Editorials & Comment It's My Opinion with Siobhan Casson

It’s My Opinion

Siobhan Casson

21st February 2019

There will be a Federal Election before June. Already we can see the main political parties revving up for battle with announcements about funding. Soon minor parties, like the Greens and One Nation, will be on the campaign trail.

I hear people say they have no interest in politics. They ask, what difference will it make for me? It is true the population of the Kimberley (less than 50,000) will not make a huge impact on the election of the Australian government in Canberra.

What is not true is that people’s votes don’t mean anything.

Universal voting was a long time coming. Although women got the vote in 1902, compulsory voting did not come in until 1924. Until then, women were often prevented from voting by the prejudice of a male-dominated society.

I feel strongly that my hard-fought right to vote as a woman should be honoured.

Aboriginal people were not given the universal right to vote in federal elections until 1962. Before then voting rights depended on the laws of states and territories. Discrimination against Aboriginal voters was such that the constitution of some, as well as the newly formed federation (1901), barred Aboriginal people from voting.

I understand why many Aboriginal people choose not to vote. It can often be a protest against what is seen as ongoing suppression of self-determination.

They know their voice is a very small one in the national voice (less than 5%).

So why encourage people to enrol and vote?

In my opinion, a vote is an expression of your beliefs.

Whether you are engaged with politics or not, votes for minor parties still register in the count. At federal elections I often I vote for candidates of minor parties because I agree with their views. I know they are unlikely to get elected, but at least my voice, my opinion, was counted.

Voting patterns can still influence politics – look at One Nation voters. Whatever your belief about the government which gets elected, at least you know your views registered on the scale.

Your vote is counted and your opinion on the record.

7th February 2019

I learned a lesson about listening today.

I learned it does not matter how much you explain, if people do not want to listen it is impossible to be understood.

Not listening can be intended as personal.

It does not matter what is said, the person who is speaking becomes more important than the information they are wanting to share. Someone else could speak the same words and they would be listened to and understood.

Yet the message is the same.

There are situations when I have been the person who is listened to as well as the person not listened to.

If it’s me or someone else, I ask myself each time – what is the communication breakdown?

I had an upbringing which toughened me against criticism and shaming. I don’t retaliate personally in such situations because I know what it feels like to be made to feel small. I do not want other people to feel that. If I get angry or argue with someone I argue about the issues. I don’t insult them personally.

I attend many meetings in this town and talk to a lot of people. There is much agreement about solutions to the problems this region wants to address. What scuppers the boat every time is the lack of listening. There are too many people who want to keep the power, to be the ones that ‘fix’ or control the solutions. Worst of all, if someone doesn’t like somebody, they will not listen, even if that person is putting forward positive ideas.

How wonderful it would be if everyone worked towards agreement rather than insisting on debating differences.

There is a process called Collective Impact. This process is about working towards a shared agenda for change, agreeing on a way of measuring that change and building mutual trust.

Collective Impact is about consensus. How can we get agencies, families and individuals to agree on what so we can work towards how?

Progress reinforces the collaboration, and so the process continues.

Until we get to how, we’ll be stuck where we are for the foreseeable future.

24th January 2019

After New Year’s Day I count the days to the Australian Open.

My personal favourite Rafael Nadal is back in top condition. He’s like a juggernaut when he’s playing well.

Almost unbeatable – except by his nemesis Novak Djokovic. If Roger Federer and Nadal met in the final, I would put my money on Nadal because he is the only player who has beaten Federer more than he has lost to him. Djokovic, on the other hand, is the only player who can consistently counteract Nadal’s devastating forehand and heavy top-spin.

If Nadal had not had so many injuries over the years he would probably have overtaken Federer by now in number of wins and grand slam titles. He does get injuries though, and one of the things about backing Nadal is the tension of wondering if he’s going to get one before he gets to the final.

Of course, there is never a sure thing. Federer was beaten, as was Serena Williams in the quarter final. She’s the female juggernaut of tennis and seemed to be back in top form. No-one (including me) doubted she would get to the final – but she lost a 5-2 lead in the final set.

It’s hard to know why humans gets so passionate about sport. Some people’s passions are consuming. I had a friend (may he rest in peace) who you would not be wise to speak to the day after a Sydney Swans loss.

Years ago, I learned that you don’t watch your team in a pub which is filled with supporters of the other team. In that case, an English 5 Nations rugby loss to Ireland.

Everyone was happy to be joking before the game about the Irish, but not in such a light-hearted mood after a thorough beating.

People who don’t follow any sport at all often cannot understand this passion, but I think it is a worthy one which brings people together.

Sometimes the favourite wins, and sometimes the underdog wins. We learn how it feels to win, and how to deal with loss.

Not a bad lesson for life.

10th January 2019

I have a good feeling, personally and professionally, about this year. In truth, it can’t be any worse than the last 18 months.

Sadly, the new year got off to a terrible start for some residents of Halls Creek due to home invasions and burglaries. It is my understanding young people are alleged to be involved.

On this topic I continue to express the same opinion, that it is always important to look at the bigger picture. Two things I strongly believe are: it is not all young people; and it is too simplistic to say parents or guardians taking control is the only solution.

I have had several conversations in the last month about this ongoing question of youth crime and misbehaviour. There have been heated discussions on local social media about incidents which have taken place – and sometimes about solutions.

Since I came to Halls Creek 17 years ago nothing is different about the way service providers, consultants and researchers engage with Halls Creek residents on their ‘issues’. There is community meeting after community meeting. Sometimes long reports or actions plans are created. Sometimes programs are started but then stopped for lack of community engagement or strong outcomes.

What exactly is stopping service providers and community working together?

The brick wall is the same as it was 17 years ago when I arrived in Halls Creek on the Greyhound in the early hours of the morning, and the bus driver asked me ‘are you sure you are meant to get off here?’.

I can honestly say from the hundreds of meetings I have attended and the people I have spoken to that service providers want the community to get involved and the community wants to get involved. So why is the brick wall still too high and wide to get over, round or through?

There is no disagreement about the issues. Different opinions about the solutions are not the problem.

My suggestion is that the next big community meeting is about just one topic. The problem, and question, is the same for everyone – HOW do we do this?

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