The inspiration for the goal to have 100,000 cups of tea comes from time spent living and working with Indigenous First Nations people in the ethereal red deserts of Central and Western Australia.
The idea of having cups of tea to strengthen relationships is not new, but using it as a deliberate, and consistent strategy was. It began when we were talking with the community about the best ways to yarn with families on school matters and to think about how to shift experiences for families and students who were disengaging and feeling unwelcome.
Listening to stories of the ways different language/family groups came to agreement, or would get communications across vast distances, the school adopted a system of communication where sitting and yarning about important matters, going to each family group to gather input, to be challenged, or to seek authority to commit was done through cups of tea.
A positive momentum between the school and families began to build overtime and eventually it led to the creation of new roles, whose purpose was to sit, listen, share cups of tea, and co-construct two-way solutions, between the school, families, and stakeholders. We called this the Messenger Role.
The act of sharing a cup of tea became a powerful way to transform the way we approached our work, our partnership, and our relationships. More than just a simple gesture; it created important spaces for contemplation, reflection, coming to agreement and building relationships.
There was criticism from those who did not understand what was occurring. Some would tell us, all you do is sit around having cups of tea all day, but in effect, we were enacting the ways of Walk Together between systems of the government, and systems of the community, and various language groups.
This way of working led to innovative two-way concepts right across the schooling system, from a formal partnership agreement in place, to layers of co-governance where prioritising Language and Culture as one of three key strategies, led to; a Two-Way STEM Project, Bush Ranger Pathways, and the designing of a local Indigenous curriculum based on the seasonal calendar.
As we take this analogy and apply it to creating systems that work for everyone, we are reminded that slowing down and having considered, facilitated conversations is a value we can learn from Indigenous cultures. Instead of rushing to meet deadlines and outcomes, we planned and resourced strategic think-time, contemplation, and reflection through collaboration in ways that are connected.
100,000 Cups of Tea is a mission and an invitation to join a movement where slowing down is a value we can learn from Indigenous cultures about ways of sustaining systems.