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Sacred Sites as spaces of Learning and Ceremony – 2024 Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity at Melbourne University

Learning spaces as sacred sites
Image credit: Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity. University of Melbourne 2024

This week I was honoured to be amongst the 2024 Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity at their Hub in Melbourne University. The staff and participants are such fine people and it’s a privilege to be part of the program. 

This is the context for my reflection on Sacred Sites being places of Learning.

Perceiving Sacred Sites: A Gateway to Understanding

Seeing a sacred site as a place of learning is a way of appreciating and understanding it is a place of story and ceremony. The story of that place, including history and layers of memory, become significant when seeing it as a place of learning. The repetition of ceremony in that place also becomes significant because we realise the importance of telling that story in that way at that place.

Exploring Layers of Learning

We can experience a sacred site of learning when we visit a place on tour and a guide takes us around with a brief overview of the history and meaning of the place. We gain some insights, but being on a tour, we know we only get a shallow snapshot of the story.

Deepening Connections through Active Engagement

We can also experience a sacred site as a place of learning if someone with more connection to the place invites us into a deeper tour and we can take longer to better appreciate the story of that place. We can also become active participants in the story of a sacred site as a place of learning.

We might be taking up different roles at that place of learning whether it be students, teachers, active participants in ceremonies, responsible for maintaining the site, responsible for preparing ceremonies, or those who hold deep knowledge of story and place.

Unveiling the Wisdom of Sacred Sites

Learning spaces as sacred sites

I’ve seen these layers of learning experience being on the University site this week.

The Hub of the Atlantic program has a deep memory of eel traps, an institutional memory of buildings and faculties, a story of development and growing pains as a program, a story of exceptional people doing amazing things to change the world.

Sacred site as places of learning involves the Story of Place and Repetition of Ceremony.

They are places we keep returning to for ceremony and learning. Through the repetition of ceremony, we deepen our understanding of story. We can all experience sacred sites as places of learning, for example, ancient stories that are re-told at special times in special places, families gathering to commemorate significant cultural events, or Aussies gathered at a shrine to remember our ANZAC story.

I encourage you to think about the places that are special to you and where you go to participate in ceremony and remember story. It might be important to your family, your culture, or your beliefs. I encourage you to now see that place as a sacred site of learning. Be intentional about the looking after that place and telling your loved ones about the significance of that place. In doing so, you are taking up an important role of caring for your sacred site as a place of learning.

Be encouraged and encourage others.

Mark Yettica-Paulson