Shouting at the television and planting gardens: #ActiveDemocracy stories by @adropex

Lesley Howard

Lesley Howard

Citizen Journalist at No Fibs
After shouting at the television for many years Lesley decided participation was the best antidote to cynicism. She has a keen interest in supporting sound environmental social practice, communities and democracy in action. Lesley is currently completing a Masters of Science, Applied Statistics.
Lesley Howard
- 19 hours ago
Lesley Howard
Lesley graduated from the University of Melbourne with dual majors in Statistics and History and Philosophy of Science. The combination of the two fields formed a strong background in objective research, critical appraisal and the analysis of relationships, and in assessment and reporting. With this skill base she has variously consulted for an Australian timber company analysing the unloading of logs in Chinese ports, reported on the role of SMEs in Defence, critically analysed scientific papers, designed and advised on surveys and sampling for various private and government groups, and reviewed and advised on research proposals as a member of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s MHREC. Lesley has a keen interest in supporting sound environmental social practice, communities and democracy in action. She is currently completing a Masters of Science, Applied Statistics.

What do shouting at the television and gardening have in common? From little things big things have grown. Gather ’round people, let me tell you a story… or two.

Whilst a television was not one of the perks of an Aboriginal stockman’s life in the Northern Territory in 1966, the story of Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill walk off embodies that moment when Vincent and the Gurindji people metaphorically stopped shouting, found their voice and reclaimed their garden.

Nine years later, the then prime minister Gough Whitlam poured a handful of soil into Vincent Lingiari’s hand symbolising the legal transfer of Wave Hill Station back to the Gurindji people, and marking the beginning of the Aboriginal land rights movement in Australia.

Vincent Lingiari , I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands part of the earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever.

Gough Whitlam – August 16, 1975

Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody honoured the memory of Vincent Lingiari in the song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow‘ and the Northern Territory federal electorate of Lingiari is named after him.

Finding voice

As with gardening, to grow an idea many seeds need to be planted, carefully tended and the conditions need to be favourable for those seeds to germinate and over time grow. Sometimes the kernel of an idea has its roots firmly embedded in a tipping-point moment, such as when you find yourself shouting at the television in frustration at a particular news item.

So, I realised that I was shouting at the television with a story about the non-apology and the no-show at parliament house Canberra, by our then federal member for the Stolen Generations. I was so angry about this … then I realised my daughter was watching me, and I thought how pathetically tragic must this outburst look.

In my calmer moments afterwards, I realised that I had been a central part of what lead to the outburst. I had not ever been involved in politics as a citizen. I had been asleep at my own wheel. I had been a poor role model to my three (now adult) children. I had not taken responsibility for my own part in our democracy, I had dishonoured those who fought so strongly to protect it.

Right. That’s it. I’m not going to take this anymore. I’m resolved to getting involved in some way and step away from lame acceptance that others will be making the decisions about my future. So, I did. That same daughter some time later invited me to participate in discussions about community, civic engagement and personal responsibility. I jumped at the chance and have never looked back since. I joined the fledgling organisation and became seriously involved as a member, vice president and president. Separately, I’ve been through two successful high energy community independent political campaigns, and am now in the middle of a third. I’m looking forward to much more.’

That organisation is Voices for Indi… and I’m not shouting at the television anymore!

Denis Ginnivan

Between the no show by Sophie Mirabella, the then federal member for Indi, at the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, to the election of Cathy McGowan as the Independent member in 2013 and everything in between, is a story of germination and growth.

In her adaption of the original Kelly and Carmody song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’, done for Cathy McGowan’s 2013 election campaign launch, Sal Kimber captures the story of the growing movement in Indi.

From little things, big things grow… Never underestimate the power of a small group of people. So many people have done so much. So many people have given so much. So many people have made this happen. We have bloomed where we were planted.

And we have planted an orange garden across Indi.

