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Darwin Free University

Free universities have been established around the globe for many years, and Darwin has finally got its own version.

By Tamara Howie

Organiser Carmen Ansaldo sat down with Off The Leash to tell us all the ins and outs.

Where did the ‘free university’ concept first develop and what are its goals?
The free university structure has been around in one way or another since industrialised capitalism. It’s a way for workers to educate each other for free. It’s on a no money in or out basis.

Is the Darwin community thirsty for something like this?
It’s very difficult to access education once you get out of the tertiary education system, but there are a lot of people who work full-time but still want to keep learning.

I think what’s appealing to people is it’s a progressive, grassroots project and the community fulfils its structure with the things they want to learn. People have a lot to share, too, and they’re really happy to share their knowledge for free.

Tell us about your guiding ethos.
There are four different concepts that guide most free universities, which we’ll be using:
 
Collectivism – the idea that we’re stronger together as a group rather than individuals.
 
Critical thinking and discourse – we’re trying to foster that spirit of criticism and discuss things in a respectful manner with other members of the community for the joy of education. 
 
Autonomy – we’re run out of Darwin Community Arts but they have no mandate on what or how we present – participants decide what we’re going to learn and how we’re going to learn it. Likewise we are a loose coalition with other progressive groups but we’re not associated with a political or ideological group.

Radical equality – we try to create equality, not by giving the same to everyone but by supporting all the people that need to be held up because of their structural place in society. 

So what has the community said they’d like to learn?
There’s been so much interest from the community already. The original plan was a monthly presentation, but what people identified was important was they don’t just want theoretical lectures, but practical workshops. People want to learn skills as well as ideas and that’s what’s going to make Darwin Free University different to others.

What’s the format shaping up to be?
We’re going to have fortnightly meets ups and we’ll have theoretical discussions – whether it’s a lecture or a panel discussion –  and also workshops. 

Panel Discussion – Environment Mon 18 Mar | 6pm | Darwin Community Arts | Free | facebook.com/darwinfreeuniversity

Workshop – Environment Mon 4 Mar | 6pm | Darwin Community Arts | Free | facebook.com/darwinfreeuniversity

 

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