WHAT COULD AUSTRALIA look like if our government got serious about acting on climate change? The people of Hughes were shown exactly that at Linda Seymour’s “Regenerating Australia” event on Saturday.
The community endorsed independent candidate for Hughes hosted a special film event to share Damon Gameau’s “Regenerating Australia” short film, followed by a panel discussion from community professionals Paige Burton, Anneliese Alexander, Kevin Sweeney and Terry Lane.
The film started off with a message from director Damon Gameau who introduced the need for the enactment of a regenerative process in Australia, as well as the inspiration for the future-set film.
“It is based on a four month listening exercise with a really diverse group of Australians right across the country… this is the vision on behalf of those people when we simply asked the question what would Australia look like in 2030 if we listened to the needs of its people,” he said.
“We had a chance to be sustainable in the late ’80s, but we have blown through that now so our only choice is to regenerate.”Damon Gameau
Describing the film as “an injection of optimism”, Linda welcomed the panel to answer some questions after the viewing.
Regeneration is possible, we just need political will
“Regenerating Australia” starts important conversations surrounding the topic of climate change, highlighting the possibility for a regenerative process to correct Australia’s future sustainability. Offering a professional and passionate perspective on climate change, Linda welcomed Anneliese Alexander to the panel.
“In 2020 Anneliese participated in the Climate Reality Leadership Course and was trained under Al Gore to become a climate reality leader,” shared Linda.
“She spends an inordinate amount of time researching solutions to the climate challenge and communicating to people how they can be the change.”
Anneliese spoke to the possibility for the events seen in the film to actually become reality. While it would require great change, she shared what would be required for this changemaking to get a kickstart.
“Everything that we saw in terms of solutions and ways that we can enact climate action is possible, it is already here. We have the technology, we just lack the will.
“We need to see structural change, we need to see governmental change. And the best thing that we can do is vote for someone who will help to deliver those changes in our government. So everyone has the power to make those individual changes but also to be part of that big societal shift that we need to see,” she said.
Anneliese extended this insight by providing a personal anecdote, sharing her hopes for the government to relieve some of the pressure she places on herself to preserve Australia’s environment.
“If our government was doing something about climate action I would feel like I could sit back a bit and just rest. I think that is why I was so moved by what was going on in the film.”Anneliese Alexander
Learning from First Nations’ peoples
The film emphasised a need for Australia to respect and draw upon First Nations’ wisdom, learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ care for the environment.
Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation’s former Men’s Group coordinator Terry Lane joined Linda on stage to provide an Indigenous perspective on the film and sustainability. Terry, who has studied bush tucker and medicine, is also an accomplished artist and musician.
Terry drew on traditional Indigenous practices to share insights with the crowd into managing country.
“I am going to go back to well over 200 years ago. With our culture, it may have been a simple life, but it was a very complex system. It wasn’t just our hunting and gathering, there were certain lores we had to stick to as to what we could hunt, what we could eat,” he said.
Terry emphasised a need for a greater respect of Mother Earth, and how the environment would benefit from only taking what we need.
“If we don’t look after Mother Earth as we call it, and the environment, we end up sick, the animals end up sick, the plants end up sick and the waterways end up sick. If Mother Earth is sick and the environment is sick, everything else is sick. If that is doing well, we have a good chance of doing well too.”
Young people care about the same things as you
Climate action has been at the forefront of young people’s minds, with the future of our environment becoming a worry for many. Taking to the panel in support of Linda, Director of Civic and Culture Engagement for the Foundation for Young Australians Paige Burton touched on the wealth of knowledge she has acquired through speaking to young people.
“In 2017 as the Australia Youth Representative for the UN, Paige ran the largest ever face-to-face consultation of young Australians. In 2015 and 2016 Paige was named by Pro Bono Australia as the youngest member of the 25 most influential people in the social sector list,” said Linda.
“Paige is from Hughes, she is awesome.”
Speaking to the face-to-face consultation she ran, Paige shared the reality about what young people actually care about.
“Climate action was one of the five most important issues that young people brought up in that consultation. I went to every federal electorate and that is true across all electorates across the country. The top 10 issues were the same across the country everywhere, just in slightly different orders,” she said.
“The venn diagram of youth issues and adult issues is actually a circle… the reality is that young people care about all the things you care about, probably more intensely.”Paige Burton
Paige believes the utopia seen in the film is definitely a possibility, the only thing that is stopping Australia is its reluctant leadership.
“Our opposition loves to make out like these solutions are too expensive, they are too difficult, they require too many experts, but that is a lie. The only reason that they are not done is because people have told us we can’t.
“Like Anneliese said there are solutions, we just don’t have the will.”
Australia’s refugee crisis
Although not touched on in the film, Linda is passionate about fighting for reform in the current mistreatment of refugees in Australia. She invited Kevin Sweeney to the panel, who brings his expertise through being the Amnesty International Regional President for NSW, Convenor of the National Amnesty Refugee Network, and Convenor of the Newcastle Amnesty Group.
“Kevin is particularly passionate about ending offshore detention and indefinite immigration detention, and ending the inappropriate incarceration of children in our justice system. He is full of knowledge, care, compassion and a great deal of facts and figures as well that are actually quite startling,” said Linda.
Kevin shared how he saw the short film translating to the topic of refugees, stressing an opportunity for Australia to perform much better.
“It struck me watching the film that it is very much about community, about respect for people and about caring for people and caring for the environment. My reflection on that was if we had those values in our refugee policies it would look extremely different to what it does currently,” he said.
Kevin informed the crowd that since the start of the 2000s, Australia has performed poorly in its treatment of refugees.
“Currently Australia leads the world, or certainly the Western democracy world, in how we mistreat refugees. Mistreat them and get away with it and use it for domestic political advantage.
“Both major parties have contributed to the downward slide in Australia’s approach to refugees,” Kevin said.
Kevin presented a clear vision for Australia’s refugee response in the next 10 years when reflecting on a question from Linda regarding the timeline of the film.
“Firstly I don’t want to wait until the end of the decade to see changes in how we treat refugees. I would like to see Australia sit down and take the initiative with neighbouring countries to create a regional agreement on how we handle refugees to work out what the capacity of different countries are to take refugees and what the best way is to process them.”
He recognised a strong correlation with the regeneration of Australia, and the need to prevent the displacement of people due to climate change.
“We also really need to see action on climate change because otherwise we will have climate change refugees in numbers that will absolutely dwarf what we currently have.”Kevin Sweeney
Politics done differently
Throughout her campaign Linda has been clear about climate change, the establishment of Federal ICAC and political donation reform being the foundational motives underpinning her decision to run as an independent candidate. She concluded the panel by acknowledging her decision not to apply for Climate 200 funding because of these beliefs.
“You would probably know I don’t have millions of dollars behind me. In fact I actively didn’t seek funding. I ultimately was not thrilled with the parameters that came with that funding, so I said well I am going to do this a very old fashioned way. I am hoping upon hope that democracy can prevail in its very old fashioned form where we talk to people about doing something quite special,” she said.
“Integrity has to stand for something.”Linda Seymour
Linda reflected on the film and the work achieved in her campaign, drawing on the hope produced by both ventures.
“The tagline of this movie is ‘what would Australia look like if we listened to its people?’. Well hopefully this movie is what Australia will look like. If we come from a place of care for the planet, for the people, for everyone, we could do really extraordinary things.”
“It is a beautiful, uplifting movie and I hope you all appreciate it, because it feels like it has been made for us… no matter what, we have done something really significant just by standing as a community.”