Cathy McGowan – Election night speech, 2013

Voices of #AusVotes 2019

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported on the anti-Tony Abbott community groundswell in the northern Sydney electorate of Warringah and on some of the people getting involved. ‘When economist Nick Scott retired, he expected his days to take on a peaceful rhythm… He did not envisage staging political protests while wearing an inflatable dinosaur suit but, well, life is full of surprises.’

“It’s been liberating,” he says of joining a grassroots movement to remove former prime minister Tony Abbott from federal parliament. “I thought, ‘It’s time to actually do something rather than just shouting at the television’.”

Nick Scott, as reported in ‘Is Tony Abbott’s time up?– SMH March 9, 2019

Whether the tipping point came after watching television, listening to or reading the news, across Australia people are finding their voice and creating pathways to new futures. Here are the stories of those moments from some of the people who in 2019 are standing as Independents, campaigning for them, writing about them or all of the above.

As much as I’ve long held deep frustration about the self obsessed culture of all of our political parties, in the case of the Nats it’s more personal. I’m acutely aware of the risks and downsides of rural Australia being ignored and stereotyped, and the federal Nats in particularly have in recent years looked increasingly like an ugly caricature of the rural Australia I know and love.

The day the news broke that they were seriously entertaining the idea of reinstalling Barnaby Joyce into the leadership, it became clear that they had abandoned even the veneer of striving to do what’s best by the people they were supposed to be representing. Then, with the benefit of hindsight, it was just a matter of time before I moved from ‘someone has to do something’ to ‘maybe that someone has to be me?’

Ray Kingston @MalleeRay – Independent candidate #MalleeVotes

Briefly my experience has been in working with parties and governments of all types to get community projects up. Growing up in Adelaide under Don Dunstan, I saw his incredible community driven politics and energy. Later I lived near Ted Mack in the Eighties and was massively impressed with his call to unity. Then I began to witness deep-seated corruption inside a party, I challenged it through the internal processes and was shut down. I realised our party political system had been deeply corrupted and no longer represents citizens but only themselves and donors.

I was inspired by Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie and in a weird way also by Bob Katter, all of whom are locally democratic, representing their communities. I discovered under the surface of this marginal electorate in which I live that most people had lost hope in the party political system. Indeed an anger exists with the laziness and self seeking marketing machines. And so I took a stand, to do this the most confronting of things I’ve ever done.

David Abrahams @digitdave – Independent candidate #RobertsonVotes

On that fateful day back in August 2018, when Malcolm Turnbull was rolled by his own party, I was driving back to Bundanoon from the Snowy Mountains, listening in disbelief to the shenanigans on the car radio. I just could not believe that it had happened again in Australia, truly now the coup capital of the western world.

I was angry that our elected representatives lived in another world where narrow vested interests seemed to suck up all the oxygen that should be used governing, not game playing. Angry that key issues such as meaningful action on climate change, on ensuring we have water security and clean, flowing rivers, giving a fair go to small businesses whilst ensuring major corporations pay their share of tax, looking after the health and welfare of all, a vision for sustainable public transport (including the Very Fast Train) and taking action to tackle the obesity crisis afflicting the nation. This, and so much more.

So it was on that August day that I began to mull over the idea of standing for parliament in the 2019 federal election as an Independent candidate. Talking to many people, there is no doubt that so many others are also weary of the party infighting and negativity of Australian politics over the past decade. I’m certainly not alone in thinking that now, more than ever, is the time to stand up, to send a strong message that we want real action. That there is indeed a climate for change. For me, now is the time to stand up for what I believe in. I really have no excuse now not to stand.

In the months since that August day, every time I have looked at my five grandchildren I have worried for their future — for what we owe them, for what we should secure for that future.

I am under no illusion as to the challenge in the weeks ahead. I’m not averse to big challenges but this is a very new one. I’ve never stood for public office before — I’m no politician. But is this perhaps an advantage at a time when so many of our elected representatives have come up through the system, the party machines? And whilst the chance of success may seem slim, I go into a campaign in the belief that I could win. If the people of Hume believe in me then I would be honoured to represent them in the Australian parliament. I’m invigorated by the challenge.

