I was moved this morning to be among 60,000 odd people attending the Dawn Service at The Shrine of Remembrance.

In record numbers, we stood and reflected on the sacrifices of thousands of service men and women throughout Australia's short history.

Having resisted this very public and very nationalistic acknowledgement of our imperialistic military history for almost all of my life, I went to my first ever Dawn Service last year. I was surprised at my own reaction. I found it an almost overwhelmingly emotional experience to stand in solemn silence for an hour with tens of thousands of others to pay tribute to those who have given their lives for us.

Similarly this year, as I stood there listening to the words of a returned serviceman, I was struck by the way we once romanticised war. Our naive willingness to send healthy young men to fight and die seems absurd today.

The rose-tint of nostalgia that colours the eras of the first and second world war has since worn off. The good-versus-bad narrative that conflicts once thrived on seems far too simplistic today. The era of blind patriotism has passed. We know too much.

Once upon a time, half of all men who we're eligible to serve voluntarily left their jobs and families to fight for their country and to preserve the sovereignty of a country they'd never visited, often against a largely unfamiliar adversary. Off they went to foreign lands with a vague sense of adventure and grand notions of national service.

For every 10 men, two would not return, 4 would return physically wounded, 1 would suffer from debilitating mental illness, and the final three would never be the same - and nor would the people they left at home.

It is still a tragedy. One that continues to impact on successive generations of families and individuals globally. But honestly, I think (and I hope) it is a tragedy that could and will never happen again. To us at least.

While people all over the world are still battling for the freedom we now enjoy thanks to the sacrifices of those so many years ago, surely we know too much to put ourselves a situation of that scale again - both as individuals and as a country.

Yet people still serve. But at least now they do so with their eyes open, unable to avoid the historic (and current) reality that war is a game that can't be won.

In a country like (white) Australia - a young country with so few traditions and rituals - the annual commemoration of our shared history and good fortune is a rare collective experience. The display of empathy and compassion we see on Anzac Day is a reminder of our true nature that is often confused and lost among political rhetoric, and a welcome chance to reflect on what we have, and how much we were once prepared to sacrifice for the freedom and quality of life we take for granted in this country.

And a last word from the brilliant Michael Leunig.


Excellent further reading:

The Anzac tradition is one of justice, of equality and of that much-used term - mateship. It is not the whole story of our nation, but it forms part of our story. Their legacy is not something to be taken lightly.

Post-Election Feels

I've been in a really deep dark hole the last couple of days since the election result predictions that we'd long dreaded were revealed to be accurate. I guess they call this grief. I don't know how I didn't see it coming, but I'm really upset - to the extent that all the tools I'd usually use to lift my mood have lost their effect. Not only does no amount of crunchy, sweet, salty or deepfried food make me feel better, in fact I've completely lost my appetite - this has never happened to me before!!! The miraculous Melbourne sunshine is no longer as incredible as it was last week and the week before. And contrary to Tony's Magic Consumer Confidence Fairy theory I don't want to buy stuff - although I think his theory was based more on positive feelings than mass depression.

But being a habitual over-thinker, I truly believe I can pull myself out of this by working my way through all my feelings in a rational, logical way. So here goes:

Why I'm upset:

  • I'm delighted that Adam Bandt has retained his seat of Melbourne and that he's my elected representative. I'm really proud of Melbourne for displaying the requisite level of compassion and long term thinking expected of human beings. But the fact that Adam is the only Greens Member nationally has reminded me that I live in a bubble of social consciousness, and the people I work with, trade ideas and stories with, and generally have ongoing contact with are the exception, not the rule in this country. You only need look at the craziness that's happening in Queensland and New South Wales to see that Melbourne is a progressive island paradise in a sea of selfishness and greed. The fact that we voted the Coalition into power fills me with such a sense of despair at what Australians think is important. Then again, perhaps I'm not giving everyone enough credit - perhaps it is actually a reaction to Rudd's PNG Policy.

