In Conversation with Jen Rae
In this episode we are speaking with Jen Rae, an artist-researcher, facilitator and educator whose work focusses on environmental communication with a particular emphasis on cultural responses to climate change.
Jen’s work around the climate emergency has focussed on discourses around food futures, disaster preparedness and speculative futures predominantly explored through multi-platform creative projects, research, facilitation and community alliances.
She is the Director of Fair Share Fare and the Co-founder of Fawkner Commons – creative and research-informed projects that centre food justice, land remediation and social cohesion in the climate emergency context.
In this episode, we discuss
- How the act of speculating future scenarios can benefit us as a society and the richness that creatives can offer into this space
- Jen’s work as a core artist of Arts House’s 5-year Refuge project, an initiative that brings together artists, emergency service providers and communities to rehearse climate-related emergencies and explore the impact of creativity in disaster preparedness
- Refugium, a short film Jen recently co-created with Claire G. Coleman as part of the Refuge project, which delves into the moral dilemmas of compounding existential crises through a fictional scenario of time hacking activists as they face humanity’s greatest challenge
- The importance of preserving the knowledge and skills required to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, making information accessible to our future ancestors and sharing it through meaningful storytelling
- Connectedness in communities, the importance of planning for ‘waves’ of response in compounding disasters, the link between loneliness and fundamentalist thinking and how an activist mindset can be a catalyst for acceptance and connection
In Conversation with Jen Rae
Hi I’m Scotia Monkivitch,
Welcome back for another episode of Creative Responders: In Conversation; our monthly interview series where we hear from people on the frontlines of the arts and emergency management sector as they prepare, respond and recover from disaster.
Today’s guest is Dr Jen Rae.
Jen is an artist-researcher, facilitator and educator of Canadian Red River Métis-Scottish descent.
Jen’s practice-led research is focussed on contemporary environmental art and environmental communication with a particular emphasis on cultural responses to climate change.
Since 2015, Jen’s work around the climate emergency has focussed on discourses around food futures, disaster preparedness and speculative futures predominantly explored through multi-platform creative projects, research, facilitation and community alliances.
Jen is a core artist of Arts House’s 5-year REFUGE project, a project that brings together artists, emergency service providers and communities to rehearse climate-related emergencies and explore the impact of creativity in disaster preparedness.
She is also Director of Fair Share Fare and the Co-founder of Fawkner Commons – creative and research-informed projects that center food justice, land remediation and social cohesion in the climate emergency context.
I have had the pleasure of working with Jen in her capacity as a board member of Creative Recovery Network. She is also on the board of the International Environmental Communication Association.
As you’ll hear in this conversation, Jen has some really meaningful insights into how the act of imagining or speculating future scenarios can benefit us as a society and a very clear view of the richness that creatives offer into this space.
I hope you enjoy this conversation with Creative Responder, Jen Rae
Speaker 1 [00:00:00] I am this is my my my winter variation, I’ve got my my fair shoes.
Speaker 2 [00:00:32] Yeah, and it’s yeah, that’s true and I mean, but we’re also we’re learning about dissemination of film and I mean, I think it’s a good lesson even for refuge, because with refuge, dissemination has always been a bad thing. You know, like it’s whoever shows up experience, is it? Right. And you have the documentation. But, you know, it’s different in the film. And it was just shortlisted for, what’s it, the incinerator award for social change.
Speaker 1 [00:01:03] Oh, great.
Speaker 2 [00:01:05] Yeah. Wow. Yeah, so that’s that. Yes, it’s the incinerator, get what is at the incinerator in art.
Speaker 1 [00:01:16] Yeah, that’s pretty well reputed, that group, so.
Speaker 2 [00:01:26] On the 13th of August. OK. Yes, so we’re sorry. I’m going to reposition my stack of books here with the microphone. Here we go. Well, I have a standing desk and I had it all working really well, but they the other computer just put on the headphones wouldn’t work, so it’s OK. OK.
Speaker 1 [00:02:17] Sorry, I just have to go and get another battery from my microphone, having some trouble with it.