Huw Kingston @Huw4Hume – Independent candidate for #HumeVotes

Traditionally, we’ve been taught not to talk about religion, money or politics. I find this a travesty, they’re the most interesting topics! Luckily, whilst my parents never discussed these things, they did watch two hours of news every weeknight “to stay informed.”

Always the stickybeak — and having ‘square eyes’ — I’d watch Nine News with Brian Naylor, A Current Affair with Ray Martin, ABC News with Ian Henderson and the 7:30 Report, first with Mary Delahunty, followed by Kerry O’Brien. Of course, 60 Minutes was essential viewing on weekends.

My most vivid memories of childhood are those I saw on the news — Native Title, the first Gulf War and the 1993 and 1996 federal elections; plus, seeing the impact of policy-driven events like tariff reductions and “The Recession We Had to Have.”

I had no idea what to do when I left school… I never expected to be here…I’m running as an Independent in Nicholls because my home, the Goulburn-Murray region, deserves better. We used to have a strong member in Sharman Stone who was active in the community, would reply to correspondence and who fought hard for her constituents. She may not have won every fight, but we knew that she was fighting for us. Like so many rural and regional electorates, we no longer have that.

Andrew Bock @Bock4Nicholls – Independent candidate for #NichollsVotes

At the end of last year I was happily cruising to the end of my time at the ABC when the Andrew Broad scandal erupted. Our local MP in sex scandal. Well I never… and neither did anyone else!

It just so happened that on the day Broad announced he wouldn’t run I was in the office of The Warracknabeal Herald. During the conversation someone walked in and said: “Ray Kingston’s going to run”. My ears pricked, I thought there’s a story for the morning. Ray’s reputation preceded him.

I was just arriving home that night and got a phone call asking if I’d like to talk to Ray in the morning. Yes I would. Ray also featured on that day’s ABC’s AM programme. There was a key question in our interview: “Are you just running to make Mallee marginal?” His reply was music to my ears: “No, we are beyond that. This is about winning.”

Being three days from semi-retirement I thought this could be something for after Christmas. I try not to be a hypocrite, and when you’ve been running the lines “if you are not at the table you are on the menu” and “democracy works better the more people are involved” to your audience for some years, if you see a chance to make a difference and dodge it then hypocrite be thy name.

Dave Lennon @Davelennonabc – Supporting Ray Kingston #MalleeVotes

I spent 12 years in the Australian Public Service after moving back to Canberra… I was close enough to the action to feel the parliamentary buzz from the House, but far enough away to know that the contribution I made really didn’t have a lot of impact in the world. I struggled with the way the government was starting to behave more like Big Brother, in that public servants were having their employment threatened if they spoke out against the government.

I decided to leave the public service in 2016 to pursue a personal project that had been bubbling away in my mind for a couple of years, which was to set up a Canberra Nippers club for Canberra kids, to teach them surf lifesaving/water safety and survival skills. I got this off the ground, built a team of volunteers, and won three awards, which I am incredibly proud of.

But what it taught me personally was that I could make a change in the world… It also gave me the confidence to use my voice and demand that it be heard, after years of being told my voice didn’t matter or wasn’t of any value to anyone.

Having political arguments on social media just weren’t cutting it for me anymore. My opportunity to get involved came a few weeks back when I read an article on Anthony Pesec, an Independent candidate who is going to run for the Senate in May. I reached out to Anthony on LinkedIn. And offered my time as a volunteer to help him campaign, and this is where I am now!

Bethany Williams @BethanyinCBR – Supporting Anthony Pesec #SenateVotes

In her valedictory speech delivered on the last sitting day of both houses of the 45th parliament Cathy McGowan finished by quoting the words inscribed on a toilet door in Mittagundi, a small town in the alpine region of north east Victoria.

The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating, the paths to it are made not found and the activity of making them changes both the destination and the maker.


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