March 22, 2019

CEO Update - March 2019

Horror and Hope

“The horror. The horror.”

I couldn’t help but think of this quote from Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness after the atrocities last week in Christchurch. Another act of hate and terrorism; another mass shooting. While there is no hierarchy of horror, grief and loss in these incidents, this one hit our brothers and sisters in New Zealand and many of us in Australia especially hard.

We stand with New Zealand, and we stand with light, over the darkness and evil behind such a devastating act. Our hearts are broken not just for the Muslim community, but for everyone who’s been affected by this.

In response, we witnessed incredible leadership from NZ’s Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern. In Australia, we saw an outpouring of disgust in reaction to Senator Anning’s comments: within a week over 1.4 million people have signed the petition to have him removed for “hate speech”. This, coupled with the estimated 1.4 million school children and young people from 2,233 cities and towns across 128 countries who went on strike for climate action last week, suggests civic engagement and action is alive and well.

Which leads us to our polls. As Australia votes, it’s important that we consider not just who we are voting for, but what they stand for and how they are going to contribute to a stronger, fairer, culturally safe and empathetic country.

What are the values that sit behind their policies?

What stand will they take in moments of greatness and in moments of challenge?

Are they likely to bring the country together, or divide us?

Our governments are responsible for local, state, territory and national affairs. Their roles are vast and include areas such as providing essential infrastructure for society to function effectively, meeting and supporting the human rights of all citizens, setting the economic framework, monitoring, regulating and legislating, protecting the environment, filling gaps when markets fail and providing important social support. Day to day (among other things), this includes housing, utilities, energy, how our cities and communities function, transportation, health and education systems, social supports when we need them, and, importantly, helping to create a society that is inclusive, celebrates diversity and supports a fair society for all.

Now, more than ever we need our governments to be fulfilling key roles and responding to some of our greatest needs in these areas. While we have a strong economy – we are the only country in the world to have experienced uninterrupted economic growth over the last 27 years – we still struggle with many critical social issues. Let me just list a few:

- Many households continue to do it tough with the costs of living rising faster than wages for low income households;

- More than 1 in 6 children (17.3%) are living in poverty which places them at increased risk of deprivation – such as not having a stable, secure place to live, not having enough food to eat, and missing out on learning.

- On any given night, 1 in 200 people and 1 in 100 young people are homeless and many more are struggling to cover the rising costs of housing;

- And we continue to see prevailing educational, employment and other inequities.

As we go to the polls, I am hopeful for a stronger, fairer, culturally safe and empathetic country and hopeful that as citizens we all take our democratic right to vote for people whose values, policies and leadership will help us achieve this.

 

Professor Kristy Muir, CEO

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