Speaker 2 [00:02:30] ListBox. OK, OK, that’s so funny when you when you see pictures like this, people’s recording spaces. Oh yeah. Yeah. Five minutes ago before I got on here, I was like chasing everybody out of the house because I was like, I didn’t because we’re learning these new spaces in the front door. It’s like just around the corner here. And my daughter was crying because she didn’t want to go out and the dog was barking and we’ve just got a new kitten. And so it’s kind of like the dog. And yeah, it was just. Yeah, yeah. It’s the new kitten. She didn’t want to. Yeah. She didn’t want to leave the cat. Yeah. Yeah. It’s been very exciting the last two days having a new kitten in the house. Better today, better today. So it’s the cat doesn’t mind the cats, just like all over the place, but the dog just doesn’t know how to deal with it. Yeah, yeah, it is because we had to because it was just a dog, my partner and I for five years, and then then there was the baby, then the chickens and now cat. Yeah, yeah. We’re in lockdown. Yeah, I haven’t checked. I think there are things I think it’s just speculative at this point that they’re going to open schools and get rid of the five kilometre. Radius, but I think yeah, but I think Victoria is very, very cautious in terms of just worrying about the Delta coming in here and you and you guys would be experiencing the same thing up there. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. All right, I’m really sorry, guys, that was gluten. Candy candies opened, Candy has been open all along, but ours was closed last week because a parent visited a Tier one site. Yeah, and so because it’s the country they have, you know, they lock everything down immediately. Yep, yep. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s good.
Speaker 1 [00:06:31] Have you paint, you painted, you know, you’re in a different room.
Speaker 2 [00:06:34] Oh, this is the room that I like. Yeah, I was. Yeah, it had a green ceiling and purple walls when I took off the wallpaper. It’s all white now. I just get shuffled around. Yeah, yeah, I can put the books on, but at least the bookshelves are in. Yes, OK, hit record. If they are OK. Yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:07:08] It’s amazing. I’ve got this different jacket on today and it’s really noisy, it’s just this little difference of February. Hopefully, it won’t be. And then we’ll we’ll just talk through a kind of trajectory, but sorry, I’ve just come from a bit of an intense meanness. My head is a bit like the shot, but will we all is ourselves in a share.
Speaker 2 [00:07:56] OK, OK, great. OK, OK, great, right, that’s great, thanks to.
Speaker 1 [00:08:23] Excuse me. What’s so great to have you with us today? Jane, I’m calling in from the Indian Niagara tribal country, a little warmer up here than where you are. Where are you today?
Speaker 2 [00:08:36] Escutia thinks I’m calling in from our own country in regional Victoria Kesselman, and it is it’s sunny today, but it is cold.
Speaker 1 [00:08:46] I just saw photos of my friend in the snow. Not quite what you are, but not that far away.
Speaker 2 [00:08:53] Yeah, I’ve managed to avoid snow for about 13 years now, so.
Speaker 1 [00:09:00] Well, that’s a good leading to tell us a little bit about where you’re from, Jane, and how you came to Seattle, where you are now.
Speaker 2 [00:09:08] Yeah, I think my story is similar to a lot of people have found themselves in Australia. I didn’t intend to stay. I came here and researched and ended up leaving minus 40 degree weather to plus 40 degree weather up in Darwin in 2006 and then came here for postgraduate study and just was loving the work I was doing and continued into a PhD. And I fell in love. And the story is I’m still here.
Speaker 1 [00:09:37] And so what country that you is your home base?
Speaker 2 [00:09:42] Oh, sorry. From Canada. So I came here from Canada in 2006 and have been here since then.
Speaker 1 [00:09:50] So which part of Canada?
Speaker 2 [00:09:53] Oh, from I grew up outside of Toronto and have called Alberta home since then, so anyone who doesn’t know Alberta, it’s it’s the place where pretty much all environmental damage happens. We’ve got the tar sands, which is like a major blemish on the earth, and it’s got a beef industry and tourism industry skiing, which causes all sorts of problems as water and as well as the timber industry. So it’s the Texas it’s known as the Texas of the north.
Speaker 1 [00:10:31] And I suppose, you know, I know climate justice and climate activism is a thread that weaves through your work and your practises across arts and academia, assuming that comes from that kind of lived experience. But could you talk about how you. How you see the importance of cultural responses to these climate emergencies and what can artists bring? I am definitely rolling out this chick. It says it’s passed health check passed this. You know, that that gets what’s happened is my headphones. I think I must have a so, but that means we get a double ring because you’ll hear Janice.
