred, approaches mimicked, but the actual delivery is people to people and it works best when its tailored to place, when it grows out of what is available.
In the northern part of Tasmania where we were considering a Creative Ageing Centre the drive is for care amongst the community. So when brainstorming it was quickly evident that a physical building, while it might be part of the solution, wasn’t the central one. The bigger issue was how to encourage a community of care. How could that be built from what is available here? Which meant looking at Friday evening socials and the Tasmanian music and circus scene. It’s great where this journey takes you.
Its just starting and I’ll write more as it grows. It’s such a great journey to be part of and a huge thanks to Nick, Stephanie, Mikela, Chris and all the Tassies for their welcome, hospitality and enthusiasm.
Next time maybe I’ll take some time off and get to the rest of the Island!
- Posted by Karl O'Brien
- On 13th April 2015
- 0 Comments