A UNITED COMMUNITY; Its Effects, Potential and Opportunity

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A sign of discontent from minor party voters at the Martin Place Rally on May 1, 2016. Photo by: Hannah Ramos

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.

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Photo by: Hannah Ramos

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.”

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Senator Bob Day speaking at the rally against the Australian voting reforms. Photo by: Hannah Ramos

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.

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2016’s Sydney Easter Parade marching through the city. Photo by: Paper Cranes Productions

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.

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Photo by: Public Doman Pictures

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.

 

 

 

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?

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Photo by: derek*b

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]

 

How One Inner Sydney Night Market is Building Bridges With Food

By Tam Allenby 

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For a moment I’m transported somewhere else, though I’m not sure where. With the smell of grilling meat and ground spices carried by the cooking smoke and steam wafting through the air, it could be India or Sri Lanka; Cambodia or Vietnam; Lebanon or Iran.

Really I’m in the Inner West of Sydney- Marrickville to be precise. But at the night Street Food Markets, held at the Addison Road Community Centre each month, it feels like you’re in all these places at once.

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Crowds enjoying the second Street Food Markets at the Addison Road Community Centre, Marrickville. [Photo: Tam Allenby]

You’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse selection of foods in such a small area anywhere in the world. Walking through the crowd, stomach rumbling, I face a tough decision. Should I try the arepas from Colombia, grab a Sri Lankan ulundu vada, or tuck into a plate of Cambodian lod cha?

I decide to make peace with my inner glutton and settle with all three.

Besides, any regret I might experience half an hour into a self-induced food coma would be easily offset by the fact that at these markets, you really are stuffing yourself for a good cause.

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Vietnamese rice paper rolls being prepared by the team at Mama Made Caterers. [Photo: Tam Allenby]
How so, you ask? Well, the event is a joint project between the Addison Road Community Centre Organisation (ARCCO) and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). In a nutshell, the aim of the market is to “bring cultures together and support the small businesses of recent migrants and refugees”.

Judging by the good vibes and large crowd that turned out on a cool Saturday night for the second edition of the markets, it was certainly a success. Feedback on the Facebook page was similarly positive.

Having missed the first event held the previous month, I contacted Alex McInnis from ARCCO to ask her a few questions about the aim, history and future of the markets.

She told me that while the last edition hadn’t run so smoothly due to some “teething issues”, with long lines and the stallholders selling out of food, this was more a result of the huge level of support that the community had provided.

“It was just an overwhelming level of support, and stallholders just simply couldn’t cater to so many people… but that’s a good thing. Everyone was really understanding, for a lot of the stallholders it was their first time time trading”.

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Stallholders from the Lakemba Community Market. [Photo: Tam Allenby]
She also pointed to the real value that an event like this brings to the community and to the stallholders themselves.

“They’re just so excited to do something that they’re passionate about. Employment opportunities aren’t always ample and they don’t want to just sit around, they want to do this: earn a living, and be part of something.”

“Beyond the financial aspect of earning a real income, they’re sharing their food, sharing their culture, getting to know other stallholders, getting to know the visitors…”

With the 2016 federal election now less than a month away, and asylum seekers and refugees one of the issues that will define the campaign of the major parties, events like this one can help with the often negative portrayal of refugees in the media.

A 2013 study by the University of Queensland found that asylum seekers and refugees are portrayed in a visually dehumanising manner by mainstream news sources, usually as large crowds or groups rather than individuals or families.

They argue that this “reinforces a politics of fear that explains why refugees are publicly framed as people plight, dire as it is, nevertheless does not generate a compassionate political response”.

Alex from ARCCO would certainly agree with this sentiment.

“Refugees are talked about so much, it’s such a big topic… they’re being talked about all the time but do people really think about who they’re talking about? Someone’s grandfather, someone’s son, someone’s daughter.”

I spoke to Alex only days after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton hit the headlines for his controversial remarks concerning the “illiteracy and innumeracy” of potential asylum seekers, who he argued would “take Australian jobs” or “languish” on the dole.

When asked about this, Alex’s response was insightful: focussing on the qualifications or education level of asylum seekers is missing the point, and can even be considered classist.

“These are people – some of them educated, some not so much – but they’re still contributing and sharing in such an amazing way, and employment is not always the measure of that”.

The third edition of the markets will be held on Saturday the 18th of June, the evening before Refugee Week kicks off for 2016. With more food vendors, craft stalls and a live band all in the pipeline, Alex is firmly positive about the future of the event.

“I think it’s just growing every time”.

Though its easy to let your tastebuds get carried away when confronted with so many delicious treats, a recent update on the ARCCO Facebook page cements the underlying importance of the markets in the current political climate.

The theme for Refugee Week is “with courage let us all combine”- and that’s exactly what we do! In the face of an election campaign targeting asylum seekers and refugees, we believe coming together and supporting new Sydney-siders is one of the most powerful things we can do as a community to break the racism and classism being displayed.’

Coming together through food. It may be a cliché, but in the case of the Addison Road Street Food Markets at least, it’s also a reality.

