Why do we march against the Abbott Government? Admittedly marching will not change the government or the government’s ideology, but it will help to raise awareness of important issues and get people thinking, writes Gosford organiser Kym.
I first came across the March in March at the end of last year, but took my time in deciding whether or not I wanted to be involved in an organisational role. One thing lead to another, and . . .
I had never been to a rally in my life, let alone help organise one! I guess that up until then I had never been around the right people or groups to think about becoming more involved; not just about the march itself, but also with the issues we were marching for or against. I had seen the media bias and I had seen the damage this bias had caused; both at a personal level and towards our national psyche. I knew that we could never rely on the media to support our cause. That, however, is a different story.
I know we are a ‘lucky’ country lucky because we do not have war or famine and are free to choose our beliefs. However I know from experience, observation and plenty of research that this beautiful rich country does have some great inequalities and injustices. I know enough to not believe everything the media says and that things aren’t as simple as black/white or lefties and Tories. I found March in March appealing because it was not aligned with any political party, was grassroots and calling for decency, transparency and accountability in government.
I put my hand up to help organise the Gosford march, on the NSW Central Coast. After taking this step and setting up the Gosord Facebook page (now Central Coast), I felt a bit overwhelmed and thought to myself “what have I just done”? I did a call out on the page for volunteers and had a great response. I set up a Facebook group we could liaise in and this grew into countless nights organising the march and and promoting it via the social media.
The Gosford March in March was very successful, with an estimated 1200 people marching, which is amazing for Gosford and probably the largest rally Gosford has ever had. Nationwide we were 100,000 strong. Even though 50,000 marched in Melbourne and we were seemingly hard to ignore, the mainstream media still managed to ignore us.
I also went to March in May in Sydney and was part of the organising team for March in August on the Central Coast. I have to say all three Marches were a positive and inspiring experience. They were well-organised, peaceful, and had great, well-informed speakers. There were a wide range of people represented: young, old, students, professionals, disabled, and people from a range of political back grounds, including a few disgruntled LNP voters.
If you have never been to a rally or don’t know anything about rallies, then it is easy to misunderstand the purpose of the March Australia Marches and dismiss the people marching as just lefties having a whinge or people who want handouts. That way it can be brushed under the carpet instead of acknowledging that most people who marched are hardworking, educated people who have paid taxes their whole life. Many are either personally affected or know someone who is affected by the government’s policies.
Many who aren’t affected are informed enough to know what the impacts of theses policies are on the poor and our environment. It is a strange thing when some of the people, who are most informed, genuinely concerned, and trying to contribute to making change for the better, are the ones labelled as lefties or whingers. I am actually not a member of any political party. Personally, I think we need a third major party and also to make some changes to ‘the system’. I don’t like to talk endlessly about politics or push my beliefs on to people, although I have no problem standing up for social justice, inequality, human rights and the environment. For me it is not about political parties but about humanity, truth and doing what is right.
It is quite easy to get caught up in propaganda without any real knowledge or understanding of the issues, where we have deep-seated political beliefs that aren’t based on any facts or of any use in reality. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all take the time to do a bit of research, use intelligent evaluation and actually have an adult conversation about some of the issues and come together up with some better solutions? It is time to move beyond the sudden deadly silence when anything remotely political is mentioned. Why can’t we promote understanding and education on issues, instead of judgement and fear? It is mind-boggling to have an election based around ‘stop the boats’ and ‘axe the tax’.
Are Australian’s really so concerned about a small amount of asylum seekers that wouldn’t even fill the stadium at Homebush? Especially since most asylum seekers come by plane? Do we ever hear ‘stop the planes’? What about ‘stop the ignorance’ and ‘stop the fear mongering’? Using words like ‘leaners’ and ‘illegals’ does nothing to help people understand the situation. Why not tell people that ‘it is not illegal to seek asylum, whether by boat, plane or any other means necessary’, and that most boat people have proved to be genuine refugees? It even says so on the parliamentary website. Why pander to people’s fear and ignorance? This type of ignorance is being fueled by political ideology and the media. If people were a little more educated then they most probably would have a different view. More understanding does not necessarily mean open borders either. It means we can work together on creating a more humane policy.
Australia has a fairly well-targeted welfare system. It was created as a safety net for those who need it most. Yes there is plenty of room for improvement, but labeling people as ‘leaners’ or wanting handouts does not help at all. This type of attitude and labeling creates unnecessary stigma and actually demoralises people. Most people on welfare payments do not want to be on welfare. Newstart is way below the minimum wage and very difficult to live on. Most want a job and do not want to be in the position they are in. It is unfair to lump everyone together, just because a few take advantage of the system. There will always be people who take advantage of the system, who lie, who steal. There are unfortunately some people like these everywhere, and in every industry. This type of stigma is not fair on pensioners, the single parents, low income families, those who were made redundant, who have not enough jobs in their area, who are disabled, ill . . . the list goes on and on.
What ever happened to the view that those doing it tough were seen as ‘Aussie battlers’? Everyone wants to add their judgements and criticisms. Before passing judgement about certain groups of people, ask yourself: have I ever experienced, met, worked with or found out more information about asylum seekers, homeless people, unemployed or people with a disability? If the answer is no, then why do you have such strong opinions on something you have no experience with and know nothing about? I understand that some people aren’t into politics, especially since watching parliament can be like watching a high school rabble. It is quite easy to see that type of nonsense and decide not give a crap, because whatever I or say do is not going to make much difference any way. I am too busy; I have my own life to live. I have a roof over my head, I have friends, I have beer, and it doesn’t affect me. Why should I care? Why should I go marching around like an idiot for something that doesn’t affect me? Why don’t people just contribute to democracy with their vote at the next election? These are some of the attitudes and comments I have come across. Is it really so silly to take the time to do some research and have some discussion about what is happening in our country and our communities? Are we just supposed to stick our head in the sand like an ostrich and be oblivious to everything until next election rolls around? Does it not matter that the funds have been ripped out of vital community services? My electorate has high youth unemployment rate and the local youth refuge has lost its funding. Maybe these youths should go and get a job. Who cares if there are more unemployed than jobs available, they should all just get a job. Does it not matter that there are homeless families sleeping in cars because there is a lack of services to support the homeless? Maybe these homeless should just chose not to be homeless. Does it not matter that abuse, domestic violence, redundancy and mental health issues are some of the reasons for homelessness? Does it not matter that my electorate has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Australia, yet funding to one of our local domestic violence support services has been cut? Legal aid has also been cut, so it is harder for women who are victims of domestic violence to ‘leave’. These are just a few of the many Central Coast, NSW issues. I’m sure each electorate has their own issues.
Marching will not change the government or the government’s ideology, but it will help to raise awareness of important issues and get people thinking, talking and contributing new ideas. We can’t all help everyone all the time or change the world on our own. Every person’s input makes a difference and when working together we can make change. We can all make the effort to question things and become a little more informed. This is the whole point of marching; to raise awareness and in unity work together for the common good: Australians. The more people that become aware, the more likely change will happen.