Speaker 2 [00:11:38] Has the. Hello, hello, hello.
Speaker 1 [00:11:47] Hello, hello, hello. It’s called. OK. Apparently, now that
Speaker 2 [00:12:14] the Zuman don’t start over,
Speaker 1 [00:12:17] it’s taking over. So will that background of your home country. And I can see where your climate justice and climate activism comes from that threads and we through your work and your various practises across arts and academia. Could you talk about how you see the importance of cultural responses to this climate emergency that we’re living from, what artists can bring to that discourse around preparedness or disaster preparedness?
Speaker 2 [00:12:51] Yeah, I use I use the metaphor of a garden a lot just for simplicity’s sake, that, you know, for a garden to thrive, it needs to be rich and biodiversity. And it’s we’ve we’ve learnt over time that monocultures have destroyed the landscape. It’s very similar in our cultural responses to, you know, to the climate emergency or even more broadly, the way in which we’ve operated predominantly in the Western world for the last two hundred years. We took all of the skills and knowledge to a certain extent to get us into this predicament. It’s going to take all of the skills and knowledge just to to help us out. And we have we have to we have to be able to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And that might be having frank conversations with people who speak languages different than ours or have different perspectives than ours, because being amongst the like minded or within our own set of bubbles, we’re not going to necessarily hear hear that the innovative things or hear the big challenge challenge our assumptions or anything like that. So, yeah, I guess I’ve just overcomplicated something very simple, but essentially. No, not at all.
Speaker 1 [00:14:15] I mean, the complexities simple in the process in a way isn’t it? And maybe that’s the value that we bring to this very important conversation, is that the artistic frameworks can give people a way to have those conversations in safe ways and and to be able to open their perspective in a way that perhaps other mediums haven’t enabled.
Speaker 2 [00:14:38] Yeah, I mean, we know that the science of climate change hasn’t changed very much in the last few decades and and I’ve said for a long time that it’s a communications crisis. And who better to step into that role than people who are masters of communications, you know? And you know, and that’s that’s the arts, you know, in terms of experiential scenarios, tapping into affect storytelling, you know, aesthetics, all all of these sorts of things that artists use to to delve into complex topics or to illuminate difficult subject matter or or whatever that might be. But I mean, that’s that’s the thing about the science that we have. It has never been able to tap into the hearts and minds of the everyday people
Speaker 1 [00:15:35] tell the story in multiple languages. So you’ve been a cool artist of the arts house, five year refuge programme project. We have covered this on the podcast previously. But for those who aren’t familiar, it’s a project that brings together artists, emergency service providers and communities to reverse climate related emergencies and to explore the impact of creativity in disaster preparedness more broadly. So could you tell us a bit about your involvement in Jenin refuge in some of the work that’s come out of this project for you?
Speaker 2 [00:16:09] Yeah, so I’ve been part of refuge twenty five, I think when the when the idea was percolating and I’ve created I’ve been a artist in the project as a whole, but I’ve created work since two thousand sixteen. I went into refuge with the view that climate that we were stepping into, the climate emergency that we were stepping into and understanding that disasters are likely to happen and that they’re going to increase in the future and that it was no longer going to be about raising awareness around climate change. And so I started questioning, you know, what, predominantly initially around food, thinking about what sort of food might be, will we be eating if we start to have things around food scarcity or food wars or so forth. And and that’s when we in refuge, we’ve rehearsed a flood scenario, a heat wave, a pandemic and climate related displacement. Now, cumulative disasters. And when we were looking at weather events in the first two years, food seemed to be something very easy to to delve into in many ways, because a flood scenario, how it would affect a food bowl or heat wave, how it could affect crops and crop failure and drought and so forth. But it’s become far more complex as we’ve delved into this project. I think where we started and where we are now, it’s changed a lot. And that’s, I think because of the depth of relationships and the depth of enquiry that has happened over the course of six years.
Speaker 1 [00:17:51] And maybe it’s to do also about understanding the dual responsibility that as soon as you start to unpack cause and effect, you see more the complexity and the need to be participatory in that process.
