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Proposal for a Learning Exchange

Between the Swadhyaya community (Western India) and the Pitjantjatjara community (Central Australia) (Part #1)

Made on behalf of Tatvajnana Vidyapith (for the Swadhyaya community)
and Spirit of the Land Foundation (for the Pitjantjatjara community)

Preparatory groundwork to date
Special considerations
Other scenarios for consideration
Annex 1:Salient features of the Swadhyaya community
Annex 2: Salient features of the Pitjantjatjara community
Annex 3: Parallels between the two communities
Annex 4: Potential participants
Annex 5: Institutions named in the proposal

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The Swadhyaya community has grown since the 1960s as a unique pattern of mutual engagement that has empowered some 100,000 Indian villages to develop successfully as communities and across caste barriers (including "untouchables") without financial or material assistance - counteracting conventional social problems in the process. It derives its strength and coherence from the cultural framework provided by the Hindu spiritual and cultural tradition dating back over 2,500 years to the Rg Veda. The Pitjantjatjara aboriginal community at Amata on traditional tribal lands in the Central Australian desert is faced with a classical pattern of psycho-social problems (alcoholism, petrol-sniffing, unemployment, alienation) although supported materially and socially by Australian welfare benefits. The Pitjantjatjara, numbering some 3,000, derive their spiritual and cultural strength and coherence from the Tjukurpa (Dreaming/Law) developed over 40,000 years in relation to their land. This pattern is severely endangered by the encounter with western civilization, despite a variety of well-meaning community development initiatives.

There are a significant number of interesting psycho-cultural parallels between the development situations and potentials of both communities which contrast with many conventional community development challenges. Preliminary contacts in 1998 indicate that both communities would be open to a proposed exchange of key figures. This exchange could be partially assisted by westerners known to either or both communities. To explore the wider relevance of this approach, such westerners would seek to derive and communicate insights to other challenged communities, with which they have special relationships, using communities in Scotland and Palestine as test cases. Deliverables would include videos for such wider communication purposes, and a series of reports with a view to developing further initiatives from this encounter, notably in relation to a number of other cross-linking international initiatives.

Funding is primarily required for the travel of 6 (?) Pitjantjatjara to India, and for 6 (?) Swadhyayees to Australia, plus travel of 6 (?) westerners from Europe through India (for the Swadhyaya encounter) and on to Australia (for the Pitjantjatjara encounter). [To be clarified in relation to per diem costings, etc...***] The visitors would be hosted by the Swadhyaya community in India. Additional funding is however required for ground support in the Australia desert, and for report writing. Separate funding is being sought for professional video production. desert, and for report writing. Separate funding is being sought for professional video production.

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