Opinion || Year ahead offers rising sense of optimism

Artistic talent: Lydia Fairhall (left) Rachael Maza and Caroline Martin and from Ilbijerri Theatre Company. Photo Chris Hopkins
Artistic talent: Lydia Fairhall (left) Rachael Maza and Caroline Martin and from Ilbijerri Theatre Company. Photo Chris Hopkins

It’s always a job getting started after the break. Australians are experts at switching off.

Sand and sunburn cream and white wine in the sun - that’s a heaping plate of inertia right there. In January, I need jumper cables, caffeinated jumper cables.

The holiday season can also be a hard time for the lonely, lost and troubled, which makes it the best time to reflect on whatever can make us all stronger and healthier.

We should all take time to think about what will buoy our neighbourhood, our communities and the nation. I have.

And I see many things with the snap, crackle and pop that are inspiring me to get on with the business of trying to make the world a better place. Here are some of the things that give me hope we can do just that.

  • Women in politics

I think we’re approaching the tipping point where being a woman wins more votes, and that gives me hope. Among those helping this happen is our friend Carol Schwartz, AM, who has backed the Pathways to Politics Program for Women with funds from the Trawalla Foundation, joining forces with Melbourne University to help women reach office at the local, state and federal levels.

  • Young people in politics

If life expectancy keeps rising, the average 18-year-old can expect to witness New Year 2100. It’s not surprising then, that they are looking past the next election to demonstrate about the state of the environment. It is unfortunate to see purblind pollies complaining these young activists should go back to their desks and instead recite their times tables till the icecaps melt, but their stand gives me hope.

I think we’re approaching the tipping point where being a woman wins more votes, and that gives me hope.

  • Old people out of politics

It relieved some of my anxieties at the recent Victorian elections to see voters rise above the low opinions some in the media hold of us. They threw bloody chum in the water, inviting us to rage at refugees, addicts, and schoolchildren with non-“mainstream” sexuality, yet we passed by in good humour.

  • Indigenous theatre on the rise

A recent show by the Ilbijerri Theatre Company reminded me of the prodigious indigenous artistic talents – and the hope that comes with it – bubbling forth at the intersections of historic injustice and resurgent identity.

  • An injection of talent seeking answers

As a member of the ithree advisory board for the microbe research faculty at the University of Technology in Sydney, I’ve been dazzled by the students and researchers seeking for solutions to our problems.

It’s hard to believe “we’ll-all-be-rooned” in their presence.

  • Policy based on evidence

Looking at the tooth-and-claw battles in Canberra, where bi-partisan policy is dismissed as insufficiently wedging, it’s easy to forget that there is also progress in proving whether policies actually work.

But the pain of every Barrier Reef funding scandal also draws us closer to economist Nicholas Gruen’s idea for an Evaluator-General – a government office that would build evaluation into everything the government does. It’s just a hope, but a positive one.

  • Not-for-profits joining forces

It lifts my mood too, that our social enterprise will soon move into a new shared office hosting several organisations with room for up to 400 staff. Headed by my deputy Kathy Richardson, we’re dedicated to equipping not-for-profits with new tools, new goals, and new challenges, because we believe community organisations are the nurseries where hope is born.

  • The promise of youth

At home too, the year promises so much. Two years ago, my partner Brendan and I trained to become foster carers, thinking we’d help with respite care for kids on weekends and an occasional two-week stint.  Somehow, our first placement was with John, who stayed for 14 months. When he couldn’t return home and staying with other foster families proved difficult – as well as the fact he missed lording it over our staff and explaining how life worked – we decided we loved him and wanted to care for him permanently.

We are now incredibly excited and scared to have adopted a 14-year-old with a healthy and gifted attitude. 

And so, I begin the year with fresh hope and I think poet Emily Dickinson puts it best: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.”

Denis Moriarty is group managing director of OurCommunity.com.au