Speaker 2 [00:18:06] Yeah, and I think also just working in the context of having so many different skills and knowledges at the table, you’re really understanding the complexities and that every question leads to a new question and that we are really learning by doing and I think effort in twenty eighteen, when we did a pandemic, we were we were talking about how alarming the word pandemic is. Maybe we should just rehearse an epidemic. And now here we are a few years later actually living in a pandemic. And we we’re learning that the complexity is something that we need to be agile dealing with and and that we’re as artists, we were working very much in a perpetual responsiveness nature. We didn’t have a rehearsal, just like now. We don’t have any rehearsals. We’ve never lived in a pandemic like this before. You know, in real life that we’re learning that agility and responsiveness and flexibility and care for one another are sort of the critical tools that we need to to be able to get out of bed in the morning or thrive or whatever you want to call it,
Speaker 1 [00:19:25] the things that we might say are intrinsically human. How do we more human? I think one of the beautiful things I’ve seen in your work over the years, Jane, is that capacity to kind of bring people around a table, around an issue and to be able to work to find the different voices that people. You were saying before the multiple, multiple knowledges that people might bring to the subject or challenge. And can you talk a little bit about that in your work? I know that a lot of your work is kind of focussed around you. What are the the the deep knowledge is that First Nations bring and can lead us with within the space of preparedness or mitigation response. And how can we give them? The position of leadership and certainly some weighted engagement.
Speaker 2 [00:20:27] Yeah, I guess. Listening, listening in different forums over time and being involved in refuge, sometimes you just hearing the same things over and over again and or you’re hearing things like the co-opted into the corrupting of different languages and but not necessarily seeing it in action and living in a multicultural community. My own frustrations, heritage and so forth. I think at a certain point it was just like that knowledge exists in others. It’s it’s that these bubbles that are the sustainability movement are in the climate movement. They’re not talking about it. And it was it was there was a realisation that that knowledge already exists. And it’s just there’s no platforms for it and or in mainstream sort of arts, arts and culture, some of these conversations are happening. It’s just that when we’re not having conversations together and. I think through especially in the last three years with my works and refuge, I’ve been slowing down processes and making more long form works so that we can have these conversations and that the conversations create the work. So so with Potage. It was about finding we don’t have to agree on everything, but understanding that a common a common understanding is that we are all going to live through the climate emergency. How we experience it is going to be different based on our social circumstances, economic circumstances, psychological circumstances. But how can we? How can we come together, how can we come together in a form that allows us to have a conversation? Right. And so Potage the first year was having a, you know, a boat building. And this actually draws from having a young child know about parallel play. Right. Sometimes in a parallel play, you tend to have conversations beside each other. Anyone who works in a kitchen knows that when you’re all chopping vegetables, you get to know people really well because you’re side by side. And so it was creating a scenario for these conversations to happen. And it wasn’t necessarily about building the boat, the boats. It was actually about having conversations. And then at the same time, it was skill sharing. So and just provocative questions, things like what are the materials that are in their natural and built environments that if we needed to build a raft or a boat or shelter that are accessible to us. And so it just gets people thinking about that. But then also, what are the skills and knowledge that are the thresholds of being lost or undervalued that exist that we might need to know in an emergency? And I think the boat building was an excellent example of that, because we when we designed the idea of building boats, we had planned on using screws and bolts to hold it to hold the hulls together. And Cioni Francis knew not time and ended up teaching a lot of the volunteers how to not tie. And we built those entire boats using all different types of techniques. And then it just that that skill passed on. And then two years later, when we’re building the the shelters, those skills came back into the room again, which was amazing, you know, so.
Speaker 1 [00:24:17] And I think there’s something that that’s a conversation that you’re building through the new works that you’re developing as well, how do we share a story in order to to pass? To pass, knowledge is on, and the film that you just recently made with Clay Coleman as a sort of final, I think was the final work that you did for refugee and refugee talks, a lot about that idea of how we hold Malaysian and tell a story in order to plan for the future. Can you describe the premise of the film for us?
