I start this article the same way recent Global Leadership Program keynote speaker Noelene Nabulivou did, with reference to Alan Watts’ difference between prickly and gooey people.

Prickly people are tough-minded, rigorous, and precise, and like to stress differences and divisions between things…. The gooey people are tender-minded romanticists who love wide generalisations and grand syntheses….

I’m a gooey person, so if you’re a prickly one, you might want to stop reading here as apparently, “prickly philosophers consider the gooey ones rather disgusting – undisciplined, vague dreamers who slide over hard facts like an intellectual slime which threatens to engulf the whole universe in an, “undifferentiated aesthetic continuum”.

Well, thank you. If you’re a prickly person, you can find the essential takeaways from Noelene’s address summarised at the bottom of this article (Noelene summarised her presentation at the start too), so you can avoid my ‘gooey’ slide into a dubious dreamland.

At the Global Leadership Program (GLP), part of what we do is get prickly and gooey people working together. No matter where you sit on the gooey-prickly spectrum (and our individual characteristics are certainly more nuanced than this), the underlying message for us is clear: We need collaborative leadership that takes multiple and diverse perspectives into account. This requires an evolution in knowledge, mindset and self – exactly what university is all about.

The GLP tries to help students along this journey of self-discovery by exposing them to important global issues outside their specific academic field, working with peers across different degrees to encourage multi-dimensional conversation, and development through experiential learning opportunities.

Most importantly, we make a commitment to service and a pioneering mindset the norm. There is no place we recognise these Macquarie values more prominently than in our Innovative Leaders Series (ILS).

The ILS is our bi-annual event that recognises true trailblazers. An event where we hold innovation synonymous with positive change, no matter the field – technology, climate change, indigenous affairs – to name a recent few.

It is about our students witnessing a fearless leader. An example of their end game.

Noelene NabulivouOn Tuesday 17 April we hosted Noelene Nabulivou for the keynote address and her wife, Shirley Tagi, performed an acoustic number, making it an intimate evening for 130 people across the GLP and wider MQ community.

Noelene Nabulivou is a grassroots educator, feminist lesbian researcher, activist and social organiser in Fiji, the Pacific and beyond. She has worked for over 30 years to affirm and protect universal human rights and to advance work for sexual and gender, social, economic, ecological and climate justice.

Noelene was chosen as our speaker for her expertise in her field and a belief that her message is one our students needed to hear.

She models the kind of leadership we want to represent. As she puts it,

leadership that is intersectional and can work on interlinked issues and with system-wide approaches.

Defying the odds of the status quo and finding strength in her diversity, Noelene has made her voice heard at the forefront of two major issues.

First, being a member of the LGBTQI community in her largely conservative home country of Fiji, fighting for the rights of lesbian, bisexual, transmasculine and gender non-conforming people, not to mention wider, international issues of gender inequality.

Secondly, fighting for climate justice for Fijians on a global scale against more powerful players with many and varied corporate and national interests.

Noelene put into perspective the urgency of action but also, warned us that quick can often mean dirty. She cautioned us to keep justice at the forefront of our minds as we move towards new systems and we need to continue to ask, “who is being left behind”? New systems are necessary because, “climate change and ecocide are symptoms of deeper ills whose roots are now being brought to light”.

So how do we do the work that needs to be done?

Part of the solution is looking at effective social movements and the democratisation of knowledge. She goes on to say, “a very big part of what you are doing here, in this particular program, is looking at knowledge and then, coming from all kinds of backgrounds, saying, what do we do with that set of knowledge, how can we be innovative about it, what helps us to be leaders ourselves and also with others as we move through the world?”.

She continued,

We must insist upon using a universal human rights and gender justice framework as well as a re-orientation of climate change and ecological responses that removes profit as the paramount goal.

Noelene’s passion was as contagious as her call to action was infectious.

Speakers at the GLP Keynote AddressProfessor Sherman Young, Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching, commented, “Noelene has given us a lot to think about” and threw out a challenge to students to take up this urgent action. He further prompted the crowd for questions and in true-GLP form, the students did not disappoint, with one asking,

“I love the Alan Watts reference, and the kind of undercurrent of Zen Buddhism as well, you seem to express a real reasoning beyond division, beyond masculine/feminine, self-other… There’s an institute in India, called the Isha foundation, whose primary focus is the spiritual process and elevation beyond vision, what do you think the role of the elevation of consciousness plays in fixing these symptoms of undeveloped consciousness?”

I think it’s safe to say that if conversations like this are happening with the young, fresh minds currently at our university, we are going to witness a bright future with diverse leaders.

And, as Noelene answered, “That’s a lovely, big conversation I would love to have.”

For the Prickly People – Noelene in 3 points and 3 quotes – 

1. Climate change and ecocide is here. Our bodies and global systems are in trouble like never before, but this is all a symptom of a deeper ill. It is those roots that we are now bringing to light, examining and pulling out.

We must insist upon using a universal human rights and gender justice framework as well as insist on a re-orientation of climate change and ecological responses that removes profit as the paramount goal.”

2. I act, reflect and act again – feminist theory and community development models should be incorporated into our systems thinking.

It’s revolutionary because if you make a mistake, you have the chance to do something different and try again. For those who’ve been told time and time again, you can’t do it, it is very important to have this.”

3. We need leadership that is intersectional and can work on interlinked issues and with systems-wide approaches

You can’t separate our rights out, you can’t separate out justice. And yet what do our governments do all the time? We do it in ministries. We silo and segment and then we wonder why often the policy that comes out of them are very difficult to put into place. Because we don’t live our rights in siloed ways, we live them together in this one body.


Reference: Watts, Alan. This Is IT: And Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience. London: Rider, 1996.

Posted by Kristina Bastaja

One Comment

  1. Beautifully written piece!

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