by Kate Bourne

After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Conference on Lutheran Education (ACLE) was held in Melbourne last month, drawing 450 in-person attendees and a further 120 people online.

The hybrid conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre offered an opportunity for connection and re-connection for a Lutheran education community that has faced significant challenges in the past couple of years.

The ACLE theme was ‘One voice, many paths’. With more than 40 presenters leading sessions across the three-day event from 5 July, participants were able to hear from those currently serving in Lutheran education, as well as national and international keynote speakers.

Opening the conference, Lutheran Education Australia (LEA) Executive Director Lisa Schmidt thanked participants for their ‘passionate and dedicated service over the past few years’. ‘This is our long-awaited chance to gather as a whole again’, she said. ‘Communities need connection and nurturing – the next few days is a dedicated time for doing that.’

International speakers included Rev Dr Chad Rimmer, a Lutheran pastor who serves as the program executive for Identity, Communion and Formation at the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland. Neuroscience trainer Nathan Wallis travelled from New Zealand to present a three-part series entitled ‘Engage your brain and the first 1000 days’, which was of particular interest for early childhood educators.

During a collaborative session designed to inform the national initiative exploring our vision for learners and learning, attendees were asked, ‘What’s your vision for the learner and learning in 2022 and beyond in Lutheran education?’.

Given the experience schools have had in recent times it was no surprise that the session ‘Me, We, Us, Wellbeing in the Workplace’, led by Natasha Rae, was in high demand and required a last-minute change to seating configuration to allow more people to attend.

On the final day, Dave Faulkner and Maddie Scott-Jones from professional learning organisation Education Changemakers prompted participants to work together in school groups to develop a plan for action and impact to take back to their schools.

Addressing conference attendees, LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith described Lutheran schooling as an integral part of the ongoing life and mission of the church. ‘While the Lutheran Church has been forming young people through its schools, Lutheran schooling has been forming the church’, he said. ‘Therefore, that makes ACLE a significant event in the Lutheran Church calendar’.

At the conclusion of the conference, the ACLE candle was extinguished and handed to Lutheran Education Queensland, which will host the next triennial event in 2025.

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