There’s courage in compassion

February 27, 2023 BY

Cool to be kind: Dr Lynne Reeder is working towards a more compassionate world for generations to come. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

COMPASSION is never out of fashion, and Dr Lynne Reeder is working to remind Ballarat, and the world, the importance of peace and kindness.

As a teenager, she lost her eight-year-old brother to asthma and made the decision to see life as a gift that could be taken away.

“I remember thinking that it’s important to examine your life and what’s important,” she said. “I was always interested in learning things and living a meaningful life.”

Training as a teacher in Melbourne Dr Reeder’s career of meaning began.

She moved to Canberra where she gained a PhD in interdependence theory and worked in policy, her passion.

As an executive officer, Dr Reeder was part of national bodies including the Council of Professions, she worked for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on an economic future project, and as a university tutor, her focus was knowledge sharing.

But in 2014, when she saw a Stanford University tweet advertising the Science of Compassion Conference, the first pavers of her next pathway were laid.

“The conference spoke to me,” she said. “My PhD had been about international relations theory in the 1980s.

“It was saying that external factors, like trading with and living in other countries, financial markets being linked 24-seven, and the fact we’re seeing atrocities happening in real time, would impress us enough to change and make sure we all got on, and we connected.”

Dr Reeder said compassion proved to be a common interest of neurosurgeons, psychologist, evolutionary biologists, and management theorists at the conference.

“Compassion is the willingness to see suffering with the resource capacity to be able to take action to alleviate that suffering,” she said.

“I was interested that it was a new area of research because it’s been of value for centuries, through religions and contemplative traditions.”

The conference also included presentations from the Charter for Compassion.

Dr Reeder was inspired to join the charter when she returned home, she became the national lead of the Australian Compassion Council, joined the international board, and is on the Global Compassion Coalition.

“What we’re doing is to deep dream Australia a continent for compassion, honouring our Indigenous heritage,” she said. “The City of Ballarat signed the charter in 2019… and we formed Compassionate Ballarat.

“One of the first things we did was identify where the suffering was in Ballarat; there’s inequality, homelessness is growing, a lot of children are not able to read, suicide levels are high, there’s the generational trauma from child sexual abuse, and in the Indigenous community.”

The City has established the popular compassion and care category in the Youth Awards, two editions of the Compassion Heroes book of student stories have been published, a CEO group is working to embed compassion in their organisations, and a Concert for Compassion has been staged.

Dr Reeder is an adjunct research fellow in Federation University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing and set up the Australian Compassion Council Scholars Network, looking at the impacts of stress, and the health benefits of kindness.

“Compassion isn’t weak, it’s very much about setting personal boundaries, supporting yourself to be able to see and support others. Compassion takes courage,” she said.

“There’s a lot of attention on the woes and worries of the world, but our aim is to draw people to see that the world is okay, and that there’s lots to be inspired by.

“Creating a compassionate world is also important for my grandchildren.”

For this work and more, Dr Reeder has been named one of the Zonta Club of Ballarat’s Great Women for 2023. She was born in Ballarat and studied at Loreto College