Activist org Ngara shuts shop

Richard Hil founded Ngara.

Paul Bibby

For nearly five years, the Nagara Institute created a space for the critical discussion of progressive ideas and agendas, bringing some of Australia’s foremost thinkers to the Shire.

But after dozens of successful events attended by thousands of locals, the activist think tank is no more.

With its founder and convenor Richard Hil stepping down, Nagara’s management committee elected to pull the pin last week.

‘When we planned our first Politics in the Pub – an idea first mooted by Hans Lovejoy – I thought we might get 50 people through the doors,’ Mr Hil said.

‘In fact, nearly 200 people rocked up. Wow! Clearly, there was a thirst for critical discussion out there, even in nirvana-central Mullum!

‘I hope that we made a small difference to our local community and perhaps, too, that we made the world a slightly better place.’

Mr Hil said one major thought had guided him through the past five years at Nagara’s helm.

‘That bringing people together to discuss critical ideas and making them happen, in whichever way people choose, is a small but vital element in what is a global movement to dismantle and replace the train wreck that is racialised neoliberal capitalism,’ he said.

From a standing start, Nagara grew into a major force within the Shire and beyond, drawing hundreds to the Civic Hall and the Courthouse Hotel to see speakers such as Gillian Triggs, Julian Burnside and Hugh Mackay.

There was also a particularly powerful presentation from Indigenous author Thomas Mayer.

Special moments

‘That was a special moment indeed,’ Mr Hil said.

‘What I sensed was the deep, unresolved pain and hurt of Australia’s First Nations people, as well as the immense dignity and determination to achieve the justice to which they are fully entitled.

In 2020, Nagara elected to direct its focus to arguably the key issue of our time, climate change and the ecological crisis, asking the question ‘How shall we live?’.

‘Above all, we need to reconnect with each other, build stronger neighbourhoods and communities, and bolster civic life – away from corrosive hyper-individualism,’ Mr Hil said.

More civility needed

‘We need more civility, sharing, caring, kindness, compassion, and respectful, supportive communities.

‘It’s by investing in civility, civic life and promoting social power and ecological democracy that we can build intersectional communities capable of withstanding what is to come, and in the process, co-creating a radically different way of life’.

And in news just on deadline – a group is being set up to carry on the good work of Ngara under a different name, says Dr Liz Elliott. She says, ‘We will be looking to create understanding of alternative social and economic models to our current unsustainable trajectory. If you are interested, please contact [email protected]

‘Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers’.

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