2015 CEFPI Conference Thoughts - Day Three

Published: Sunday 5 July 2015

Day Three

After an entertaining conference dinner at the stunning National Arboretum (which I would highly recommend for some day-time exploring), we started day three of the conference with a quick overview of the happenings of CEFPI by the International Chair Dan Mader. He discussed the current CEFPI rebranding effort and the implications this would have on our region. It will be interesting to see how this change unfolds and gets rolled out across the organisation.

Our last major keynote of the conference was the incredible public speaker Dr Brendan Nelson. With (seemingly) no notes and no visual presentation, Dr Nelson took us on a journey of the transformative power of education by learning through personal stories and engaging empathy to understand the past. The history of our nation and why it is relevant to all visitors to the National War Memorial, was explained through personal memories of the many people we have loved and lost to conflicts throughout Australia's progression as a nation. This idea of practical education and learning from real-life stories was so powerfully delivered as Dr Nelson recollected the times and dates and family histories of numerous people touched by wars. Responsible for ensuring the country learns from our past in an understanding and empathetic way, he brought to light the incredible power of our national organisations, like the War Memorial, to educate the public as an extension to our more st andard learning institutions. At the end of his speech there seemed to be a lot of pollen in the theatre, as there were few dry eyes in the house. A truly incredible reflection on learning from people, as resources, and how stories can impact our understanding of important issues.

The CEFPI Awards were presented on the last day of the conference, and it was a shame to see there were not many people left in the theatre to celebrate the great work CEFPI members do in the community. Well done to all involved. This was a great opportunity to show the difference we as designers can make, through sharing our stories with other CEFPI members. One story that particularly resonated with me was the young autistic select-mute who had spoken for the first time after interaction with the sensory garden at Horsham Special School. This showcases the kind of opportunities CEFPI gives to the wider community. The winners' lists and citations are available on the CEFPI website here. http://cefpi.org.au/awards/2015-awards

Finally Ewan McIntosh again took to the stage to try and summarise the findings of two and a half days of exciting discussion and exploration. I imagine this would be quite a difficult challenge, as I felt there were so many different threads to explore further this year. Ewan concentrated on the contradictions, tensions and surprises offered by differing viewpoints and the delightful outcomes that can result when things clash. He also explored how we are learning without realising, citing the example of his four year old daughter singing along to the Beatles 'The Red Album', upon the first time of hearing it in the car. Amazingly, her mother had repeatedly listened to the album while pregnant, and over four years later the young girl remembered the words. Learning really does happen anywhere and anytime, and things are always sinking in without us realising. Ewan left us with an inspirational quote from Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity: ' It's easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.' I believe this is a large component of what we can achieve in CEFPI – creating better learning spaces through our actions, hopefully leading to better ways of thinking.

Once again the conference inspired through the sharing of stories and ideas. For me I was particularly impressed with the sustainability philosophy of all the schools I visited, and the understanding that this is just a standard part of any educational experience, not an option or addition to a building or structure. I appreciated the ACT's governments' commitment to real greenhouse gas emission reduction, and the practical methods implemented to ensure they practice what they preach.

More information on the conference, including photos from the event, are available here: http://meetingplaces.cefpi.org.au/ Well done to the organisers again for a fascinating conference, and I look forward to Melbourne's turn next year.

Dani Martin

EIW Architects, WA