Community meeting notes – 27 November 2021

 

  1. Welcome – Rosie McKew
  • Rosie opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and indicated that purpose of the meeting was to facilitate an opportunity for the community of TBS to share ideas and work together.
  • Meeting format aimed at 50/50 time for TBS updates and discussion/question time.
  • Rosie encouraged community members to get involved with future community meetings by contributing to the agenda and also by presenting at the community meetings.
  • The meeting was to consist of some team updates, discussion of community feedback that had been received and an open forum 
  1. Garden team news – Tim McKibben
  • Volunteers have contributed to the upkeep of the garden since 1988 and all were warmly thanked by Tim. Special mention was made of Matt, Margaret, Margret, Mary, Christine and Heather – though many others also so important (apologies for names missed).  Diane and Sox were also thanked warmly for preparing and providing food every Saturday.
  • All volunteers are welcome to join the garden group – the team do not have formal meetings, instead huddle in the garden or over morning tea/lunch.
  • There is a garden working bee session every Saturday morning between 10:00am and 12 noon, with morning and often lunch served afterwards. Everyone is very welcome.
  • The garden team have established a garden Open Day on the first Saturday of each month.
  • COVID restrictions have interrupted recent Saturday working bees and the Garden Open days.
  • The vision for the garden came from Geshe-la who aimed to provide a colourful and peaceful garden for all Victorians. He was very involved with the garden. The maintenance of the garden supports an important part of his vision for the Centre.
  • All volunteers are welcome and Tim encouraged the community to see gardening as great way to exercise with meaning!

From Questions

  • Volunteers need to provide evidence of vaccination on their first visit (or email it to the Events Teams) and after that the advice is to check with the Centre before coming to check on any COVID restrictions.
  • To gain access either buzz main gate or hoot your horn. For side gate access, volunteers can phone Tim. He can then open the side gate (gate beyond the main one) remotely.  Please then come to back of temple for the COVID check-in.

 3. Retreat team news – Deb Dimeo for Jono, Christine, Nicky, Martin, Rosie and Jean

  • The team is delighted to announce it is organizing the first onsite retreat in 2 years, a one week retreat to commence Saturday 22nd
  • The topic for the retreat is not finalized though the Six Perfections is a topic under consideration.
  • The retreat team are supported by and rely on others in community to help run the retreats eg Nick and Tara (Queen’s Birthday) and Manikam has been wonderful with technical help for online retreats. Michael, Anna and Rosie also ran the recent Vajrayana 3 week online retreat and subsequent fire puja
  • If community members are interested in helping with the January retreat – especially with retreat setup, the set-up commences 10 days before the retreat starts so from Wednesday 12th January 2022. If you are interested, please contact Events@tushita.org or cst@tushita.org . 
  1. Other news – Angela Scherma

4.1  The meeting was reminded that there is a community information web page, that holds forms such as a Suggestion Form to develop ideas for growth of TBS and other relevant documents of interest eg notes from directors meetings.  It is not available through the general TBS website but accessed by a link that has been sent to the TBS community in recent emails. Please bookmark it.  https://tibetanbuddhistsociety.org/community-information/ 

4.2  The teams are keen to recruit volunteers – Angela suggesting that volunteering provides a great way to see how the TBS organization evolves and can offer experience and training in event planning and management.  We are now keen to rebuild volunteer roles post COVID.   

  • Work is in progress to advertise volunteer positions and opportunities available for upcoming events (across a variety of teams) on the TBS website.
  • Volunteer roles will be described and mentorship offered for anyone interested in a specific event (eg organizing a dinner event) or an ongoing volunteer role.
  • Roles will be in a number of different areas including weekly classes, special classes, annual commemorations, community visits, Vietnamese New Year visits, Centre working bees, Centre dinners and the development of the annual calendar

 TBS is keen to investigate revenue generating ideas with input from the community. Like all large organisations TBS has experienced the effects of the COVID lockdowns.  All ideas greatly appreciated.  Revenue raising ideas can be submitted to the Community Support team cst@tushita.org

 

  • Angela provided an update on the fund-raising effort to improve the acoustics in the temple dining room – this is an example of someone in the community having the idea and taking it forward The fundraiser will be open until end of December this year.  $4,700 has been raised to-date, with a target of $5,200 needed to proceed.  All donors will be thanked and provided with a receipt. 
  1. Community Feedback – Rosie McKew
  • Rosie shared some of the excellent questions and feedback received during the year with a plan that these would ultimately be worked into a Q&A sheet on the community page of the website. The feedback has been very useful to help highlight areas needing clarification or processes that we need to work on. 

5.1  What is the organizational structure of the TBS?

  • This was discussed at the last community meeting (now teams plus original committees alongside the directors) and there is also a plan to develop a web page devoted to the organization of TBS and the introduction of the directors.
  • Since the last community meeting, three Associate Directors have been appointed – Chris McKeown, Cat Neal (both started in October) and Deb Dimeo will commence in the role in February 2022.
  • Associate Directors have the same voting rights as directors (but no legal responsibilities).
  • The positions of Associate Directors will rotate every 12 months. 