Speaker 2 [00:24:56] Yeah, so, Clarence, I created Refugia not to be a film originally, it was going to be performance, but because in twenty twenty we couldn’t meet to do the script, writing and so forth, we zoomed once a week, almost every week for two or three hours. And in January, February, decisions happened that made it into a film. And our conversations had a lot to do with trauma in the climate, emergency and historical trauma, but also thinking about traumas, impact on being able to survive and thrive. And we were thinking we are talking a lot about, you know, what are what are the sort of skills, analogies that our future ancestors are going to need in the climate emergency. And what would it look like if, ah, the children of the future were traumatised, even though that even though, you know, it’s predicted that this unprecedented climate that we’re living in is going to become more volatile, like how could we actually work in a way in which they’re not traumatised through this process or that they had the skills or knowledge to be able to deal with that. And so in. Doing this work, we were thinking about the stories that have been haven’t been told to us or the stories that need to be told or need to be uncovered. And we were talking a lot about how the pandemic, the black the black plague, that we don’t have a lot of the stories of the black plague. Right. And if we knew some of those stories, maybe we wouldn’t have had the outcomes that we have with cope with it.
Speaker 1 [00:26:45] And so we’ve learnt from the. From the decisions that they made, all that’s also the Spanish flu two, that’s not that long ago, we still haven’t really got much of a context of how that response worked.
Speaker 2 [00:27:01] Yeah, and yeah, exactly. And and then the whole idea of what refugia means. Right. It’s about when you’re when you’re from a biological perspective, when your environment, when a species environment is is volatile, that they will retreat into a cave or, you know, and or or elsewhere into retreat and then it’ll reorganise before going out into the world. And that’s necessary for survival
Speaker 1 [00:27:32] protection mode
Speaker 2 [00:27:33] protection. Yeah. And. Claire was talking about a Noongar story as well in terms from six thousand years ago about a flood that forced the Aboriginal communities to retreat from the land and in in that they formed a council of elders in terms of their decision making. It was another form of the human reorganisation. And so we were, you know, that influenced. So the title of this piece, as well as thinking about how how can we reorganise and how can we keep stories alive. And that’s when we start thinking about a public pedagogy, right. To make information accessible to future ancestors and making it accessible through meaningful storytelling. And and so we created this sort of fictional one hundred years where Claire is herself living through a collapse, know extreme volatility in Melbourne. She’s in her 60s. And I am playing my future ancestor who has escaped to love Saskatchewan. And it was a dialogue between these future ancestor and Clare being her future self. And, you know, and what we’ve been thinking a lot about now is like, you know, with the Centre for Rebuilding, because in the film it talks about the centre for rebuilding. Now we’re really looking at, well, what would it actually take to make something like this happen, you know? And so do you put it into reality? Yeah. And so that’s where we’re sitting right now, is we have eight rebuilders who are a part a part of this and a council of aunties and elders and grandmas. And we hope that through questions and guidance, we’ll start to uncover some of the stories and figure out what are some of the it’s less about the what in the why, but figuring out how, you know, like how how do we develop the public pedagogy? How do we engage young people in this sort of conversation that’s going to be necessary for the survival, but also that. That’s not going to be traumatising.
Speaker 1 [00:29:53] So putting up so future thinking that the thing that really spoke in watching refugees is that idea of creating a future for others, that it’s not just about responding in the now, but how do we take. The viewer out of their own personal concerns for their own immediate survival, to step back and think about what you call in the film The Future Ancestors, you say can you you talk a bit about that idea of intergenerational justice and how how you kind of contextualise it or how it informs your work.
Speaker 2 [00:30:32] Yeah, I mean, I think with the film, we are talking about deep time and the forever now, and that time is not linear, that it traverses backwards as it does forwards and story allows that to happen. Right story brings the past, present and speculative story making and telling and so forth brings the future back. We. Oh, sorry, got I’ve lost track of the questions,
Speaker 1 [00:31:08] OK, I can ask it again, I was a bit rambling. Sorry. Yes. Yeah. So. And. What the stronger, a strong emphasis that came out of refugees when I was watching that work was this idea of creating futures for others that we that we need to be taken out of our own personal concerns for our immediate survival to step back and to think about what you in the film called Future Ancestors. And how do we how do we put in place now so so that we projecting along Giammetti, can you can you speak a bit about this idea of intergenerational justice and how many forms of work and what that kind of means in terms of that idea of future ancestor rewilding?
