REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Who the bloody hell are we?

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Tracey Fairhurst, the editor of the Port Macquarie News in NSW.

ANY IDEA, AUSTRALIA: The national conversation seems muddled. Is it for you? Photo: Shutterstock

ANY IDEA, AUSTRALIA: The national conversation seems muddled. Is it for you? Photo: Shutterstock

We are living in an era of fierce, and at times frighteningly ill-informed, social debate on all things that challenge with vigor the "values" of both the left and right of the political narrative.

From climate change to the abortion bill, the environment, the inequalities that persist for minority groups, our stance on refugees, our attitudes towards women and violence and the path we must all walk together to acknowledge our cultural truth.

History has shown that positioning oneself on the far left or far right of debate can dangerously fuel ignorance.

Somewhere in between though, there is hope. There is a respectful space where informed discussion can flourish and the seeds for genuine change can be planted and nurtured.

Some of the nation's big social thinkers came together in Byron Bay this year for the annual Writer's Festival.

And it was here the enduring message became loud and clear for all of us - we have no choice but to change things, to "unlearn" who we think we are, if this country is to finally come of age and grow up. And it seems all over the world, children are demanding the grown-ups start listening.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: A young protester carries a placard during a climate action protest. Photo: Karleen Minney.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: A young protester carries a placard during a climate action protest. Photo: Karleen Minney.

Nevo Zisin is a young Jewish, queer, non-binary writer and activist who wrote an award-winning memoir on gender and culture.

"We are a nation of forgetting and erasing. We live in a deeply racist, transphobic and homophobic society and it is not being addressed in any tangible way," Nevo said.

"Anger is palpable and to make sense of it is to use it. Add the layers of race and gender and there's a lot to unpack. Anger is a powerful activist tool.

"If you don't feel uncomfortable about where we are at then things will not change. Young people are our future because they have so much less "unlearning" to do and they are politically engaged."

Unlearning is the challenge, says writer Clementine Ford, and recognising what it is we all need to do to reverse the damage of the systems that resist change by spreading what there is to fear about it like a virus.

"If you feel uncomfortable by the conversation, then you need to reflect on how you are part of the problem," she said.

Bruce Pascoe, award-winning indigenous author of Dark Emu, said young people like Greta Thunberg, are powerful agents for change. If we give our children free reign, he says, we will improve the world.

"We should try and experiment in this country by having an eight-year-old girl as prime minister," he said.

"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it...But we cannot be despairing about it because despairing results in inaction."

Pascoe laments on why hope is now regarded the radical position. It's a nihilistic narrative, he said.

As a country, self reflection about our identity and our past and how it has shaped who we are today is the first step on the path to accepting the truth. And who better to hold up that mirror than inimitable indigenous actor, activist and author Jack Charles.

By "coming out of my own heart of darkness" he says, he has proudly taken his place as a shining "black light" for the Aboriginal community.

"I'm a spearpoint," Charles said. "I land in the hearts and minds of people who are a bit iffy on change."

Tracey Fairhurst

Editor, Port Macquarie News

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