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Rallying around our ABC

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The rally against the ABC budget cuts, held this morning on the lawn in front of Parliament House, was small, relatively reserved, but clearly passionate. There were a few shouted outbursts from the crowd, but most just listened and clapped when told to, cheered when expected, chanted when directed. Then we were told it was over and we left.

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As I arrived home afterwards, over the radio came the news that the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, would not be charged. The teenager’s death had prompted sometimes violent and destructive demonstrations, and more were feared after this news.

Despite the stark contrasts between each of these protest experiences, they had a similar intent: people banding together to have their voices heard; people standing for something and against what they see as unjust and unfair; people trying to create change.

I attended the ABC rally for a couple of reasons. I wanted to document and experience it. I don’t agree with the ABC budget cuts when other things that appear less worthy are receiving funding. I believe the ABC provides things commercial broadcasters cannot and will not, and that these cuts will be to the detriment of all Australia.

I didn’t push my way in to the middle of the crowd or hold a sign up. I stood at the edge and listened to the purposeful speeches of union representatives and politicians such as Bill Shorten, Christine Milne, and Nick Xenophon. I agreed with some of what was said and disagreed with other things. I shook my head when a young man asked if I wanted to buy a copy of an ‘independent, left-wing, newspaper’. I took a ‘Save our ABC Now’ badge when offered. I heard initial hesitation in the collective voice of the crowd when directed to chant and I heard laughter when the crowd was asked to sing the designated rally song, the theme from Play School.

Sitting in the shade on the sideline of the lawn was a group of primary school children. I wondered what they thought of it, and what I would have thought if I were them. I probably would have been unsure what was going on, and wondering when lunch would be. Hopefully though, at least one of the children watching took something more from it. Perhaps it inspired an interest in the ABC, politics, or democracy, or encouraged them to think that it is okay to make their voices heard and to attempt to create change. Perhaps they took nothing from it now but will when they remember it when they are older. Perhaps they just thought we were silly to be standing in the hot sun.

No matter what the country or society, humans want to be a part of something. There is safety in numbers and security in a pack. We want to be heard and represented but most don’t want to be heard alone; instead we chorus with the like-minded. Being free to rally and protest is an important feature of democratic societies and we have a responsibility to do it safely and well. It is our opportunity to have a voice and to stand up. It lets us attempt to create change, even if none eventuates. We lucky beings who live in a democracy owe this to those who do not.

Long live our ABC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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