My first reaction when I realised I didn’t get in was a bit of a surprise – there was no reaction. I was numb. I seemed to be ok about it, I didn’t know why at the time, I was completely fine. I congratulated the others on getting in, I went home with my family, responded to the many many messages of support I received then went to bed.
This morning, I woke up quite early, I couldn’t sleep. My mind wouldn’t stop racing, all the different scenarios, all the activities of the last few months of campaigning, all the different things I’m involved in and all the things I’m standing for were going round and round in my head all at once. And then it happened. The reality of what happened and my feelings about it hit me on the head with a shock. An overwhelming feeling of anger then sadness swept over me. It wasn’t because of not getting into Council or the process involved or about the others that did get in at all that brought on this anger and sadness. It came down to why I wanted to run for Council in the first place – and then the tears flowed.
This is what I reflected on as the tears flowed:
Our forests that are our life support systems are currently being ripped out and abused before our eyes. Like the Toolangi Forest, the home to the endangered Leadbeater possum, Victoria’s state emblem, which is being clear felled as we speak. The Whipstick Forest, our own National Park is being burned at an alarming rate to supposedly protect us from fire when all it’s actually doing is destroying the habitat at too frequent a rate so it can’t recuperate. Our Wellsford Forest that is being stripped of it’s habitat because anyone is allowed to go in and collect that habitat and use if for firewood. And our surrounding bush that we love is at threat because of the very real risk of urban sprawl and development particularly as Bendigo’s Residential Strategy is up for review and a high proportion of Councillors have a development background.
Our current way of life and the systems set up to support this way of life are no longer working. Our waste systems, our energy supply systems, our transport systems, our business systems, our consumption patterns, our food systems are all failing us and are degrading our land, air, water, soil, forests and health.
Our society is getting busier and busier every day and we continue to do things in isolation. We are experiencing more unhappiness, more mental illness and more hardship every day.
All of this makes me so sad, particularly because I know that there is another way. Getting present to this sadness again this morning made me also get clearer on what this other way looks like.
You see, I have this vision that I have been unable to express until now. This vision is what I am dedicating my life to. How to achieve this vision could take many forms, will take many people working together and may take a lifetime to achieve. Being a Councillor was just one way to help achieve this vision, there are many other ways too.
So here’s the vision:
Part 1: Our wonderful forests and natural places of beauty are adequately protected and restored for all to enjoy and respect.
Part 2: We have transitioned away from the unsustainable practices of our old outdated systems and have created new systems that give us a healthy happy lifestyle, that are good for the earth and provide for future generations.
Part 3: We have brought back to life local community and human connections – our streets are buzzing with life, community gardens, kids playing on the streets, bikes everywhere. There is the sharing of home grown food, cars, tools, stuff. There is culture, colour, music, dancing. We look after each other during good and bad times and we continually create the future that we want together.
When I reflect on the two pictures – where we are now, and what this vision for the future I have, I am ever more aware of the huge gap between the two. I feel that the gap is lessening when it comes to the community and local human connections. When we look around we see some amazing communities and initiatives being created like the knitting ladies who come together weekly to create their yarn bombing projects that bring colour and life to otherwise dreary places. Or the Bendigo Community Farmers Market that not only supports our local farmers but brings together people and music and culture. And I could name so many more fantastic initiatives – towards zero waste action group, edible eaglehawk, Bendiog for Homeless Youth etc etc etc.
But when I look at the first two parts of where we are at – the unsustainable practices of our current systems and the destroying of our surrounding beautiful, awe inspiring forests I am really disheartened. These two components are impacted greatly by local, state and federal policies and legislation. These two areas are in desperate need of our attention. If we don’t speak up about them, then who will? If we are not the ones making up the rules that set the fate of these (and I’m definitely not now that I’m not on Council) then how can we influence the changes that need to be made?
The only way we can have a say is if we influence the decision makers through sheer numbers. We need to speak up. We need to speak up together and let our voice be heard. When things come up like the Residential Development Strategy, the Transport and Landuse Strategy that will set the direction of our city and when things such as the National Renewable Energy Target or the State Wind Policy or the National Food Plan or the State climate change strategy or anything else that impacts the vision we have for the future, then we need to speak up. I cannot stress this enough. We don’t have money, we don’t have big corporations backing us, we just have us, we have our voice, we have our numbers. We need to speak up and allow others to speak up as well. We need to make sure that everyone knows what we want. If we don’t shout it out to the world then who is going to know?
If there is one thing I will take from this whole running for Council experience, it is a much stronger determination to speak up honestly and openly on the issues that are important to me, to us and to future generations. I’ve already started.
So here is my question to you: What is important to you? What will you speak up about? Will you join me in speaking up for our future? How will you do this? What do you need?
Please raise your glass if you are willing to do what it takes to stand up, be heard and take action on the creation of our wonderful future!