Speakers & Ecologists

We work with a range of speakers and presenters who bring their wisdom and expertise to CEL.

Jason John

Eco-Minister

Jason’s anticipated career in ecology took a detour when he converted to Christianity in his early twenties, and ended up becoming a Uniting Church minister.

Since then he has worked to help people rethink the place of humanity in the world, in the light of the new science creation stories, and the gospels (ecofaith.org).  This brought him to Bellingen as an “eco-minister” where he started the former Bellingen ecofaith community.  He now works with Uniting Earth in NSW/ACT  (unitingearth.org.au), but continues to live locally.

Jason appreciates the Uniting Church’s professed desire for an intellectually credible faith, shaped by contact with contemporary thought, and its desire to remain a place where our diverse membership can continue as pilgrims of faith together. He’s been an atheist, agnostic, a biblical literalist and an evolutionary Christian, so is well placed to co-operate with any people of good will to work for the reconciliation and renewal of our Earth family.

Mark Graham

Ecologist

“My parents gave me a sense of the land.  They would often take my sister and I off into the bush.  It’s an amazing landscape to be brought up in because there’s so much of interest and inspiration.”

Mark’s family moved to the Coffs area when he was 4 years old and he has spent most of the ensuing years deepening his relationship with this land.  After receiving an Applied Science degree from SCU Lismore he spent more than a decade researching and learning from the north coast environment.  From endangered frog research in the Tweed Valley, to conservation assessments and wetlands work for National Parks in Coffs to being the Manager of Natural Resources of the Coffs Harbour City Council, Mark has dedicated his career to the land.

Uncle Michael Jarrett

Gumbaynggirr Language & Cultural Teacher

My name is Michael Jarrett and I am a Gumbaynggirr Man from Nambucca Heads. I was born in a small town called Macksville on the Mid North Coast.

My family lived on Bellwood Reserve, where I spent all my childhood attending school and growing up with a lot of my relatives. Also the majority of my adult life was spent on the Reserve.
There were old people who spoke Gumbaynggirr language but did not speak it to the children, only certain words.

My language was non-existent to me through most of my life until in 1997 I decided to attend Gumbaynggirr language classes at Muurrbay Language Centre.

At that time I was an Early Childhood Teacher, and it was so hard learning my mother’s language. The sounds were unfamiliar to my ears and trying to make the sounds with my mouth was even harder. I practised by myself. I asked the teachers “How do I say that?” “What does this mean?” and taught what I learned to students at pre-school.

I heard that a course was coming up in Sydney called Masters in Indigenous Languages Education. I enrolled not knowing what to expect, what I was getting myself into. During the course and finding out about the linguistics of language, Gumbaynggirr started to come alive in me, phonology, syntax, grammar, semantics was like a different language but it made me think of how Gumbaynggirr worked and I loved it.
After the course I was very confident about working on my language and using it in everyday situations. It has helped immensely with my work as an educator, giving me new ideas on how to teach. Through it I changed my style of teaching.

Work opportunities are still coming at me hard and fast, Board of Studies, DET, Muurrbay, TAFE, universities and other language organisations. It has opened up many doors in my Gumbaynggirr language journey across all facets of my life and has given me back my pride as an Aboriginal man. I am passing on my knowledge and skills to other Aboriginal people so they can feel the way I feel. I feel more connected to my language, my homeland, my people, the spirits of my homeland and most of all to my ancestors.

Will James

Insight Meditation Teacher

Will James attended his first Insight Meditation retreat in the late 1970s with Christopher Titmuss, a pioneer meditation teacher in the west. This meeting kindled a deep interest in meditation and the dharma teachings of the Buddha. Will continued to study with Christopher through the 1980s and also studied with Subhana Barzaghi in the Zen and Insight traditions.

In 2006 Will was invited by Christopher and Subhana to take up the responsibility of teaching in the Insight tradition.

Will is presently the guiding teacher at the Tallowwood Sangha in Bellingen on the mid north coast of NSW Australia. He leads regular retreats, has taught at the Dharma Gatherings in Australia and India, assists with the Australian Dharma Facilitators Program and teaches a mindfulness training course and Dharma study program.