By Arlo Langham
We learn in so many different ways and from so many different places and people, these days. Tertiary and higher education is more open to people it was once closed to, as reflected by ever-climbing attendance rates. Our cities and regional towns are abuzz with public seminars, presentations and workshops that conserve the ability to continue learning right through life. And, of course, everyone is an autodidact thanks to the internet – from baking and tiling to coding and languages, there’s nothing you can’t learn on the internet.
A weekend of activities in Footscray this November will harness this educational energy. For the first time, Learning on the Edge will provide a plethora of talks, interactive workshops and scholastic meeting-places to a public that is eager to learn. Learning on the Edge is the latest creation of the Footscray University Town initiative – a joint, long-term project between Victoria University and the City of Maribyrnong that sees education at the heart of Footscray’s future. Past and ongoing initiatives such as One Night in Footscray and the Footscray Art Prize have sought to highlight all that is good, progressive and creative in Footscray. Learning on the Edge is ready to entice potential students (read: everybody) into new classrooms, from cafes and restaurants to galleries and the streets.
As part of the event Victoria University and Polytechnic staff will engage in an exchange program with staff from other important Footscray-based institutions like City West Water and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Rob Brown, Executive Director, External and Government Relations at the university and the driver of the workplace exchange program, sees it as a fantastic learning opportunity for staff, some of whom he manages; ‘I think good managers are always looking for ways to help their staff to do professional development… the best learning comes from seeing what other people with the same kind of job as you are doing in other workplaces’. It seems fitting that the staff of Footscray’s homegrown tertiary education provider take part in an exciting learning project too.
On Friday the 16th of November – opening night – comedian, writer and ABC Breakfast radio host Sami Shah will be taking on local secondary school students in a unique debate at the Footscray Community Arts Centre. He and the students will tackle a range of subjects dreamt up by the students themselves, in what is sure to be an adversarial and fruitful battle of wits.
On the other side of Moreland Street – at The Line in Yewers Street – Dr Shane Huntington will lead a discussion with VU academics entitled The Science of Living Well in Footscray. Dr Huntington has hosted Triple R’s science program Einstein A Go Go for over 25 years, and across that time has become an expert in distilling complex scientific problems for the general public. He and the panel will discuss local issues brought on by rapid change and progression from a scientific point of view.
The following day will see a range of intimate conversations at some of Footscray’s favourite new and old locations. Have a one-on-one chat with Korik and Darvey at Footscray Library, who have both recently returned from the International Congress of Youth Voices in San Francisco, while authors Anna Krien and Enza Gandolfo will discuss their own work at Sloth Bar and Littlefoot Bar respectively. Speaker, broadcaster, migration agent and budding human rights lawyer Akuol Garang will be ready to answer your questions at Addis Abeba, while the internationally recognised street artist Heesco will be at the Pride of Our Footscray bar. Westside legend, aeronautical adventurer and owner of the iconic Sun Theatre in Yarraville Michael Smith will also be appearing.
Victoria University’s Nicholson campus set to host Skills Street on Saturday the 17th of November. Presented in collaboration with VU Polytechnic, Skills Street offers people the chance to learn a brand-new skill in 60 minutes. VU favourites Skunk Control will lead a bevy of scientific bursts (literally) with Big Bangaboom. Moondani Balluk, a treasured academic at Victoria University that works to deliver teaching, research and support to indigenous students and communities, will also be sharing their history, heritage and protocols at Embrace People. You’re unlikely to find another trail in Melbourne from which you can pop out the other end of having learned how to 3D print, care for your skin with household basics, DJ and restore an unloved piece of furniture.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat between learning experiences, three local restaurants are welcoming bookings for Food for Thought. It is a universal truth that one of the best ways to learn about somebody else’s culture is to sit down and share a meal with them. Well, local restaurants Sapa Sister, Jambo Café and Khartoum Centre are throwing their doors open to do just that. The eateries – Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Sudanese respectively – will offer a two-course meal and the chance to share knowledge about food while also discovering new cultures, and perspectives.
So much of our learning relies on our sense of sight; how could you Read, Write and ‘Rithmetic without it? Well, In the Dark on the final night of Learning on the Edge is going to answer that question. Hosted at VU at Metrowest, Victoria University’s cultural and community space in the heart of Nicholson Street, this event will strip bare your ego and take with it your preconceptions. Visual stimuli will be removed from the equation, and with it your inhibitions. In the Dark is sure to create a radical new learning environment.
We accept that, when it comes to learning, time and space are important and subjective. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to it. So why not radicalise it, if just for a weekend? Why not fill the streets and venues of a historic suburb like Footscray with new ways to learn? Learning on the Edge is here to do just that.
Learning on the Edge is taking place on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 November. Visit www.footscraylearningontheedge.com to find out more or book tickets.