23 January 2020 at 8:42 am
With recent events shaking our faith in the way we live our lives, charities across Australia must rise to the challenge of rebuilding our communities and use what has happened to fuel our determination not to accept the unacceptable, writes Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie.
Grief and determination are woven into the DNA of charities.
There has been a lot of grief in Australia over the past few months, so much loss, pain, suffering, anger, frustration. Australia is forever scarred. Some scars will heal. While we can rebuild some of what is lost, things will never be the same. Economists talk of economic costs, but the human and environmental costs cannot be measured in dollars.
At a broader level, there seems to be a gnawing sense that we are not as safe, the way we live our lives is no longer as secure. What we thought was solid has been revealed as a thin veneer. The ripples of this revelation will wash over many lives in unexpected ways.
The long-term costs of recent disasters in Australia are incalculable.
Determination is a sometimes-maligned factor in human endeavour. The transition from failure to success is invariably a product of determination.
What I have been most proud of in recent months has been the determination from so many Australians to not accept that the way it is, is the way it should be. From the smallest acts of compassion to the bravery of volunteers facing fire storms beyond our imagination, the determination to do good has been an inspiration. And it is this determination that will become most important to Australia over the coming weeks, months, years.
The leadership of our state premiers has been steadfast and authentic, with them doing their best to not only provide information and offer support, but recognising the real impact of the growing sense of insecurity. They have appropriately been on the front line of information provision and grief sharing, while providing a broad platform for our impressive emergency service leaders. Not one state leader has felt the need to develop a political advertisement during our disaster.
“With our federal government floundering, we need to lead, to provide ready vehicles for the determination to do better, to change for the good.”
And herein lies the challenge for all of us in the charities sector. With our federal government floundering, we need to lead, to provide ready vehicles for the determination to do better, to change for the good.
This challenge is not just about promoting and accepting donations, or even spending them well. It is about making the effort to communicate the value of our work, the strength we see in our communities, the amazing compassion and acts of personal giving.
Through sharing as many of these stories as we can, encouraging our communities, charities can rebuild the sense of security we all rely on to keep trying, keep contributing, keep living our lives as well as we can.
Already I have seen some charities promoting the work of others, asking their donors to give to charities who are closer to the front-line efforts to support communities at this time. So many charities are already doing amazing work at a local level.
People will see Australia’s recent events through many different lenses.
Travelling internationally during January, the most common response I get when I say I am Australian is concern about our fires and their impact on our native animals. When you dig below these initial reactions there is often discussion about climate change, what it means for Australian communities, and the fact that so many of our emergency service workers are volunteers.
I was speaking with a Canadian firefighter this week, who has spent considerable time in Australia. He told me of his admiration for the volunteers across Australia putting their lives on hold to protect their communities. He said their sense of needing to protect their communities, including their environment, was incredibly strong.
As we begin 2020 it is not just this determination to protect lives and property that matters. We need to acknowledge that the recent devastation goes beyond the environmental and human costs, incomprehensible as they are. We must also acknowledge that for many, our faith in who we are and the lives we lead, has been shaken.
I hope charities across Australia will rise to the challenge of rebuilding our communities, rebuilding our sense of belonging and having value, not by glossing over recent events, but by using them to fuel our determination not to accept the unacceptable. We can embrace the grief, but make it good grief.
CCA, like many charities, is looking forward to this challenge.
About the author: David Crosbie is CEO of the Community Council for Australia. He has spent more than 20 years as CEO of significant charities including five years in his current role, four years as CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia, seven years as CEO of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia, and seven years as CEO of Odyssey House Victoria.
David Crosbie writes exclusively for Pro Bono News on a fortnightly basis, covering issues of importance to the broader not-for-profit sector.