Gallery: Street Food Market #2 (May 21, 2016)

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Conservative Community Unite to Make Their Voice Heard in the Australian Government

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An announcement was made earlier this year by the Turnbull Government of a Senate voting reform to be implemented in the Australian election on July 2nd this year. Under the new laws, parties will no longer be able to swap preferences in order to secure seats in the senate. Furthermore, voters will have their ballot discarded if their preferred candidates are excluded from the race, resulting in a potential loss of thousands of votes in the upcoming election.

These changes to the current voting system will hinder minor and independent political parties in entering the senate, effectively silencing the voices of thousands of Australian voters.

 

 

In response to the voting reforms being passed, Family First Federal Chairman and Senator Bob Day, who challenged the voting reform, expressed to the ABC that:

“Voters who choose to be represented by a minor party or, rather, who do not want to be represented or do not vote for a major party under these new laws, will see their vote, by and large, exhaust.”

 

Aim & Interviews

In talking about the Christian community’s reaction and pro-activeness towards changes in the political realm Dharius Daniels, founding pastor of Kingdom Church in Ewing, N.J, expressed that “Many [Christians] are silent on issues we need to speak on… Christians must reclaim the conversation and refuse to allow our voices to be minimized.”

In a similar vein, with these changes in Australian Government and the subsequent reform of the voting system, I have chosen to focus my feature article to be on the actions of the Christian community with Sydney and how they are responding to the changes in the voting systems. Tentatively titled “Mobilising the Voice of a Community: Christian community takes a stand for their place in the Australian Government.”

Through this feature article, I want to focus upon the importance of communities standing up for a cause through community activism, and the power of a united community to ensure that their opinions and voices are heard by the Australian Government.

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The article will detail the events of a rally held at Martin Place on the 1st of May, 2016 at 2pm, aiming to show the high court judges the public unrest against the vote reforms. This rally is led by the directors of the Family First political party, an independent Christian political party led by Senator Bob Day.

The feature will include an interview with Ben Irawan, a director for the Family First party, an active member within the community and is the event director of the annual Sydney Easter Parade & Family Day. Other interviews may possibly include potential on-the-spot interviews with participants and other politicians on the day of the rally.

 

Target Publication & Audience

The targeted publications of this feature article would be RELEVANT magazine/website, a publication directed towards young Christians between the ages of 20-30.

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Their aim is to produce stories that cover faith and culture, as well as facilitating discussion about “challenging worldviews and causing people to see God outside the box they’ve put Him in”. The reader demographic of the magazine presents a perspective that resonates with the issues of the my feature article, as politics and voting contribute to the future lives of young people, and whether their beliefs will be represented in the Australian government.

 

 

References:

[Hannah Rae Ramos, SID: 312068735. Word count: 550]

Cultural Healing: How one suburban market is building bridges with food

It’s become somewhat of a cliché to say that food brings people together. But for many of Australia’s recent migrants, food really can provide a way of sharing their culture and maintaining an emotional link to the homeland.

This Saturday, the Addison Road community centre in Marrickville will host a night market showing off the food, craft and music of some of these people. Food from a wide variety of countries including Liberia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Colombia and Iran will be dished up to hungry diners.

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According to the event organisers – a joint project between the Addison Road Community Centre Organisation (ARCCO), and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Surviors (STARTTS) – their aim is to ‘bring cultures together and support the small businesses of recent migrants and refugees’.

I’m planning to frame my piece against the ongoing refugee issue, a topic regularly covered in the Australian media. Just this week the PNG Supreme Court ruled the Manus Island detention centre as unconstitutional, making it a likely political battleground in the upcoming election and increasing the newsworthiness and relevance of my feature.

As various commentators and academics have noted, coverage of refugees in Australia is so often dehumanising (Bleiker et. al. 2013). We’re so used to reading about faceless boat people, crowded detention centres and the huge numbers fleeing war and conflict that it’s easy to lose track of the human side of the refugee issue. I also think its worthwhile to sometimes focus on more positive stories that cut through the doom and gloom.

My story will hopefully act as a success story that instills hope and optimism rather than fear in the reader.

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On location, I plan to do a few quick interviews with various stallholders. I expect they’ll be quite busy, so I’d also like to exchange mobile numbers and emails to organise a face-to-face or phone interview with one of the interested parties further down the track. This will allow me to hear their story as a recent migrant or refugee, to trace what they’ve put on the plate back to its origin, and to ask them about the connection between food, culture, and their new home in Australia.

I’d also like to organise an interview with the organiser of the market for a wider perspective, that looks towards the future of the event. My questions for this interviewee will provide valuable quotes for framing it in the wider refugee issue.

With more than 3,000 people attending and another 14,000 ‘interested’, the event is likely to draw a big crowd. Combined with the naturally photogenic nature of a food market, this story will be perfect for the online medium. As the iPhone camera is almost useless at night (the event goes from 4-9pm), I’ll bring along a digital SLR camera to take some good quality, high-resolution photos, which I plan to embed as a gallery.

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This feature would be ideal for websites such as the Guardian, Vice, or ABC Online who target a more ‘progressive’ and often younger, more politically engaged audience.

References: 

Bleiker, R., Campbell, D., Hutchison, E., & Nicholson, X. (2013). The visual dehumanisation of refugees. Australian Journal of Political Science, 48(4), 398-416.

 Word count: 521