Today I joined a strong sea of thirty thousand people in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Not only united by a lack of faith and confidence in our current government but also a desire for a better future for us all, and the generations to come.
Many of us would have shared common issues with the acts and policies of our government, but what drove each of us thirty thousand to venture out and make a stand on this dreary Sunday would no doubt have been something that uniquely tore at our own moral fibre.
The issues are terrifyingly large.
There’s the continued mistreatment of our refugees and the barbaric conditions they are living in and the fiddling governance and unjust power play of private corporate bodies. That’s enough in itself, but still there’s more. Like the madness of a government who denies climate change, believes we have too many forests and that our beautiful reefs are actually better off dredged than pristine and unharmed. On the topic of madness, there’s the backward NBN that’s going to leave Australia behind, the signing away of our democratic right to protest and the outright attack on the ABC, one of the few media outlets who reports freely and is not controlled by the corporates. And let’s forget about the future of our children, because unless you can afford to send your child/ren to a private school or pay exorbitant fees for university, they’re pretty much fucked with all the cuts to education. Hell, we may as well forget about all of those people who can’t afford private systems, period, because our government is keen to pillage the Medicare system, screw the pension and wave their overly proud flag of ‘the end of the age of entitlement’. And equal rights, well they are on their way back to the fifties.
This government drove thirty thousand people, all representing a diverse cross-section of Melbourne’s population, out of the comfort of their homes. (And that’s just the Melbourne march. Thousands more gathered in regional areas and capital cities across the weekend, all sharing the same lack of confidence.) Standing underneath an uncertain sky with a strong sun occasionally venturing out from behind dark clouds, the weather seemed to mirror the sentiment. The voice of all these people, sporting placards and t-shirts, was loud and clear from behind the darkness that this government has brought. It was a peaceful march from the steps of the State Library to Parliament House and resting at Treasury Gardens. But the message was unwavering– we do not stand for it and this will not be done in our name. We hope they are listening.
I realise there are many lessons to be learnt from bad government. And one of the biggest, I saw today. We are not separate people living an existence that does not affect others. We are all threaded together, for better or worse. Some of the decisions we make can and will affect other people, something we may not even be aware of. Like our government who are making decisions right this very second. These may not affect us immediately, but they will affect our children and their children and all the children to come. We must not be complacent about this. We must think beyond our own little bubbles because one day these too will pop.
The other big lesson I saw today – how good it is to share our ideas with others, to be a part of something that together makes us stronger. Today, one person bleating away on a megaphone would have stopped nothing. But thirty thousand people stopped the whole city for two hours. Thirty thousand people let the world know that our government does not represent us. This is the very heart of community. Share what you are passionate about, stand up for it, talk to others about it and get others together to talk about it and be passionate. Don’t stand for something you don’t believe in just because the majority rules. I did not vote for this government or its policies, why should I stand for it? Why should I be okay with them messing up the place where my son has to grow up in? There is nothing worse than apathy and disempowerment. We may not be able to overturn the government but we can exercise our right to be heard. We can speak of what does or does not impassion us. We can stand up for others too, for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves.
And a lesson that keeps resurfacing is – sometimes it takes something so bad to ignite action and wake us from a comatose state. Sometimes we need a government like this to really shine a light on the things that are important to us and the things we value about life. I saw that light today. After the dark periods pass, after we wake up, it’s almost impossible to go back to sleep.
I am grateful for this today, for observing and partaking.
And today I hope that we at least taught our children something. We may be comparatively small, but still we can be heard. And I hope that the generations beneath us – like the children I teach – and my son’s generation coming up, will continue to stand up and be heard and that apathy will never be in their name.