5.2  Is there a governing constitution and is it available to members of the community?

  • There is an inner constitution created by Geshe Acharya Thubten Loden, our founder, which is the guiding document. Copies were available at the first meeting and if anyone wants a copy of the constitution email events@tushita.org, contact@tushita.org or contact Rosie or any of the directors. 

5.3  How can students and members ideas or concerns be heard?

  • Any director can be approached face to face or via email.
  • Anyone can attend directors’ meetings to voice questions or concerns, contact a director or contact@tushita.org to arrange attendance. Held every two months and notes on the community web page (next 11th Dec then 15th Jan)
  • Also can contact teams directly or the CST as a conduit for feedback or concerns via email cst@tushita.org or contact@tushita.org. Also welcome to raise at these Community Meetings
  • The community support team have also developed a suggestions form and a guidance on the process for ideas and suggestions on the community information page https://tibetanbuddhistsociety.org/community-information/
  • The most effective way to get a suggestion implemented is to become involved in one of the relevant team that can support you. 

5.4  Is there some kind of strategic plan for the TBS?

  • TBS is guided by Geshe-la’s vision for the centre as stated in the Inner Constitution. Aim is to establish the centre and provide authentic Tibetan Buddhist teachings on regular basis. Geshe-la established which classes to be taught and how often, to be based on Geshe-la’s books.
  • In addition to regular classes Geshe-la also requested TBS hold regular Festivals and Open Days as offerings to the broader Australian community
  • Further, the new teams are also welcomed and encouraged to plan at the team level and these plans may come together to form a strategic plan for TBS, which could sit under the Inner Constitution. 

5.5. Raising and implementation of new ideas – sometimes new ideas don’t seem to get progressed – there doesn’t seem to be a clear process?

  • Rosie reminded the meeting that we are a volunteer organization with limited human resources and that at the moment, TBS is flat-out just delivering the basic program and current events etc. Therefore, at times TBS has been unable to take-up new ideas but directors have tried to get back to people to explain why can’t progress an idea.  Now, for anything more than a really simple suggestion (which can be made to relevant teams) the Ideas and Suggestions Form has been developed.  We ask the person with the idea to flesh out as much information and groundwork re plan, resources and feasibility as possible.  For implementation of suggestions, (because of the lack of resources to take on projects), we really encourage investment of time and effort on the part of the person making the suggestion. 

5.6 Easy to use calendar of events?

  • We have a basic annual calendar of events. The 2022 calendar is under development and currently being finalized. To improve the “bells and whistles” of that calendar we would ask for and welcome someone with the time and skills to help. Please contact Events or Publicity teams –  we would dearly love that help. 
  • Residential community – can other people live in at TBS?
  • People known to the centre can apply to live in either short term or long term. Contact a director if interested. 
  • Open forum – Michael Joseph – part 1, questions and answers
  • Golden roof project update (Chris McKeown) – greater than 50% completed to-date. The gilding is a project requested by Geshe-la just before he died and is traditional for Tibetan temples.  There is a review underway of the remaining work, as there is only one remaining tradesperson that is doing the work. TBS is waiting for the outcome of that review.
  • Banksia Gardens update (Rosie McKew) – over the COVID restrictions period Sunday lunch program and homework food have not been occurring. During this time TBS (mainly Sox with Christine and Diane) has been providing weekly food parcels. We aren’t sure yet of the plans for the Sunday lunch program and homework club re-starting.
  • Timeline for the new website (Michael Joseph) – there is an estimated 2 – 3 weeks of remaining work required by Michael to create the framework for the new website. Michael has been very busy with work commitments this year but hopes the TBS website development will make significant progress within the next three months.  

A background of the need for a need for a new website was provided by Michael. There are many problems with the existing website – it is old, outdated and has technology problems. It is very hard to maintain or change and this is the cause of feedback that the current website has out of date information.  The new website technology will be based on Microsoft and WordPress.  People will be able to vary the content and the website will have a new look and feel.  It will be easier to add content, and the calendar on the website will be easier to maintain and keep updated.  For payment transactions, TBS is moving from PayPal to Square. 

Open forum part 2 – further discussion points and suggestions 

  • Expressions of Interest. (Jono) Proposed that community ideas and suggestions that could not be resourced (either because of human or financial constraints) be published (on the website/other TBS communications) as Expressions of Interest. In this way, other people might be able to take up and progress the project/idea/suggestion. 
  • Teams (Deb) commented that joining a team was a wonderful way to get to know other people in the TBS community and highly recommended people join a team!

The flyer for joining a team is available at the centre on the information table outside the dining room. It is also online on the TBS web page https://tibetanbuddhistsociety.org/volunteering/ Angela also reminded people that they were welcome to join in with a team for a particular project or event if they were not interested in ongoing team involvement eg attending meetings etc. 

