On May 1st, over three hundred people gathered at the Martin Place Amphitheatre in protest against the Australian Government’s voting reforms for this year’s upcoming Federal election.
Starting at 2pm, the gathering was slow to rise as participants and passer-by pedestrians stopped to take a moment to listen to the protest voicing the discontent against the Government’s choice to change the voting system. The stands eventually filled with attendees made up of a number of conservative voters, alongside supporters of other minor parties.
In interview, Family First Senator Bob Day emphasised the importance of conservative voters participating on the day, stating that “[the rally] shows that people aren’t going to take lying down this taking away the voters rights,” he says. “These laws are taking away the voter’s right to delegate to their favoured minor party and preferences”, in what reveals to the government that there is social unrest with the decisions that will affect the future Australian voters.
This rally is just one of many that occur within Australia in response to governmental change, and one of a number that will surely grow.
Which brings about the question, what do events like rally’s against governmental reforms signify in the current Australian political climate?
And what power do communities have when they come together?
ACTIVISM; what & why
Although activism has varying definitions, the general consensus is that activism is focused on consistent campaigning for a specific cause. This can be towards either social, political, economic, or environmental issues in effort to make changes or improvements within society through varying forms.
Activism, to most, is often viewed in negative terms. It’s either perceived as violent or aggressive in intent, what’s more is its effectiveness through its presence in the public arena. While in some instances that negative perception bears some truth, it is not always the case.
For some, activism has become their way to express and fight for their right to express their beliefs. A right that many Australians maintain the ability to do without vilification or governmental restriction.
Within a political climate that is constantly changing, activism presents an opportunity to think about the potential that activism can offer the conservative community.
The Australian 2011 Census recorded 61.1% of Australians listing themselves as Christian, with denominations ranging from Roman Catholicism, Anglican and Protestant.
But when only a small fragment of that supposed population comes to rise against the conservative values that Australia is based on, what will government to but change laws and regulations according to the wishes of a more ‘vocal’ people?
A COMMUNITY IN ACTION
While a large number of Australian’s may step back at the thought of engaging in something so ‘extreme’, it’s important to realise the range of different kinds of pro-activism that conservative Australian’s can involve themselves in.
rallies & protests
Looking back upon the rally event on May 1, where conservative voters gathered in support of the protest paints a clear picture of the potential of the entire movement.
Whilst mostly subdued compared to the larger protests broadcasted on TV, the concept of a public declaration of one’s opposition to a governmental change is one of many ways that conservatives can work towards keeping their values and interests within Australian laws.
“All people should stand up,” says Family First Senator Bob Day, as he cited the importance of conservative Australian voters using the opportunity to support the cause. “Politics is just public morality. Public policy is just private morality writ large, a big version of people’s individual morality.”
For people who find may find themselves reluctant to be proactive in making their voice heard, Senator Day says this,
“If you don’t engage, and don’t let your views be known… someone else will. And somebody else’s morality will take hold.”
the sydney easter parade
Earlier this year, the Sydney Easter Parade took to the streets of Sydney City CBD on the 28th of March in celebration of faith and the name of Jesus. With the tagline of “Unstoppable Faith”, close to 3000-4000 people joined in the event, a celebration that included live music, food stalls, and entertainment for the whole family.
Event Director Ben Irawan spoke positively of the event, emphasising the importance of “unity” in the conservative community and for “Christians [to have] a united voice in the city, no matter what denomination you are, as long as you believe in Jesus”
The Sydney Parade has been in existence in various forms over the past twenty years, but has now become a day of celebration rather than an outright protest. Irawan encountered the event six years ago, seeing its potential despite the small number of participants, and sought to help the organisers generate more ideas in attracting the larger community.
Whilst the parade is not wholly evangelistic in intent, Irawan speaks of the parade as an opportunity to show that faith and belief in Jesus is still very much present in Australia, stating that the event is an opportunity to “celebrate the name of Jesus in our city and show to the City of Sydney that Christianity is alive and well”.
Events such as the Sydney Easter parade afford the conservative community a platform in which they can proudly engage with a community-wide expression of their beliefs and values in the public arena.
the power of social media
Another change in the world of activism is its transition to the online sphere of the internet, in what most would recognise as “social media activism”.
This method of campaign has what physical campaigns don’t; it allows for the sharing of information at immediate speed, allowing readers to be up to date with current events in real-time. This also allows for citizen journalism to truly flourish with just a click of a button.
What most individuals may not realise is that the mere ‘sharing’ of links to web articles, videos and photos can act as a method of activism in its support for whatever cause or news issue that interests them.
Social media has even allowed for the use of ‘#hashtags’ to be used as a way of users to express their opinions and support of current issues in society in what is now recognised as ‘social media movements’, such as the #IceBucketChallenge that swept the online sphere in 2014.
Just last year, following the shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College began the #YesIAmAChristian movement via Facebook and Twitter that marked the final words of some of the victims that were shot due to their Christian beliefs; a hashtag movement that is still being used today.
— Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) October 2, 2015
— Melissa A. (@blingbringer) October 3, 2015
While Australia has not encountered such tragedy, one cannot deny the power of the social media to impact a greater public. Activism is no longer a thing for everyday conservatives to be afraid of, rather to opportunity to use social media as a way to communicate and share with ‘friends’ as well as show a community united by their beliefs.
THE POWER OF UNITY:
So what does this all mean for Christian and conservative Australians?
Activism comes in all kinds of forms and possibilities that are all within the means of Christian and conservative Australians today; whether it be through participation in public events, rally or protests, or even social media.
Just like the voting reforms that may affect conservative values within Australia, in order to keep values within the Australian government the conservative community need to look forward and be more proactive in the opportunities presented to them. And through that, can they make positive changes in our nation.
[Hannah Rae Ramos, SID: 312068735. Word count: 1250]