‘A Conversation hour’ is a free weekly online event that brings together people from across the Ovens Murray and beyond to explore ideas that matter. Hosted each week by Dr Kathleen Brasher, each discussion usually features two guest speakers with input invited from participants via chat or video/audio.

If you would like to attend our next online discussion, please email your RSVP to jenny.donnelly@upperhumepcp.com.au prior to the event and your Zoom link will be provided. Please share our upcoming events with your networks.

Past online discussions: A Conversation Hour

Week 11: ‘Social connection and loneliness’

In this session, Dr Kathleen Brasher discussed social inclusion and social connection with Professor Jane Farmer, Director, Social Innovation Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology; and Ms Sophie Rhys, Engagement and Participation Coordinator, UHPCP (9 July 2020).

Week 10: ‘Living locally post-COVID’

In this session, we talked about the idea of what makes for good local communities—both their built environments and their social environments—as that local community space has now become more important to us in the time of COVID-19. Guests included Dr Rachel Winterton, rural ageing researcher at La Trobe University with the John Richards Centre, and Dr Melanie Davern, Director of the Australian Urban Observatory and CoDirector of Healthy Liveable Cities at RMIT University (2 July 2020).

Resources mentioned

The two books Kathleen mentioned were both by Richard Sennett: Building and Dwelling (2018), on the relation of urban design to urban life, and an early book, Flesh and Stone (1996), which gives a wonderful, captivating overview of the design of cities from ancient to modern times.

Week 9: ‘How big are the holes in the World Wide Web?’

So much of our world is now online and it can be life changing for many people when they make a step forward in relation to accessing technology. However, what happens if that online environment, for a whole lot of reasons, doesn’t work well for you? Dr Kathleen Brasher explores why an increase in digital inclusion needs to be a whole-of-community effort with Jess Perrin, Head of Social Innovation and Digital Inclusion at Infoxchange, a not-for-profit social enterprise, and Amanda Aldous, Coordinator at Wangaratta Digital Hub (25 June 2020).

Resources mentioned

  • An example of a hi-tech coach is that used by Tim Gentle, founder of Think Digital, who facilitated free digital marketing workshops in a 14-metre coach in Tallangatta, Corryong and Mitta Mitta in late 2018. The workshops were part of the Think-Start-Grow program in Towong Shire.

Week 8: ‘Providing health and social care during the pandemic’

Social gerontologist Dr Kathleen Brasher led a discussion on providing health and social care during the pandemic with Mr Mark Ashcroft, CEO of Beechworth Health Service, and Ms Jacki Eckert, General Manager, Population Health Planning and Performance, at Gateway Health (18 June 2020).

Who gets invited to sit around our campfires, and who gets left out? Whose story shapes the stories told around our campfires, and what stories are not permitted to be told? Kathleen Brasher led this discussion by quoting American author Ursula Le Guin: ‘Why are we huddling about the campfire? Why do we tell tales, or tales about tales—why do we bear witness, true or false? We may ask Aneirin, or Primo Levi, we may ask Scheherazade, or Virginia Woolf. Is it because we are so organized as to take actions that prevent our dissolution into the surroundings?’

Ms Amanda Kelly, CEO of Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE), and Mr Errol Obran, youth worker at Corryong Neighbourhood Centre, discussed with Dr Kathleen Brasher the value of collecting stories and how communities can draw on a diversity of voices to forge new paths forward (11 June 2020).

Resources mentioned

  • Le Guin, Ursula K. (1981). It was a dark and stormy night; or, why are we huddling about the campfire? In On narrative. W.J.T. Mitchell, ed. pp. 187-96. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
  • WHGNE is currently collecting stories about how COVID-19 has impacted people in the Goulburn Valley and North East Victoria. Women, men and gender-diverse people are invited to share their story as part of the Reflections from a Distance project—lodge your response here.

Week 6: ‘How can we ensure resilience continues to matter?’

Dr Kathleen Brasher once again spoke with Ms Sarah Crosthwaite (Community Resilience Co-ordinator, UHPCP), along with Mr Paul Ryan (Australian Resilience Centre), who has recently presented a Resilience webinar series for community members on behalf of the Goulburn Broken CMA. This session, held on 4 June 2020, extended some of the themes commenced in last week’s session, building on the comment made by Michelle Dunscombe (Fire Foxes Australia, Kinglake)—‘I’m over resilience’.

Resources mentioned

  • Penny’s book reference: Gelfand, Michele J. (2018). Rule Makers, Rule Breakers—How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. Scribner
  • Penny’s radio reference: Sana Qadar. (9 June 2019). ‘The power of social norms—rules to make or break?’ In D. Dean (Producer), All In The Mind. Australia: ABC Radio National.

Week 5: ‘Authentic disaster recovery and post-traumatic growth’

Dr Kathleen Brasher discussed ‘Authentic disaster recovery and post-traumatic growth’ with Michelle Dunscombe (the Fire Foxes, Kinglake) and Sarah Crosthwaite (Community Resilience Co-ordinator, UHPCP) (28 May 2020).

Resources mentioned

  • Michelle’s Ted Talk reference: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! (16 minutes): ‘When most well-intentioned aid workers hear of a problem they think they can fix, they go to work. This, Ernesto Sirolli suggests, is naïve. He proposes that the first step is to listen to the people you’re trying to help, and tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit.’
  • A short video on empathy from RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce): Brené Brown on Empathy (3 minutes)

Week 4: ‘Community Wellbeing in a Post-COVID World’

Dr Kathleen Brasher discussed ‘Community Wellbeing in a Post-COVID World’ with Dr Rachel Winterton, Senior Research Fellow at the John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing, La Trobe University, and Dr Geoffrey Woolcock, Research Fellow (Regional Community Development) at the University of Southern Queensland (21 May 2020).

Resources mentioned

Week 3: ‘Working in a different way’

Dr Alana Hulme (Department of Health and Human Services) joined Ms Brydie Donnelly (UHPCP) and Dr Kathleen Brasher to discuss ‘Working in a different way’ (14 May 2020).


Week 2: ‘Virtual meetings—pitfalls and challenges’

Dr Kathleen Brasher hosted a discussion of virtual meetings—and their pitfalls and challenges—with staff from Charles Sturt University, leaders in this space for some time (7 May 2020).

Resources mentioned

Prof. Katharine Hayhoe’s advice on giving virtual presentations—via Twitter thread

Week 1: ‘An Age-Friendly Approach to Disaster Recovery

At our very first ‘A Conversation hour’, on 30 April 2020, Dr Kathleen Brasher and Ms Loretta Carroll discussed ‘An Age-Friendly Approach to Disaster Recovery’. Launched in April by Helen Haines MP, this report was prepared by the collaborative partnership of Age-Friendly Northeast Victoria and Dr Kathleen Brasher.

Resources mentioned

An Age-Friendly Approach to Disaster Recovery—Publication available here.