Deep Listening with those on the edge

The inaugural Deep Listening Festival is hitting the South West in April and is packed full of storytelling, art, music, workshops and time to reflect. It will be held at Margaret River Uniting Church from Friday 6 to Saturday 7 April.

The festival is inspired by the Sacred Edge Festival of Queenscliff Uniting Church in Victoria, which Revive has reported on in the past. However, it will have a local voice.

Rev Cathie Lambert, Minister at Margaret River and Augusta Uniting Churches, said the festival is designed to encourage us to listen to the stories of  people on the edge. The name is inspired by the Indigenous word ‘Dadirri’ which is a practice of deep listening based on respect.

“The way to get to know people and to get to know what their struggles are, to connect more as a community and to understand each other better is to listen to each other,” Cathie said. “The idea of this festival is not to problem solve, but to listen to the stories of people who are on the edge. In doing that we learn to appreciate their perspective and understand their situation better.

“What we’re trying to do with getting our speakers and our musicians together is to get people who actually have experience on those edges to come and tell us their stories and share with us how they’ve overcome their struggles. We’re hoping it’ll be quite positive stories; there’ll be sadness and struggles  there, but they’ll be quite positive and help us to see how we can move beyond the struggles and be more inclusive and embracing of all people.”

The Deep Listening Festival will focus on ‘families on the edge’ and ‘land on the edge’. Although organised by members of the local Uniting Church, the festival is community based. It will involve other community and interfaith groups, and is aimed towards the wider Margaret River community.

“We’re deliberately keeping it to the storytelling focus, but underpinning it all is sacredness. There’ll be a deep sense of spirituality underneath it all. Some of the speakers will speak from a Christian point of view, but not all of them,” Cathie said.

“My hope is that people will sense the spiritual underpinning of it, but it won’t be enough to put people who are not into that off coming. We will have a chapel space all the way through, so there will be elements of [religion].

“We’ll have all the great things happening and the speakers and things, but for me the real emphasis is in building a community where everyone feels accepted and embraced,” Cathie said.

The Deep Listening Festival will include two main speakers: Sabrina Hahn, one of ABC’s gardening gurus; and Scott Darlow, Indigenous singer, songwriter and storyteller. There’ll also be an art exhibition and a range of other workshops, speakers and performances as well as community building activities, such as a community mandala project.

Healing in nature

Sabrina Hahn is a well-known gardening guru who is passionate about using time in nature to heal and reconnect. For over 25 years Sabrina has shared her passion on ABC Radio and was one of the first to publicly promote sustainable gardening practices. She is the author of three published books, writes a twice weekly column in The West Australian newspaper and regularly contributes articles to Gardening Australia and Organic Gardener magazines. For over ten years, Sabrina has worked with remote communities in the Kimberley to help develop edible gardens.

At the Deep Listening Festival, Sabrina will share her story on how connecting with nature has helped her to heal from traumas of a violent childhood. Growing up with alcoholic and abusive parents, Sabrina found comfort amongst her four siblings and spending time in the wilderness. Sabrina said that  sometimes the best decisions you can make for your life can come out of struggle.

“Everyone can disconnect from the stresses of day-to-day life and find something in nature that cannot be found within a manufactured world,” she said. “Any connection with nature brings us back to where we belong and makes us understand that we are all part of something much larger and more wonderful than we can imagine.”

Music with heart

Scott Darlow is a musician with heart. As an Indigenous man from the Yorta Yorta region along the Murray River in Victoria, Scott travels the country performing his original music and sharing his dream for reconciliation. Scott has performed at both juvenile and adult correctional facilities in Australia, where Indigenous people are commonly over represented.

He believes that everyone has a chance to turn their lives around.

“It’s important for somebody to say to those guys ‘hey, regardless of what you’ve done this is not the end of your journey, it’s just a page in a chapter,”he said.

Scott also regularly visits schools and educates young people on the realities facing Indigenous people in Australia.

“When I was young, I used to think this country was full of racists – and there are a lot of racists in this country – but the truth is, most people are just ignorant. They don’t understand what history has done,” he said. “My real passion is putting it to kids and educating them about the real history of this country. Education leads to understanding and that leads to empathy. Getting into schools is a really powerful medium.”

Scott is an ambassador for Australians Together and World Vision’s program supporting Indigenous Australians. Find out more at and

Small changes for a big impact

Bella Burgemeister is creating waves. At 11 years of age, last year she published her first book, Bella’s Challenge, encouraging children and adults to act in support of the 17 United Nations (UN) Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development were agreed to by world leaders in 2015. The goals aim to end extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030.

At the Deep Listening Festival, Bella will be sharing her passion for bringing these UN goals to reality.

“I want to show people that it is easy to start making positive changes for our community and planet,” she said. “I would like to show that small steps can lead to big impacts. It doesn’t have to be big changes if everyone works together.

“My book is a way for kids and adults to see how important and easy it is to make changes to help our planet.

“I wanted to spread the Global Goals and I thought that we kids need to start taking control because in 2030 we want a beautiful planet to live on. It has to be a partnership with all generations.”

Find out more at

Art in conversation

Six artists have been invited to create works for an exhibition which will be on display at the festival. The artists will be reflecting on the theme of either  ‘families on the edge,’ or ‘land on the edge.’

Each artwork is unique and the artists will be using a range of mediums from painting to mosaics to weaving. No restrictions have been placed on the artworks, giving artists the freedom to interpret the theme without restrictions.

Rev Don Dowling, member of the Deep Listening Festival Organising Committee, is helping to co-ordinate the exhibition, drawing on experience gained from previously co-ordinating the Stations of the Cross exhibition at Uniting Church in the City.

“My experience in the past has been that when you give artists a theme and don’t stipulate what you want, then it allows them to be free in their  interpretation. It’s amazing what comes out as they think about it and reflect on it and then produce the work,” Don said. “As always, it’s there to create conversation. That’s the aim of the festival, to listen. And we can listen to artists through work they present and then have conversations, not just with them, but between ourselves about what they are saying to us on those particular issues.”

For more information on the artists who are taking part in this exhibition, visit

Remembering our sameness with the living world

Ian Hackett is a Margaret River local, and manages Tig-Le House, a community house sharing Universalist Dharma teachings. Tig-Le House and Margaret River Uniting Church have built a relationship over the years based on a common understanding of kindness and peace. He’ll be leading a number of sessions at the Deep Listening Festival around the theme of ‘Reconnecting through mindfulness.’

Ian explained that mindfulness is a technique which is older than religion, and is a universal practice. It encourages us to be present, and to reconnect with  nature and our communities.

“Mindfulness very simply means to have ‘kind awareness.’ I’m aware of what it means to live a life and I want to cultivate or encourage the growth of  natural kindness and care towards living for myself, or towards others in the world,” Ian said. “Mindfulness then becomes a very important foundation to  the growth of healthy communities and healthy families. Mindfulness is very great for the cultivation of mental health, social health, community health  and ecological health.

“It’s an opportunity to remember our relationship – our sameness – with the living world and to remember that the world is a beautiful place. That we actually really love the world and have a lot of gratitude for everything that the world offers us.”

You can find out more about some of the activities at Tig-Le house at


The Deep Listening Festival will be held from Friday 6 to Saturday 7 April at Margaret River Uniting Church. This festival was made possible by volunteers, and through a Mission Project Grant from the Uniting Church WA and a Community Event Grant from the Shire of August/Margaret River.

To keep updated on speakers and the program as it is confirmed, and to register, visit or follow them on Facebook at

Heather Dowling

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