  • The Coalition's 3 big policies are complete bullshit in my opinion. Here's why:
  1. The economy is already great. We're in an incredibly fortunate position, we're affluent and comfortable - especially when you compare where many other developed countries are. The Coalition are petrified of debt, even though now is a super cheap time to get your hands on some, and spend it on much needed long term infrastructure upgrades for things like public transport NOT roads. If the debt is really as big a deal as they've made it out to be all election campaign, brace yourself for some serious austerity measures.
  2. The boats are not scary and neither are asylum seekers - but Abbott has reduced the complexity of the global political climate, and all of our border security and international policy issues to a three word slogan, turning Australia into a hateful, racist, elitist place to be. I'm worried about where policy on migration and refugees is going to go. I feel pretty confident that it won't be to a place of more compassion and opportunity for the persecuted and marginalised.
  3. Continuing to ignore our over-reliance on mining is the surest way to kill our economic future. In my opinion, the good fortune that we're well endowed with natural resources other countries want to burn, should benefit all of us collectively, not line the pockets of a few. Scrapping the Carbon Tax and removing the Mining Tax - the only other mechanism for this money to be reinvested (in, like, I don't know, renewable energy, education and research, for example) seems incredibly short sighted. We're resting on our laurels and ignore the realities of our changing climate and the changed global economy. China won't want our coal forever, they've got their own pollution apocalypse to deal with.
  • With some of the senate results coming through it is absolutely undeniable to me that the political system in Australia is fundamentally broken. Collectively, we're frustrated and disenchanted with the major parties, but the minor parties have only a small amount of influence, and. And while I we're extremely affluent, we're convinced we're all hard done by, and consequentially we're not making any kind of progress toward lasting prosperity for our country. And while we're talking about a working democracy, it seems we've forgotten an unbiased media is an essential ingredient. As long as Australian media ownership looks like it does currently, we'll never have true democratic process.

  • The Coalition have become great at being in opposition - assisted by Rudd and his ego. But I'm not convinced they'll actually be any good at governing. Beyond their slogans and their dot point plans, it all just feels so shortsighted.

  • With the glaring exception of the extremely biased Murdoch press, it seems almost everyone else thinks it is a bad idea for the Coalition to be leading this country. The party were petrified Abbott would screw their chances, avoiding any opportunity for him to put his foot in his mouth throughout the entire campaign. When the success of their campaign is contingent on how well he kept his mouth shut, we know we're in a bit of bother. He didn't reveal costings for any of his policies until mere days prior to the election, and evidently no-one was bothered and voted for him anyway.

  • I don't know what I can do to fix it - I feel powerless. I know that the stuff we're doing at the Centre for Sustainability Leadership is really important. But at times like these I'm reminded that we're just scratching the surface. I wrote previously about finding the most powerful levers to access - and I had thought that politics/policy change was one of them. I think now is the time to be focusing on others.

  • I'm kicking myself that I didn't post all this before the election. What good is it for me to be whinging now that it's all over? But I guess I naively thought that things would come out in the wash, that results would not be as bad as they were predicted to be, and common sense would prevail. That didn't quite work out.

Cheer Up Buttercup:

  • Maybe this result will be for the better. The wonderful Andrew P Street wrote a series of great content in the lead up to the fateful day over on The Vine. And in his post on Thursday he wrote about the positive side of Australia electing it's own George W Bush. "...if you like things like education, healthcare, environmental protection, workers rights, refugee rights, gender equality or any of that kind of thing, you’re going be getting angrier and angrier. And that’s what’s good. That’s what we need."According to Mr Street, this result could be just the thing we need for the political Left to get its shit together and actually build a credible alternative to the dominant Right. Plus, it wasn't such a whitewash that the Coalition can get away with blatantly raping the country, we hope. The cynical side of me thinks that it could also be just the extra taste of power the Coalition need to start killing each other off, as we've witnessed with the Labor Party for the last 6 years.

  • In the eloquent words of Craig Eloranta, "Elections are just there to give the illusion of choice and change. The 'machine' will just keep chugging along as normal." Maybe he's right. Maybe nothing will really change. With this resounding defeat, I've realised that we can't rely on the political system to change things for us - we need to be responsible for the change we want. Maybe the traditional political system isn't the best way for change anyway. There is plenty that can be done while our tired, broken old political system tries to figure out how to fix itself.

