I have often heard the word ‘empathy’ used to describe how should treat people and their feelings, how we should perhaps approach tough conversations or situations. It has become a vital tool to facilitate connection. However, when exercising empathy in the creation of our structures, systems and procedures, elements that together form our society, empathy often becomes a distant concept.
My week in Moree taught me just that, how empathy, rather than a psychological tool we utilise as a method of a human connection is in fact a vital ingredient when creating the infrastructure and systems that form our society.
In Moree, kids often spent their nights out on the streets frequently engaging in crime and as a result falling into a cycle of incarceration and continual crime with their education becoming a distant priority. Stories, did however, go beyond this. Many first nations students were required to take care of their families, attend cultural events and work, meaning traditional school was not something that was feasible in their lifestyle. The more I saw this, the more I thought why should they? Why should these amazing, bright, and incredibly intelligent children be left behind due to our one-size fits all approach to our education system.
My trip to Moree taught me how exercising empathy in the creation of our policy, systems and structures requires you to truly walk in the shoes of our community, understand their pain-points and create a structure that is truly attentive to their needs. It requires substantial effort, time and resources. But this is how we will be able to break the cycle of suspension and crime and foster a generation of critical and creative thinkers that are excited to contribute to our society.
The Nuballah Yugal Education Centre realises the importance of empathy and imbeds it in each development of its operations. We understand how the standardised approach of our current education does not fit the needs of all children and how important it is to create a space where each student feels empowered and excited to participate in their education. We need to be ready to feel uncomfortable, understand our biases and immerse ourselves in the world of our community we are wanting to help.
My week in Moree was filled with a plethora of emotions, it made me understand the importance of social impact and how the change we create matters. It was filled with a beautiful sense of community, kinship and family; whilst at times I felt a sense of dejection seeing the conditions of a town only 8 hours away from where I live, I still spent my days laughing with our new friends, the lovely volunteers and the beautiful families of our partners. Ultimately this trip forced me to exercise my sense of empathy with a community so distant for mine - but realising this how you can truly create meaningful change.