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Australia Must Learn From America, NFPs Warn

10 November 2016 at 4:42 pm
Wendy Williams
There are some “very urgent lessons” Australians must heed from America, according to the CEO of not-for-profit organisation Mission Australia.

Wendy Williams | 10 November 2016 at 4:42 pm


Australia Must Learn From America, NFPs Warn
10 November 2016 at 4:42 pm

There are some “very urgent lessons” Australians must heed from America, according to the CEO of not-for-profit organisation Mission Australia.

Following Donald Trump’s victory on Wednesday to become the 45th US president, Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said Australians must “open their eyes” and challenge the politics of division wherever they see it.

“While we may reason that Australian politics exists in a different paradigm to those playing out in America, the reality is that there are many parallels between our country and the USA,” Yeomans said.

“And more importantly, there are some very urgent lessons Australians must heed from what we have seen unfold there over the last year.

“Trump’s political campaign was relatively simple – demonise a few specific groups and blame them for all the ills of society. The actual group chosen is fairly irrelevant but Trump, like many, chose ethnicities and immigrants.”

Yeomans drew parallels between Trump’s election campaign and the method used by the Leave campaign in the UK’s Brexit vote, and said this was “exactly the kind of tool used by politicians in our country”.

“It is meant to divide and point blame,” she said.

“It’s a tool as old as politics itself.

“And ominously, the influence of divisive politics is growing in Australia because, I believe, we have become so disconnected from the hardship in some parts of our society.

“Tolerance and understanding comes of experience. Without a diverse mix of people living within our community we are becoming more polarised in our views and less empathetic towards our neighbours. They become the ‘other ‘ and it is easy to demonise the other when they are anonymous.

“Our cities and major towns are becoming so expensive to live in, with even the cheapest accommodation being out of reach for so many, that we are creating ghettos to house the have-nots. Ghettos where the more affluent never, ever go.

“The gulf of inequality is growing, the cycle of disadvantage continues to turn and many of us are totally disconnected from this world.”

According to Yeomans Australia is “not so different to America or Europe”.

“Alas, we too have politicians and commentators exposing racist, sexist and other dubious views on all manner of issues that would make Trump proud,” she said.

“We have to open our eyes Australia. We have to challenge the politics of division wherever we see it.

“Now is not the time to let this be some other country’s problem. Because if we do, we risk sleep-walking into something similarly catastrophic.”

Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese said the election of Trump as US president raised significant issues when viewed from a diversity and inclusion perspective.

“What does it mean when a country like the US can elect a person who has talked about physically assaulting women, who clearly has sexist and misogynistic views and who is happy to isolate American Muslims, American Mexicans and women who have made determinate decisions for their own bodies?” Annese said.

“How did the polls get it so wrong? Is it that many voters did not want to be seen as supporting racism and sexism when polled, but in the anonymity of the ballot box they were willing to let it shine?

“Trump’s win illustrates the huge hurdles women face whenever they try to reach the top. It would seem expectations of female leaders seem to be so different than that of male leaders; how can someone with Trump’s experience, views and record be deemed a better leader than the highly experienced and competent Clinton?”

Annese said Trump’s rhetoric had the potential to fuel discrimination against women and minorities and damage workplace diversity and inclusion, gender equality and social cohesion.

“Australia needs to be very aware of the dangers of leaders who espouse these types of views,” she said.

“We must all continue to work together to create a more inclusive society as this will benefit everyone.”

Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM, the CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, also took to social media in the wake of the election results to stress the importance of “coming together”.

“Here’s how I plan to respond to #PresidentTrump this wk [sic],” Karapanagiotidis tweeted.

“Welcome #refugees

“Be an ally to #Muslims & #LGBTI

“Amplify voices of #POC


Meanwhile Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to reassure Australians that the ties that bind Australia and the United States were “profound” and based on “enduring national interests”.

“Politicians and governments, congressmen, senators, prime ministers and cabinets will come and go according to the will of the people of Australia and the United States,” Turnbull said.

“But the bond between our two nations, our shared common interests, our shared national interests, are so strong, are so committed, that we will continue to work with our friends in the United States through the Trump administration, just as we have through the Obama administration, just as we always will.”

It comes as thousands of people in cities across America have taken to the streets to protest against Trump’s election.

Hillary Clinton, appearing in public for the first time since conceding a “painful” defeat, said Trump must be given a chance to lead.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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