A message from Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) Professor Jim Nyland
We live in a world of “neoliberal” thinking where individuals are seen to be acting in their own interests, rightly and without reference to the wider social context. The freedom of one individual is said to be about the right to pursue happiness and make choices without considering the essentially social nature of all human activity. The realities are of course entirely different. Individual freedoms are always controlled by forces and institutions over which no individual has control. The essential interdependence of social life and activity forces everyone into mutual interdependence but this is often unrecognised and refuted by those whose interests lie in stressing the separateness of us all.
New political, economic, social and technological forms are appearing world-wide which threaten traditional communities and which appear to have little concern for the worlds they are destroying and leaving without supports. Narrow economic objectives rule over social and ethical needs and the future even of the planet is brought into doubt by climate change, natural disasters and pollution. Whole populations and communities are thrown into disarray and this affects both the developed and so-called undeveloped worlds. How universities might respond to these emergent issues is challenging to say the least.
The recent earthquake in Nepal saw a tremendous national response by this University in rising to the challenge to support one of our most significant international partners. At ACU Brisbane there are currently over 80 Nepalese students enrolled on campus and their overriding wish following the devastating earthquake on 25th April was to ask the University how they could work with ACU International, Campus Ministry and the wider ACU community to help raise funds for the people of Nepal. A small group of Nepalese students had already created the ‘ACU Help Nepal Campaign’ page on Facebook which became a key focal point for the fundraising campaign that was to follow.
Fundraising events kicked off in Brisbane on Thursday 30th April with ‘Give Gold for Nepal’ day where staff and students were invited to give a gold coin donation. The Nepalese students, supported by ACU International, Campus Ministry and McAuley Utd Club, organized a further fundraiser on Thursday 8 May which included a Momo (Nepalese dumpling) stall, traditional chai stall and a stall selling handmade Nepalese handicrafts. The cafeteria staff also kindly donated 50cents from every cup of coffee sold on the same day. McAuley Performing Arts Society presented a ‘Raw Talent’ night fundraiser which was a great success and the ACU Choir performed their St Stephen’s Cathedral concert for the Nepal Earthquake Appeal. The final amount raised for the Nepal earthquake appeal on the Brisbane campus was in excess of $8000 and these funds have been distributed between Caritas, Australian Red Cross and the village of Dolakha to help rebuild the monastery and several houses there.
It was wonderful to witness the entire ACU community pull together, with each of our campuses feeding into the wider national University campaign to support this cause and to give so generously - providing a narrative of optimism around how universities might respond by reaching out to those in need in an often changing and de-stabilising world.
My thanks to everybody involved in this terrific campaign.