Ideas for Australian Activism

Hello Quokkas. Here at No Award we are all about activism and empowerment and knowing your enemies but, just as our popular media is so dominated by US voices that we had to start No Award to centre us here in Antipodia, we’ve found the statements and actions around activism to be very UScentric.

So to start your 2017 off right, we’ve pulled together an Australia-focused how-to on activism and maintaining the rage.

Please note we started this guide about three weeks ago and were taking our time about it, but given the events of the last few days thought we’d better get it up and running ASAP. As always, we welcome your suggestions.

1. Contact your MP and your senators.

Steph says: write to your local senators and/or MP. You can find out who your local Senators or your MP are here. Just type in your postcode and off you go.

By ‘local Senators’ I mean your state Senators – unless, of course, you’re in Queensland, where voting the senate out of existence seemed like a good idea at the time (this is only relevant at a state politics level, btw).

You might want to start by contacting independents and Greens Senators – anyone who isn’t definitely voting or leaning a certain way if a thing is going to the Upper House.

Calling is the superior option, just because they have to log and record and reply to you. The next best is a letter. After that is an email and then it’s social media and petitions.

Liz says: My mother is a pro-life activist, and at various points in her life has done it professionally. And she’s very good at it. (Sorry.) I told her we were doing this post, so here are some tips from the right wing:

Personal contact is always better than anything else. If your MP or senator does public events — town hall meetings, for example, or turning up at local stuff like street fairs — try to speak to them face to face. Don’t be rude or aggressive.

If you’re not comfortable with speaking, rehearse what you want to say with a friend, and remember that you’re their voter — they probably won’t argue with you, even if they disagree. At most, they might try to avoid you, like Wyatt Roy spent most of his terms hiding from Mum at local gatherings.

If you can’t see your representatives in person, make a phone call. You’ll probably end up speaking to an assistant or volunteer, and they won’t be able to effect any change or make any promises themselves, but like Stephanie said, they will log your call and pass your message on — possibly in aggregate if lots of people have called.

If you’re white and middle class, personal contact is a great opportunity to use your privilege for good. One of the reasons Mum is so good as an activist is because she’s a nice white lady who speaks as if she’s middle class. Use that. Don’t speak over marginalised people, but turn up with them, using your whiteness to shield them. (This is also a good way to use your privilege if you’re cis, or abled, or in any other situation where you are privileged compared to others)

Follow up any personal contact with a letter. Old fashioned as it is, letters are much better than email — although they’re not foolproof, I sent a letter to my MP months ago, and didn’t receive so much as a form note in response. But letters are tangible.

Finally, email and social media are useful tools for contacting representatives, but they shouldn’t be your only tools (if you can use other tools). Use them to supplement other forms of contact, or to maintain a relationship once you’ve reached the point where your rep recognises you on sight.

Please be nice to any staffers you speak to.

2. Write an op-ed, or a letter to the editor.

Steph says: I know. I know! This one sounds silly, but it’s an area that still gets monitored and I know several Australians who do this on a semi-regular basis (and instagram about it when it gets published). And they’re usually full of grumpy white people raging against the Millennials, so let’s take that back. Make them short and sharp, and make your support or approbation clear. 3 – 4 sentences is best. No swears, obvs.

3. Get involved in a local organisation.

If you have time to volunteer, volunteer with a large, effective, body-slamming organisation. Larger, effective, established organisations have the groundwork in place to support large amounts of volunteers who are wandering around aimlessly and require direction. I volunteer with the Greens at the State and Federal level, because they always have somewhere to point me. If you’re supporting refugees, something like the ASRC is great.

Think about where you’re going to be of most use. Please see Steph’s previous rants on voluntourism and the awfulness of feel-good volunteering.

This doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer for smaller organisations! But smaller organisations don’t necessarily have the ability or capacity to scale quickly to train new volunteers, and new volunteers who remain unharnessed don’t come back. Big organisations are ready and always raring to go with that. You could volunteer a small amount of your time in a little grassroots org, and more time in a larger org, maybe! You can volunteer there more later when you’re more useful. Lots of people I know go back and forth between big organisations and grassroots organisations depending on their role and changing skills.

Or there’s always step four:

4. Donate to smaller organisation.

You’re volunteering for someone, and that’s amazing! You can also, if you can, put your money into a smaller organisation, who definitely needs your $5 a month. That’s not even sarcasm! They seriously want it, that’s how under-resourced they are. I’ve been volunteering for a smaller organisation for years, and we never ever have enough money. We’re constantly fundraising, and in my heart I yell a lot about how many volunteer hours the staff put in and how poorly we train new volunteers. And we could grow a lot better if we had the resources to do that growing.

Also, join your union.

