The last time I traveled, albeit with dramatically shorter time frame in mind, was to Sri Lanka in 2007/08. Similarly, an Australian federal election took place during that trip also. I recall how surreal it was to be reading international media about the election, about Rudd’s meteoric rise to power, a tidal wave of support, the disastrous Coalition seemingly cast into political oblivion for some time.
A few too many utterances of “redistribution of wealth” later and Kev’s gone, replaced with an ultra conservative Gillard, talking tough on refugees and scaling back any redistributions of wealth to terms more on par with modern free market sensibilities – namely that over 60% of the funds raised through the mining tax would go back to the mining industry in the form of infrastructure development projects. Redistribution, I think not…
And now the election has come and going, going, but not quite gone, a deadlock between lame ducks with a mini coalition of country stalwarts circling the wagons and the uber successful Greens in early strategising for how the next three years might play out.
The whole scenario leaves me a little sick in the stomach. Actually, quite sick. Okay, so I’m totally disgusted and, only three weeks out from living and breathing Brisbane Town, I feel alienated by this place that I have grown up and lived the majority of my life in. In reality it’s not a far stretch for Queenslanders to be so conservative and vote for this abortion-denying, same-sex-marriage hating, mortgage-forgetting, rape-joke making, climate change denying, Indigenous blaming, sad, sad excuse for a politician in Tony Abbott. It just absolutely floors me that 50% of Australians consider this man capable of leading and representing Australia. And I’m not a Julia supporter….
In some ways, actually, in many ways, Abbott perfectly represents the broadest possible understanding of the Australian nation, grappling to understand itself, to project some sense of culture and belief, to connect the various diasporas with the ancient First Peoples culture, to project a national identity, to develop a viable economy, to create a just society…..and absolutely failing in all areas. He is the epitomy of an awkward teenager, trying to seem worldly and comfortable where the reality is isolation and extreme discomfort.
I know my interpretations can come across as somewhat undeveloped and naïve, but I’m comfortable with that. I’m aware that there are deeper agendas at play, constantly weaving their way through the weasel worded public discourse. I just cling, like a bird on an oil-drenched shoreline, to some form of higher belief, a trust that intrinsically, if we can cut through the bullshit, the lies, the propaganda, the self-serving nepotistic policies, the mythologies, the coded language, there is a connection there between us all that wants it all and is aware that in some ways this is possible. We just have to be able to redefine our ideas of what “all” actually means.
It’s been very interesting to be traveling at this time and to be asked by people to describe Australia and also to hear the various stereotypes people have of the country. Beer drinking racists is the predominant view, in Hungary at least. My travels might be young, but I actually don’t expect to hear much different from many.
That’s not to say there aren’t positive things happening in Ozneyland with great people behind them. It’s just that those in mainstream politics seem preoccupied in playing upon the negatives, the fear card at every opportunity, increasing people’s sense of otherness and fear that so pervades both rural and urban communities throughout the country. And yes, this is a worldwide phenomenon, but it constantly needs to be talked about, called, by as many as possible in all forms of media and communications, with a positive yet opposing response, a vision of other ways that can create something different, something collaborative and supportive which acknowledges the colonial, racist, slave-making past, the advances that have been made and the reality of changes still to be made. We need to talk about and share our visions, not just among university tutorials, work scenarios and with our more political friends, but with our families, those who see the world differently, through both the mainstream and underground media, in the streets, anywhere that we can.
When pushed to describe the political situation in Australia, particularly concerning Indigenous peoples, it seems to me that government around the country is becoming increasingly conservative and disinterested in facilitating an aware, progressive and ingenuity-driven politic . At the same time, I feel that Indigenous leaders and those working on the ground in cultural empowerment roles, as much as is possible with limited funding, resources and support, and living within the level of racism that exists in Australia, are creating new means for young people to educate and further themselves, while connecting with their culture.
There is a cultural shift at play, it’s timeframe to permeate the mainstream and political realms with a critical mass unknown, but it is certainly at play. And it’s based in listening to, valuing and understanding people’s stories, and how these stories relate to the world we actively create.