Speaker 2 [00:31:59] Yeah. I think it’s something that it’s become very liberating working in the disaster preparedness space now for quite some time and the climate change communication space for even longer. When thinking about intergenerational justice and future ancestors, it takes you into a very activist space. It’s an imagining space. It’s an opening up space, it’s non-linear. It can go in all different directions. If we even just think about what’s happened since twenty eighteen, when the IPCC report said that we had 12 years left and all of a sudden that became immediate, hit the enemy. And we were seeing it in newspapers and, and magazines all over the place. And what I what I noticed and you probably yourself noticed, is that a lot of people went into grief and shock and a lot of the reports were, how do you deal with this grief? There were a lot of different groups that came together talking about climate related grief. Counsellors were offering different psychological support services around grief. And the thing is, is Richard Eckersley talks about that whenever your cultural responses relating to apocalypse to the apocalypse, people often fall back into fight or flight responses of paralysis. And that leads them into sort of nihilistic feelings of fundamentalists feelings. But this also activism and activism is is not maladaptive. It actually allows you to be in a in a space where you can do things. And when you’re thinking in terms of entertainment, of
Speaker 1 [00:33:54] engages engages, your sense of hope, doesn’t it?
Speaker 2 [00:33:58] Yeah, it does engage in this whole. It does and. And it allows you in many ways, I think, to unstick from the past, right, or to dissect what went wrong, you know, or to be critical, it it is it is an opening up space and. When you there’s also, you know, like if we’re going with, like Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s logic here, it’s putting you into more of an acceptance space, right? I it’s it’s this realisation that things are really bad and they’re going to get worse. And you can choose you know, you can you can choose to be nihilistic or you can choose to be fun to get into fundamentalist thinking. But if you can connect with others and you can share stories and you can create a sense of belonging and a sense of collective activism, a collective action, you know that you have the potential to to weather this together. I think also in terms of intergenerational justice. Even even like in relation to the pandemic, people are. Are often saying this is that this is that the pandemic is over, we can return to normal, right? They’re thinking about time as being very discrete or short, that these things are once off events, we’re actually in the long emergency of climate change and intergenerational justice works within that sort of thinking as well. You know.
Speaker 1 [00:35:41] It’s interesting because, you know, working within the broader premise of emergency management, there is a lot of. Events, preparedness events, and your your sense of preparedness or this idea or process of speculative futures is is is a kind of next layer on from those notions of common practise, what’s going to happen when the bushfire happens. So this act of imagining rehearsing imagines futures that are way beyond even just an incident event. There’s benefits for us. As a society, to be thinking with that long term view, that’s something that we learn most definitely from our First Nations people, what what kind of tools do we as creatives offering to this space? I think it’s you know, there is a lot of energy here at the moment. What what are we adding, do you think, into the possibilities?
Speaker 2 [00:36:45] Yeah, I think one of the things that we offer is around risk taking. And being comfortable with risk and asking questions about. I mean, activating the imagination and often that is is asking the questions, you know, like as well as like if then statements like, OK, thinking of where I am now, if there is a bushfire that happens in three or four months time from now. Right. And who’s who’s going to be affected by it. Right. And who are my neighbours and what sort of resources do I have that are accessible to me? What can I do in terms of comfort? What types of food might you know? Might I eat my family, eat my community, eat in in relation to this bushfire, it’s I mean, a lot of this is actually about asking questions and seeing, you know, bringing in elements of resistance, you know, to to to what’s happening right now, asking questions that people don’t ask and. I think another thing is like with with artists, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we bring a lot of skills and knowledge and tools that I think we can bring to the table in terms of what’s already being done.
Speaker 1 [00:38:13] You know, and maybe it’s a sense of the relational, too, because. You know, traditionally the. Their preparedness events are about. Strategies and. Concrete actions rather than a relational sense of the motive and the broader community connexion.
Speaker 2 [00:38:40] Yeah, it’s funny because when we first moved here at the Oval,
Speaker 1 [00:38:45] there was a very generous have to start that again when you sit down.
Speaker 2 [00:38:50] Sorry. Maybe I’ll just wait for the dog to finish barking.
Speaker 1 [00:38:55] There’s birds and dogs. We like a bit of background.