Don’t feel bad if all you can do is make donations, for whatever reason. Money does a lot of good for many organisations, and if you pick well, you have the knowledge that you’re funding experts and specialists to do important advocacy and work.

5. Attend rallies and protests.

Sometimes just getting out there is a good thing, to show that you don’t agree (or you do agree). And Liz’s advice via her mum is so good, I’m repeating it again:

If you’re white and middle class, personal contact is a great opportunity to use your privilege for good. One of the reasons Mum is so good as an activist is because she’s a nice white lady who speaks as if she’s middle class. Use that. Don’t speak over marginalised people, but turn up with them, using your whiteness to shield them. (This is also a good way to use your privilege if you’re cis, or abled, or in any other situation where you are privileged compared to others)

But remember to be careful with your social media, and protect protester identities:

6. And then talk about it.

Social media is for talking about your shit, so talk about your shit. As always, we remind quokkas that this is not enough on its own but sometimes it’s all you can manage and that’s okay. But if you can do more, escalate back up this list.

Generic Script Suggestions

This is a great one, which I’ve taken directly from #BlocktheBill, which you should definitely be supporting, quokkas, cos you care about refugees and you are against the lifetime ban on refugees into Australia:

“Hi my name is …(name, if comfortable disclosing).. and I am calling from …(location)… I would like to express my concern and discontent with the proposal of imposing a lifetime ban on refugees. This goes against the Refugee Convention and International Law. It also goes against our humanity and morality as we should be assisting those in need of protection. Please vote NO to this proposal or you will lose my vote”

Location: can be your suburb, or your State, or whatever you feel comfortable disclosing.

Letters to the editor can be similar:

In regards to the [clearly use the colloquial and official names for the issue]. I would like to express my concern with [thing again]. [Legal statement if possible]. I believe that [nice sentiment about how to support it doesn’t align with how we are as Australians]. I will definitely not be voting for [this loose sack of cabbage].

Quokka, Crawley

There are, of course, a lot of really great UScentric resources around at the moment. It can be really hard to sift through them and find what works in Australia, but Liz really likes this post from Rydra_Wong about making connections and personalising issues without coming across like One Of Those Permanently Outraged Lefties.

(Obviously, that’s kind of what we are, but that sort of stance is easily dismissed. Which is a tone argument issue,  but sometimes we have to choose between Expressing Outrage or Conveying The Message. Both approaches are equally valid, but sometimes mutually exclusive.)

Do you want to start today? Here’s one Liz has prepared for you:

And related

And Julie Bishop has just endorsed Trump’s “strong borders”, so this is a good time to call your MP and let them know how you feel about that. Especially, dare I say, if you’re in a Liberal electorate!

Here’s a possible script:

“Hi! My name is [Quokka G. Squidlington] and I’m one of [J. Vichy-Liberalparty]’s constituents. I’m calling to express my concern about the Foreign Minister’s endorsement of President Trump’s border policies. Aside from being discriminatory and cruel, I worry that they will drive more people to become radicalised, and our support makes us a target. This is a time for strong, compassionate leadership, and an overhaul of Australia’s border protection policies. I plan to vote accordingly in the next election.”

Emphasise the national security issue. Because our politicians are terrible people, that will probably speak to them (via their staff) more than little things like human rights. Remind them that you’re a voter, and you’re one of the people who decides whether the MP gets to keep their job.

Further Reading:

This doesn’t tell you where, it tells you how to develop the skills to work out where: Where To Donate So That Your Cash Does The Most Good

This thread is really good, thinking about other things you can do around self-care and care for others:

Despite Trump, here’s how you can help Syrian refugees (Applicable to other refugee issues)

This is a good post about self-care and maintaining your momentum and you should read it and think about it: How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind

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8 thoughts on “Ideas for Australian Activism

  1. Pingback: An excellent post on how to be an activist in Australia | Cate Speaks

  2. aaah

    > unless, of course, you’re in Queensland, where voting the senate out of existence seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Uh? Queensland still has federal Senators. They did remove the state upper house, the QLD legislative council though. But that’s state politics.

    1. I found this a touch confusing too. It makes the rest of the paragraph sound like you’re suggesting people call their state upper house members rather than the federal senators representing their state*; it wasn’t until aaah’s comment that I realised there was another interpretation.

      * Which obviously makes sense if your particular issue at that moment is a state law issue.

  3. Thanks so much for the guide. It is great to have an Australian resource.

    One question I have in the context of Australia is: is there any point also contacting the relevant Minister’s office (assuming they aren’t your local MP, or a Senator from your state)? Or is it pretty much the case that you should contact your own reps?

    1. Contacting the relevant Minister is also good, from a numbers/portfolio perspective, but not as good as contacting your own MPs and Senators. Unfortunately.

  4. Pingback: Further Activism for Aussies: outcomes and new scripts

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