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Community, livelihoods, and cultivating culture

Vibrant Volunteers are the enablers of a richer community

Mareeba Shire is blessed with a rich tapestry of family connections and strong community pride. Local groups are involved with everything from sports leagues to frog watching to competitive car restoration.

We have over a hundred local groups, organisations, and volunteer committees, all contributing to a rich community life in our Shire.

In recent years many volunteer groups have found it hard to attract members and committee officers. I am involved in a number of groups and know what a challenge this is.

A big part of this change has been the rise of “frictionless social activities” like trolling on Facebook or pumping the piccies on Instagram.

But I think a bigger issue is the fact that most of us no longer have the free time or the imperative to get out and take part in community activities.

Our work lives dominate everything, because as we know there is only one way to pay the rent. Even welfare recipients end up putting a day’s work in just trying to stay on top of government forms and demands for some new bit of information.

Since we don’t have to socialise and cooperate to achieve our individual goals, many of us have gotten out of the habit of how to conduct ourselves in the diverse and unpredictable company of our own neighbours.

There is a great opportunity for us to re-learn the habits and discipline of cooperative projects in the community. Neighbourhood groups provide a way to grow connections and meaning in our lives. And that’s good for our mental, physical and spiritual health.

As your Councillor I will work hard to find ways to support community groups. There are many ways Council can help groups survive and thrive even when the budget is minimal.

Local employment and right livelihoods

We all need a way to keep our family budgets balanced, and for most of us that means a job.

In Mareeba Shire we have a strong base of employment and local jobs are usually on offer.

But there are good jobs and jobs that are not so good. I think we need to be careful about what kind of jobs (and businesses) we promote in the Shire. There is little to gain from jobs that end up making people (and their communities) tired, poor, and sick.

I am keen to build a strong local economy. I think we need to keep more of our money circulating in the Shire and region.

As your Councillor I will always be looking for ways to encourage small, innovative businesses to start up and grow.

I’ll be looking for ways to keep our big employers profitable over the long term.

And I’ll be actively exploring other options that will enable Mareeba Shire people to enjoy a higher standard of living while living within the budgets available.

Indigenous heritage: growing an inclusive future

About one in every eight people who call Mareeba Shire home identify as having Indigenous or Torres Strait ancestry.

The other seven people are descendants of  immigrants who came here through the process of colonisation.

The dark aspects of colonisation have not been atoned, nor have the debts been repaid. This lack of proper healing will continue to fester and cause us problems until we sit down together and find a conciliation.

Indigenous rights, sovereignty, treaty, reparations…these are all fundamental to our moral foundation as a nation, and I will support anyone who takes these issues forward in good faith. I am enmeshed in this painful state of affairs and want to contribute to setting matters right.

There are complex and complicated dimensions to this conversation. In many ways, the discussion about how to make amends for the violence and dispossession of aboriginal Australia has only begun. It will continue, and I think it must be led by Indigenous voices.

In this moment, while that larger conversation is developing, I ask: “What can I do. How can I take responsibility for contributing to a more abundant and inclusive world?”

My interest is about cultivating a shared future.

The transition that must come, for my culture, is a shift from colonist mind to local heart. My own habits and values need to be tied deeply to this place, to these soils, and the living fabric of this Shire. I’ve got to leave the comfortable colonial escape capsule, always ready to jet off to someplace new where the resources are free for the picking. I need to find my wealth through local relationships and commitments.

And in the long term, the land will sort us out. Those who stay here and become part of the land will have that great privilege of being indigenous, properly. 

To my mind, what defines indigeneity is a matter of heart and commitment to country. It’s a remarkable thing to think of your body as a living expression of a specific bit of country. To be indigenous in a literal sense.

It can be useful to ask: What will the word “indigenous” mean to us in another 3 generations? Another 30? Who will have the right to call this place “my country”? Will we still be tracking that authority back to the scattered survivors of a past Indigenous civilisation? Will the folks who trace their blood back to Europe still exercise some right of dominance?

Many of us feel that the colonial cultures have had their day, and now is a time to look for transitions toward a more settled and respectful relationship with country. We are already looking 30 generations ahead to understand how we too will become indigenous to this place.

If we learn to sit together, colonists with first people, share responsibility to steward the land, fall in love with one another, have our babies in each others’ gaze, weep and bury our dead together…then surely after 30 more generations whoever is here will have earned the right to be called “indigenous”?

I think the land itself cultivates us. The indigenous is always being created within the people who have given themselves to the land. I mean every respect to those whose cultures have proven themselves capable of this commitment to country for the past millennia.

What I wish to celebrate is the fact that the country is always inviting a renewal of that relationship between people and the land. Every generation of whomever happens to be here is invited to walk more deeply into that relationship, and that has nothing to do with skin colour. It has to do with heart.

I don’t have any answers to the problem of “Indigenous disadvantage” because even the label feels like a way to lock people into a “too hard basket”. Surely there are better ways we all can help our most vulnerable neighbours find a better future, regardless of anyone’s ancestry.

And, as a general rule, I don’t agree with programs that are defined by racial criteria. There are very few programs that actually improve things by first requiring people to queue themselves up according to some idea of “blood line”.

Nonetheless, a very high percentage of the general wealth of this country flows to people with light skin, regardless of their actual merit or entitlement. That is a criminal injustice that needs to be addressed.

We need to be serious about new opportunities for young people of all colours and backgrounds. We have an amazing cultural heritage that provides the backbone for cultivating new tourism, new industry, and new livelihoods.

How will we learn to talk about these matters? What symbols will we agree to unite around? What will be the new cultural practices that start bringing us together in the next 10 years, 5 years, this year?

As your Councillor, I will show up every day ready to listen, learn, and respectfully engage with these questions. We create our culture together. I reckon it’s a good thing to pay attention to.

On the campaign trail

Places around the Shire I’ve visited for meetings, conversations, and observation since 01 Jan 2020.

Total travel = 4,015 KM 
Last update = 09 Mar

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