  • COVID and community connection. (Tim) raised a discussion point concerning the impact of COVID restrictions and the effect on people not being able to come together at TBS and see each other face to face for classes, retreats or working bees. He reported that he believed COVID restrictions had been detrimental to the strength and connectivity of the TBS community.  Tim suggested we need to think about how we can sustain our community and stay connected in a future with COVID.  In particular, he encouraged that people come to the Centre when possible. Tim suggested, for example, that people might come together for picnics in the TBS garden (according to COVID restrictions and with guidance of the COVID team)

The importance of face to face was affirmed by Rosie. She also noted that she has found that the online community has been a pretty good second-best way of staying connected (via the online classes, retreats and team meetings).  Rosie stated that the online meetings and classes do help to feel a sense of team and fellowship.  She acknowledged Sundays are a little less so as they are live-streamed but we are still in the virtual temple, hearing the Dharma.  Rosie encouraged others to try these options if they have not already, notwithstanding the preciousness of live contact.  She encouraged further ideas as to how to achieve this.

Jenny suggested that perhaps we could consider for Sunday classes (as these are missing interaction the most) – an occasional zoom, virtual afternoon tea that could also be the opportunity for questions and answers following the afternoon’s teachings.  Action – Michael stated the Technology team will investigate.

Martin also affirmed being at the centre is ideal and that retreats are also a good way to connect and they are close to the heart of the centre’s core purpose.  He suggested that the retreats team will start to look at holding different types of retreats with this in mind, eg shorter retreats and getting ideas from the TBS community about the sorts of retreats they might like to attend.  

Martin also noted that the Community Support Team is looking at facilitating simple social catch–ups (eg people meeting up at the Atisha Centre, Art gallery etc). 

  • Financial Update and invitation for revenue raising. An update on the finances was given by Michael. TBS has been financially comfortable in the past and for the first time since 1988 the centre has run at a loss for the past two years due to the COVID impact.

Heather later suggested that the idea of conducting an auction to raise revenue could be further explored and that this was an area she had some experience of in the past.  It was noted that auctioning of Dharma objects was not appropriate, as Geshe-la stipulated profits are not be obtained from selling Dharma objects.  Revenue raising ideas can be submitted to the Community Support team cst@tushita.org .  Hilary mentioned that we have sold second hand goods to raise money some years ago at festivals. She also mentioned that Geshe-la didn’t allow sale of raffle tickets at festivals and she wasn’t sure if auctions would be considered in a similar way. 

  • Agenda and Minutes of Community Meetings. Helen requested an agenda be sent out in advance of the community meetings.  as well as access to minutes of the meetings.  Rosie agreed this was a good idea and mentioned that we would always ask in advance for agenda items from the community, as we did for this meeting. Mary also thanked Rosie for all the work in providing the feedback to the community-raised issues offered today.

 Retreat Follow-up. Cat raised the value in having some kind of support and follow-up after a retreat to help participants continue practices and skills they have learnt at the retreat e.g. perhaps a general support group or possible audio meditations.

Christine (retreats team) responded, strongly supportive, and suggested eg an online get- together (in addition to classes) for support and friendship for 2-3 weeks (or however long is wanted) after the retreat.  Rosie affirmed how common that experience of returning to life and maintaining practice after the retreat!

Anthony commented that businesses offer coaching groups after training programs eg 2-3 post training sessions. TBS could perhaps look at such potential mechanisms for post training or post course engagement. 

  • Student retention and support of people that say, come to TBS intro classes after a festival. Andrew asked if there were any plans to engage new people after classes to help retention, particularly with the transition from intro classes to other classes.  Rosie and Christine (Events and Classes team) noted that pre-COVID there was a roster for after class afternoon teas, which ideally included at least one or two senior students (in addition to the teacher and afternoon tea servers) rostered to be at the afternoon teas to connect with newcomers. In past years this happened regularly but with dwindling volunteers, this has been difficult to maintain.  They warmly welcomed more community members to participate in that roster (now also needing COVID marshalls) and noted it is a lovely way to meet with each other and to engage with new students.
  • Martin also invited further ideas as to how we might engage and retain new students.  Andrew affirmed the importance of the presence of senior students after classes and also wondered if we could find out why people don’t come back – possibly some follow-up to ask what were the reasons for not continuing. 

 6 Wrap Up

  • Rosie wrapped up the meeting and thanked everyone for coming. In addition, she thanked Community Support Team, Manikam for the Technology provision, and also TBS volunteers.
  • There will be a Volunteer thank you Event – tentatively Saturday 19th March 2022.
  • We hope to have at least one social event next year (in addition to the volunteer thank you event), and anyone with any ideas to please contact the CST.
  • The final event for this year is White Tara on Sunday 05th December 2021 followed by an afternoon tea.
  • A dedication led by Rosie then closed the meeting, with an afternoon tea provided.

 

 

 

 

 

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