Kevin Rennie

Kevin Rennie

Citizen journalist at No Fibs
Kevin is a retired secondary teacher, a unionist and Australian Labor Party member since 1972. He spent 8 years teaching in the Northern Territory, 4 in Katherine, followed by 4 in Maningrida, an Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. He returned to Melbourne in 2008.
Kevin Rennie


By Kevin Rennie,

23 October, 2013

Tony Abbott wants us to repent. Well here’s my confession. I have sinned by:

• chipping in for the Climate Council
• signing GetUp! and petitions about asylum seekers, the Great Barrier Reef and Burger Off’s campaign against McDonald’s in Tecoma.
• voting for @Albo and agitating for Labor party reform
• joining Blog Action Day with a human rights post about Tony’s confessor Cardinal Pell
• posting questions on Our Say Australia’s forums
• commenting on stories at Guardian Australia and the Conversation
• retweeting whether it is insensitive, nay unpatriotic to use ‘bushfires’ and ‘climate’ in the same tweet
• sharing rabble-rousing republican propaganda
• adding to the
• having boorish thoughts about Barnaby Joyce on QandA

It all seems very passive and dispiriting – not saving the planet, not even the backyard, but at least it keeps some of us off the streets. Or is that the problem? These are dark days indeed for progressive activists in Australia as we are rolled back to the Howard and Menzies years. Time to ask the experts.

For all is not lost. There is light in the hall. Melbourne Town Hall, that is. The Progress 2013 conference in Melbourne on 7 & 8 November is beckoning:

‘Progress 2013 is about what’s next: the issues, the people, and the strategies that will define Australia’s non-profits and social movements for years to come.’

Progress 2013 conference
There will be lots of the usual suspects coming: Jane Caro, Tim Flannery, Robert Manne, Sam McLean, Miriam Lyons, Anna Rose, Rachel Perkins, Will Stefen, Tim Costello.

It’s a very catholic gathering with specialists in: human rights law, the environment in all its manifestations, Asia, refugees, cancer, disability, indigenous peoples, film, the Middle East, public health, population, participatory democracy, international aid, the web, wilderness, women, workplaces. To paste but a slice, and that’s just the speakers.

As you would expect at this kind of get together, there are plenty of process people on the agenda: researchers, social entrepreneurs, communications nurds and social media geeks, digital natives [not my terminology], community organisers and campaigners, crowd funders, political campaigners.

There is at least one: singer/songwriter, union organiser, NGO CEO, refugee activist, charities, journalist, LGBTI advocate, columnist, feminist, digital strategist, marriage equality, youth group, philanthropist, academic, political sociologist, economist, publisher, B-Corporation (had to look that one up!], pastor and at least one citizen journalist. Some shade under multiple hats.

There are even a couple of parliamentarians coming: Wayne Swan and Scott Ludlam. The conference is not cheap, unless an organisation is sponsoring you, but it might be tax deductible. The pollies normally cover these events through their parliamentary allowances but that’s another story.

The OurSay  participatory democracy platform has 3 forums operating before the conference. The top questions will be asked of speakers during their sessions.

Our Say Progress 2013

OurSay is also giving away three tickets to the winning question at each forum. There is still time to post a question as voting closes on 2 November. It is very democratic. You get 7 votes to spread around or give to one question. [Confession: I’m in the running]. So vote early and vote often, as was oft heard around the Collingwood or Richmond town halls of yesteryear.

One of the forums is Words Count. The questions are for ‘Messaging guru and author’, Anat Shenker-Osorio.

Timely given the insistence of Immigration Minister Morrison that asylum seekers be labelled “illegals” when they arrive by boat and “detainees” when he’s locked them up out of sight in our latest version of purgatory.

Finally, if you’re a follower of fashion then the flavor of the month is orange, part of the livery of Cathy McGowan’s successful Federal election campaign for Indi. Since we are having trouble getting our act together globally, we are all now thinking locally. Community campaigning is the rage since her triumph.

Ben McGowan, co-founder of Voice for Indi will be there. A drink or two with Ben and Obama field campaign director, Jeremy Bird, should be a door prize but you’ll have to elbow past me to be part of that round. There is a conference party for ticket holders at Thousand Pound Bend that will be opened by local member of the House of Reps, Adam Bandt. All expenses paid perhaps – if so it’s his shout.

Following last Saturday’s NSW Miranda by-election, I fancy an orange firies’ suit for any kitchen table talk.

Anyway, come along and help plot a progressive future. If not then follow @ausprogress, #progress2013 or the Facebook page.

* The conference is organised by the Centre for Australian Progress ‘a new organisation dedicated to building the advocacy capacity of Australia’s civil society’.

For further coverage of Progress 2013, please watch this space.