Vipassana in Canberra
The first non-center course in Canberra, the capital of Australia was held earlier this year in April. The course had 38 participants. All students completed the course. It marks a beginning in a region in Australia that shows encouraging receptivity to Dhamma. Since the late 1998 a group of old students requested that a 10-day course be held in Canberra. An official group-sit had been held for 2 years in Canberra since late 1996, and 1-day courses every few months from 1997. Canberra is a city with a large number of “satellite” suburbs.
The groundwork for organizing a course began formally in 1997, with a series of video screenings (using Hill of Dhamma, and the Short Introduction to Vipassana, filmed at Igatpuri and Blackheath) held in central Canberra. Publicity for the course included press kits being faxed to a number of local newspapers and radio stations. An announcement also appeared once in the 'Canberra Times' community announcements section; two community service announcements were made a week prior to the course by a meditator on a local radio station.
Also, an article detailing the Canberra region's Chief Magistrate’s impressions of DTDV ('DoingTime, Doing Vipassana' video) was printed in the Canberra Times in February. This last piece of publicity was very valuable, as it gave some official support when approaching other avenues for media attention, as well as putting up posters, and generally talking to people about the technique. The course site was a scout camp in the hills about 20 minutes south of Canberra. It was well laid out, with minimum structural changes needing to be made apart from erecting divisions (curtains draped over upright tables) in the kitchen/dining room.
The cost of the site ($11 per person, per night – calculated on a daily basis) was expensive, but was covered with dana given prior to and at the conclusion of the course, with the surplus banked for future courses. In future it may be possible to negotiate the site cost, should the same site be used. At this stage a 10-day course during Christmas time is being considered, official group-sits will continue in South Canberra (the current contacts for the ACT are Upali and Chandini Dharmakirti - (02) 6290 1874), and a one-day course is being planned for later this year.