Speaker 2 [00:38:59] My mind can carry on sometimes a little bit more. Yeah, I was just thinking about the like when we first moved to Castlemaine. There was a one of those rehearsals that I always heard, you know, like being the city person I’d heard heard about in regional areas. And there it was in the Oval, you know, all the ambulances and fire trucks and SES trucks and the whole oval was all that bright orange. And and I got out of the car and I was really excited, went like only you would get excited about this. And but I ended up observing, like, I didn’t actually go too deep. I just sort of walked around and and what it was is it was a table set up and people handing out brochures and having one on one conversations. But it was Saturday and the town was thriving. Right. And so we crossed the road and that’s where everybody was. You know, people were actually coming over to
Speaker 1 [00:40:02] London and drinking coffee and catching up on gossip.
Speaker 2 [00:40:07] Yeah, and I was going like, but the weekend before the farmer’s market was there and it was thriving like where there’s something but a disconnect there in terms of people not going and stepping in to that emergency space. And how can we talk me? And I mean, that’s a refuge is in many ways is trying to create those conversations that bring those two things together in a way in which it’s fun and it’s meaningful. And you want to be there. You know, there’s that deficit model of information transfer isn’t working in the climate space anymore than it is in the emergency management preparedness space.
Speaker 1 [00:40:52] Well, here we are in July 20, 21, and we’re currently in another wave of covid impacts across our different communities. I’m just wondering if there is anything you might like to share about how you. Both your community have kind of lived amongst and handled the challenges of this past. A year or so. What kind of support structures are the formal or informal that you’ve been able to draw on and how that is sort of also influenced these new developments of your work?
Speaker 2 [00:41:23] Yeah, I think I’m in refugee am right now, I feel like I’ve retreated for a bit last year we were my family was very involved in the covert response around food distribution. We were an outbreak suburb. We had one hundred and eighty one cases and forty five deaths across the other side of the fence. I’m reflecting a lot on that, you know, in terms of I feel like it was my skills and understanding of refuge and around food systems that my partner’s background in community development and also doing a lot of grassroots stuff in the community that created the fertile ground for us to step into that and be there in terms of response. But where I’m reflecting a lot upon is around that next level of response. And maybe maybe you even have experience there, you know, like you have to for the front line responders. But what happens when they get tired, right? Are they or what’s what’s holding them, supporting them? And who’s the next response after that? And how do we create if we’re going to be dealing with cumulative impacts, we’re going to have waves of of different sort of.
Speaker 1 [00:42:45] And certainly the structures aren’t put into place. Like I know even Victoria where you are, the flood and storm of the Yarra Valley area has meant that people have been activated for communities now being spread across there. And there is this lag behind in terms of how you and who do you call on, because everyone is so. Stretched and tired, you know, it’s a will and an expectation on irrationally, perhaps, that they take on more like it’s it’s a real it is a real challenge for us into the next year ahead of how we do manage them, support networks and employment processes for people to work in the disaster space.
Speaker 2 [00:43:31] Yeah, it’s. Yeah, it’s the waves of a response, I think that’s what I’m trying to unpack in terms of and I think it goes into into some sort of thinking around being comfortable and being uncomfortable, you know, and sense of belonging, a sense of duty, you know, like I think about my bond. The volunteers that follow comments don’t my volunteers, but the volunteers at comments, the ones who just keep coming back, you know, and the ones who bring others when they do come back and so forth. There’s something about that sense of belonging and the value of of what we’re doing together. Right. And I found during the sort of dark days last year that it was their presence that bolstered me because there were some some weeks that I just felt like I couldn’t couldn’t go back or that the responsibility was too much and. How did how do we how do we create other aid? How do we inspire others to be like those volunteers right out of the journey?
Speaker 1 [00:44:46] Part of the deal to get Tiffany to cut, that’s a terrible word, but how do we how do we? I think it’s kind of the offer to you said that, you know, some people bought others along, you know, to be to be offered the opportunity to come and join. I think we forget that. Such a beautiful thing. Yeah. How do we how do we how how do we get better at the invitation? So that people do feel like they’re valued and have something to contribute. So much information out there, I think that’s part of how we need to break down those points of isolation through our invitations.
