Unitingcare Australia national director Lin Hatfield Dodds writes:
Like many Canberrans, I left the capital just after Christmas to have a holiday break with my family. We camped up in the mountains for a couple of weeks with a bunch of friends. It was heaps of fun: Damper and billy tea, swimming in the river, bushwalks, and lots of lazing around reading. The only bit we didn’t really love was the incessant rain. It rained most days and most days we whinged a bit as we dug yet another trench to divert the water from our tents. The one day it didn’t rain we waited until all our canvas dried out and then packed up and left quick smart before the next deluge hit.
It was pretty confronting to return to phone and radio range to hear about the floods and devastation across Queensland and other parts of Australia. It put our wet camping experience in perspective.
Then there was the shooting in Arizona. I was amazed to read serious commentary (from the US) proposing that senseless shootings like this could be minimised if more people carried guns and were prepared to shoot to kill to stop “innocent children” being gunned down.
Australia’s response after Port Arthur was so different. Our Prime Minister moved quickly to put stricter, not weaker, controls on gun ownership and use. The fewer people that have access to guns, the fewer people can be hurt by them. It ain’t rocket science.
That was leadership. A decisive response to a crisis, and one that contributed to a better future for us all. We’ve seen some of that from Anna Bligh and Barack Obama this month as they’ve responded to these two very different crises in two very different parts of the world. Leadership that sets the tone and tenor of a whole of community response.
As we drove back into Canberra after our camping trip, I felt as always, a strong sense of homecoming. Canberra’s a great place to live.
At least, it’s a great place now and a great place for most of us.
I worry about the impacts of climate change on our country and our future. As climate science predicts, the world is experiencing more extreme weather events like floods, fires and drought, and yet we have not responded decisively to secure our future.
Far too many fellow Canberrans can’t meet their most basic needs. Our community service agencies were once again overwhelmed this Christmas with the annual upsurge in requests for food and assistance in paying basic bills.
Surely we are better than this. Surely we are smart enough to take the science seriously and act now to make sure our kids have a future that does not include escalating climate crises like floods and fires. Surely we are compassionate enough to make sure that Canberrans struggling to live a decent life can meet their basic needs with dignity.
It ain’t rocket science. But the crises of poverty and climate change require smart, compassionate and decisive leadership – by every one of us. Canberra’s a great place to live. We can be a city that’s great for everyone now and into the future. As Barack Obama said at his inauguration “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”.
My hope is that our time is now.