Down Time for Some Good Unlearning

imageNothing is as poor for learning as busyness. You can be so busy that you have no time to reflect and ask yourself key questions like:

· Where is this taking me?

· What is the trajectory?

· What is this process doing to me?

· How is this process humanizing?

· How can this be helpful?

· Does this really help keep people safe?

· What is the meaning and purpose of this?

Interestingly as a result of COVID-19 we are now being forced to stay at home or furlough and this causes us to reflect, particularly on our busyness.

One of my mentors is Dr Robert Banks, who I have known for over 30 years. One of the reasons I moved to live in Canberra in 1986 was to be mentored by him. Robert has written many books on culture and Christianity but one of his best books and receiving significant awards is, The Tyranny of Time, When 24 Hours Is Not Enough ( I first read The Tyranny of Time in 1983 and it lead to writing my third musical Time Demons which was performed at a number of schools across Australia. I mention the musical Time Demons in Real Risk (p45) ( ). The book and musical target the problem of busyness in society and the challenges of making time for reflection and learning. Here is a classic quote from Robert’s book (p. 129):

‘A day becomes prized not because it opens up the possibility of working and relating, giving and receiving, thinking and imagining, resting and praying, but how much can be crammed into it so that goals of less intrinsic worth can be achieved.’

Amidst the Coronavirus crisis and as more and more people are being forced to lockdown and stay home, now is an opportunity to re-e-valuate the meaning and purpose of work. A few key questions need to be asked.

· Of what value is the churning out of checklists that no-ne reads and we just tick and flick?

· Where does my time go?

· If I’m a safety person, am I simply keeping Papersafe ( or am I helping others better manage their safety?

· What have I learned in the last few months?

· Have I learned anything new?

· Or is life in a safety occupation just about going through the motions, achieving very little, marking time to get a pay cheque?

Before I went into lockdown I presented a very successful workshop to 30 senior inspectors for Worksafe NSW. Feedback from this workshop emerged: Why have I not heard this before? Where have you been? We would like further sessions. And it was clear, busyness was a major issue. Sometimes we are so busy, we simply have no time to learn and even less time to unlearn lots of the junk we have been indoctrinated with that simply doesn’t help engage people in the helping in safety process. The issue of unlearning also emerged from the workshop as a major issue. The more safety stays locked inside itself, the less transdisciplinary it becomes the more enormous the task of unlearning. If safety is the adjective, look somewhere else.

It is unfortunate that the WHS curriculum ( and AIHS BoK is part of the problem with the mis-education of safety people. So much of what is in the WHS Curriculum and AIHS BoK is simply not relevant to the work of safety people. Why are safety people being taught so much about regulation, legislation and systems when they will never act as a lawyer? Why are they not being taught about helping, learning, connecting and engaging? The current focus in the AIHS BoK and WHS Curriculum is mostly on objects not subjects, mechanics not personhood and technique not relationships. So what can you do?

In order to mature and develop in learning as a safety person you need to step outside the safety discipline and engage with other disciplines. This involves a commitment to unlearning. If safety is the adjective, don’t engage with it, safety needs to get over itself and stop this self-assurance of telling everyone how professional you are. In nursing, community work, social work, medicine, law and teaching, people spend their first year of studies in a generalist education and field work. It goes without saying that a broader education and engagement with other disciplines assists in maturation in education and learning process. In a teaching degree for example, students in their first year don’t focus on classrooms, the Education Act or teaching but rather on such things as child development, sociology, vocation and psychology. In many ways an education or nursing degree starts in transdisciplinarity and such an approach would be ideal to bring into a safety qualification. This enables a foundation away from self-preoccupation into comparative reflection in transdisciplinarity ( ).

There are plenty of resources to help safety people step outside of the safety discipline. You may want to chose from over 600 free courses being offered by the University sector: There are other free learning resources here: So, do your self a favour and don’t pick up yet another safety book to read over this time of staying home under the coronavirus crisis. Step outside the box and learn something new.

Watch this space next week, I will soon launch the Introduction to SPoR Module (27 videos, manual and 6 lectures) free online.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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