  • At least I live in Melbourne, where people actually have some humanity and a little bit of foresight. Plus, there's a whole world out there that does not care at all about Australia - we're a blip on the radar for the rest of the world. The rest of the world is dealing with much bigger issues. And that's where I'll be turning my attention when it comes to making a difference.

  • At this point, it looks like Tony's daughters are all virgins so we don't have any more of his descendants on the way. (That was a low blow, I don't like bringing them into it - so why the hell did he?)

Turn that frown upside down:

If you're down in the doldrums like me, I've crowd sourced (ie, asked facebook) a few ways for you to lift your spirits. As always, listening to music makes me feel better. So I made myself a playlist. Paramore's Still Into You is my favourite right now - it must be all the dancing around with a parasol. Hayley Williams almost has me convinced I should give myself a neon two-tone dye job, but for now I'm just settling for bright pink lippy. It helps, believe me!

Watching videos of baby goats also helps. So do cat photos. And Amy Poehler. Also, yoga and meditation. I haven't mastered it yet, but I'm working on it.

Also, another gem and shift in perspective from Craig Eloranta,

"I think all you can do is choose to take it for what it is and go about your days doing the things you love. Just got to take in all the amazing stuff this planet has to offer. Look at life on a micro level once in a while. Influence and effect what is directly around you. That’s where you can actually make change (and with a bit of luck that change will filter out and reach a wider audience). If you come out of it with a smile on your face then you win. If you let all the political nonsense get to you… it will eat you up."

So with that in mind, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. Do it better, and remember to take plenty of time to stop and smell the roses. Because while all this mess is happening in Canberra, there are a whole heap of people out there doing great things and creating change, without waiting for it to come from the top. And as Craig says, maybe this stuff will filter out and influence those folks up there.

Thanks my friends who responded to my despondent facebook post this morning. You've restored my will to live.

Talk to me. Tell me how you feel.

Hope For Us Yet

Just when things were getting the better of me and I was starting to think my belief that things will work out for the best was unreasonably optimistic, this past week has restored my faith. After the election result a few weeks ago I was in a vastly different place, but things have turned around for me in a big way.

I spent most of the week in the Yarra Valley with 50 of the most inspired and inspiring emerging leaders you could ever hope to fit in one room, each of whom is passionate and driven to make the world a better place. This incredible meeting of the minds was all thanks to the Centre for Sustainability Leadership, who hosts this week-long Retreat as part of their annual Fellowship Program.


(In the interests of full disclosure, I need to remind you that I am employed by CSL, and I am absolutely biased because I think what they/we do is amazing. I completed their Fellowship Program in 2011.)

Having attended the Retreat as a Fellow in 2011, and also last year as a Speaker, I had a fair idea what to expect at this year's retreat. But again, I was blown away by the energy, commitment and steadfast belief in the possiblities. Every year, the people in the room think big, learn key skills, and start to understand what can be achieved when we tap into the the power of cross-sector collaboration. Seriously awesome stuff.

While all this was happening in the Yarra Valley, some amazing things were happening on a broader scale too. My friend Cameron Neil started a conversation about crowdfunding an independent replacement to the Climate Commission that had been axed days earlier by Tony Abbott, prompting a wave of public support. Fast forward 1 week, and The Climate Council has been set up thanks to a huge ground swell of public support, and had collected over $550,000 in donations and 55,500 Facebook followers in less than 5 days. For the record, it is now up to $800,000 + and 63,000 or so Facebook followers, and counting. If you care about unbiased science-based information being made available to the Australian public and you haven't donated already, I suggest you do.


For me, the fact that both of these things have happened right now, just as the IPCC release their report reiterating the certainty and magnitude of the issues we're facing, is a welcome relief. It is a reminder that great things can be done by individuals, and even greater things can be achieved when we come together as a collective.

So, go forth and do good stuff.