Speaker 2 [00:45:28] Yeah. Oh, I was just listening to a podcast. Gosh, it’s on my phone. I can’t look it up, but I can send it to the future of loneliness. And Olivia Lange has just published a book, and she’s she’s not she’s a writer for The Guardian and amongst and Freeze magazine. She’s she wrote an article in twenty fifteen called The Future of Loneliness. And listening to it in the audio book, it really resonated. And I looked it up last night reading it again around how she was drawing Connexions between loneliness and fundamentalist thinking. And how the and how the pandemic now six years later, how that can actually you can see the correlations between, you know, the anti-tax movement or the union kuhnen. People know how social social media and all of these things that are meant to bring us together have separated us and these algorithms and so forth have created different levels of paranoia. But if I just imagine somebody was in that state and you were the person that knocked on the door and said, hey, I’m your neighbour, you know, we’re in a pandemic. If you need anything, I’m next door. You know, we can have a coding system or hear a vector lasagne. Here’s half of it, you know, or we’re volunteering over here. Would you like to come or, you know, what type of milk to you drink? You know, I’ve got an extra case or whatever, but like, the different ways of getting to know people can pull them out of these sort of depths of despair and loneliness. And this is what we’re going to need in the future, like, you know, from emergency service work that in in a crisis, you’re more likely to be helped out by your neighbour than you are emergency services and local government.
Speaker 1 [00:47:35] And most definitely, we have to understand that it’s too big and too complex to feel like we can rely on singular institutional kind of response.
Speaker 2 [00:47:45] Hmm.
Speaker 1 [00:47:46] Hmm. Yeah, some more more cups of tea, more stories the more time spent. Sitting in that conversational space. Jen, as always, I love sitting in that conference, conversational space with you, always so much to share and so many great things that are coming through your work. I really look forward to seeing where the. The rebuilding takes you. Thanks for joining us today. I hope you’re keeping warm in the next little freezing time.
Speaker 2 [00:48:24] Thank you and thanks for inviting me. And if I can just impart one little bit, something for closing is adopting a you know, with this saying we’ve never done this before. Is really liberating
Speaker 1 [00:48:43] in Iran, liberating?
Speaker 2 [00:48:45] Yeah, we’ve never done this before, so it gets us into an experimental thinking immediately. Right. And just going, you know, like, how do we OK, we’ve never done this kind of work.
Speaker 1 [00:48:55] How are we going to make mistakes? And that’s OK. It’s a learning process.
Speaker 2 [00:48:59] Yeah, yeah, and so, yeah, but thank you very much for having me.
Speaker 1 [00:49:04] My pleasure. Is there anything else you wanted to add or did you have anything that you thought we could catch up that we might have missed from your list? Oh, sorry, I missed so. So. So Jen Refugia is available to you on Vimeo through your website, Mieuli, include that link on our show notes. We’re asking people find you if they’d like to engage with your work
Speaker 2 [00:50:00] through the website. Jen is dotcom. So Gennari is dot com and also any of the food related projects through the website FairShare Fair. And that’s f a i r and then share and then FARC dot com.
Speaker 1 [00:50:17] We’ll put that in the show notes so that people can click through. Thanks so much, Jen. Anything else, Jill.
Theme music comes back in…
Thanks for joining me for Creative Responders: In Conversation and special thanks to Jen for making the time to speak with me
We’ll include links in the show notes if you’d like to learn more about Jen’s work and if you haven’t watched Refugia, I really encourage you to check it out. We’ll put the link for that in the show notes also.
All of our past episodes of our documentary series and other conversations can be found in the usual podcast apps and on our website along with transcripts for every episode and links related to the topics we cover.
We’ll be back next month with another conversation, I hope you can join us then.
This podcast is produced by me, Scotia Monkivitch and my Creative Recovery Network colleague, Jill Robson. Our sound engineer is Tiffany Dimmack and original music is composed by Mikey Squire.
The Creative Recovery Network is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
Thanks for listening.
with another conversation, I hope you can join us then.
This podcast is produced by me, Scotia Monkivitch and my Creative Recovery Network colleague, Jill Robson. Our sound engineer is Tiffany Dimmack and original music is composed by Mikey Squire. The Creative Recovery Network is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Thanks for listening.