Kristiansand, Norway June 2007

There were more than five hundred colleagues that attended the conference in Kristiansand, a breath-takingly beautiful holiday city on the South Coast of Norway. With daylight well into the middle of the night, these three days were packed with activities and opportunities to catch up with colleagues and friends from all over the world. The programme was very, very exciting. All of the plenary sessions were very moving, thought-provoking, well-prepared and excellently delivered.

I attended five presentations that were really of a very, very high standard:

  • Schooling, power-relations and the role of the school counsellor by John Winslade – John’s grip on the philosophy and research as well as practical implications within education made me wish that all the students and colleagues at Stellenbosch University Education Faculty where I teach part-time were there! Unfortunately his books were sold out when I went to look for it – will order copies to share with others.
  • Narrative, collaborative and restorative/transformative justice therapies for the effects of sexual abuse. Walter Bera – Walter is an excellent presenter, his inspiring visual ways of working with Narrative maps, his clarity of formulation, his generous sharing and the effort to produce audio-visual material that supports his presentation was impressive. I learnt a lot and would love to read more of his work.
  • Re-telling Gender stories. Kotze, Crocket, Gaddis – This team from Waikato University did a wonderful job in sharing their work and in stimulating our responses. I am looking forward to reading about their research.
  • In the shadow of the volcano: Experiences of teaching about sexual assault. Mary Heath – How refreshing to hear a lawyer at a therapy conference -what a gifted teacher and what an inspiration as a person!!!
  • Creative means of consulting with agencies. Jill Freedman – One of my favourite teachers in Narrative Therapy and a topic close to my heart and like always Jill brought me much to reflect on and integrate into my own work in agencies.

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My own presentation entitled Witnessing as healing practice in the context of poverty and illness in South Africa reflected on my work as consultant to the staff of Drakenstein Hospice. I was joined in the presentation by &Oslashyvind Sanvik, Magnhild Fiskvik and Ragnhild Eide Bustnes who reflected on their experiences as witnesses when they visited Drakenstein Hospice in 2005.

Many of the papers and contributions of the conference are published in the 2007 editions of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. More information is available on www.dulwichcentre.com.au.

 

Some more reflections in a letter to Drakenstein Hospice

Dear friends at Drakenstein Hospice

At last I am back from my trip and able to give you proper feedback on my experience during the visit to Trondheim and the Dulwich Centre Conference in Kristiansand. Thank you so much for all your good thoughts and blessings that accompanied me on the journey, thank you again for trusting me to share the stories of our collaboration and thank you for the meaningful collaboration over many years.

In Trondheim Family Counseling Office I was once again received with much warmth and enthusiasm. Two wonderful experiences that I had on your behalf were:
1. The presentation of the money that Aud Bj & rings, the Director of Bufetat Regional Office in Central Norway, has received as donations instead of other gifts from friends on celebrating her 60th birthday! She came to the office during the lunch time on the Tuesday that I consulted in Trondheim, a lovely energetic and enthusiastic woman with a lot of passion for South Africa where she has visited in the past. Aud intends visiting South Africa and Butterfly House and is also hoping to do some volunteer work here in the future. I am sure you will meet her some time soon. I was touched by her commitment to the work with children who are affected by HIV/AIDS and her empowered response to the tellings of the Trondheim colleagues. She was accompanied by Peggy, the regional boss in Trondheim whom you will recognize on the photo as she formed part of the group that came here in 2005 with Tony.
2. Stig announced that his committee who works with the South African connection is committed to raise more funds for the daily running of the Butterfly House in the future! I have just realized again what a huge commitment Stig and his team have made to the work of Drakenstein Hospice. I would like you to know that they speak about the staff with the highest regard and that they carry their witnessing of your work with them daily into their lives and work. The ripples of their witnessing has gone out far beyond what I ever dreamt is possible. I know that every brick that will be built at Butterfly House will be a testimony to your vision and effort, but also to their belief in what you can achieve and their willingness to support you full-heartedly in that. What a team to have on our side!!

The presentation at the conference went well although I felt sad that we had time problems as we were running late and I then started doubting the relevance of what I have to say in the context of such a full programme with an audience that were clearly exhausted. BUT we did it! Ragnhild, Magnhild and &Oslashyvind spoke beautifully. Ragnhild spoke about how and why she decided to stay with Fran instead of going out and what she had learnt in that process. Magnhild spoke about meeting Ester and witnessing her courage and faith and the love of her family, friends and the Hospice staff, she spoke about Ester&rsquos song and it was very beautiful and honouring. &Oslashyvind&rsquos eldest daughter (in her 20&rsquos) has just been diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer and they were just receiving results of tests as we were preparing to go to the conference. He spoke about how the visit to Hospice serves to strengthen him in this difficult time. Please pray for him and his family in this time. Ncazelo Ncobe spoke beautifully in her reflections about my standing for breaking down barriers &ndash that was lovely to hear from her. So we did well, I think.

We received very good feedback from the audience who came to speak to us afterwards. I know that people had been touched and from experience I also know that we will never be able to tell where the ripples of this witnessing will go in the future&hellip

So this is it for now, my friends. Thanks again to Sophie and Fransiena for sharing their stories and allowing me to use it in this way. Thanks for all your help with the preparation and for listening and commenting and assisting with the power-point etc etc. I am so pleased that I can be part of you!!!

With warmth and appreciation

Elize