Rural and regional Australians are confronting significant social and economic challenges amid the ravages of a dramatically severe bushfire season, compounded by one of the worst-ever droughts.
Understandably, these disasters have attracted relentless media attention, with constant up-close commentary of every iteration and angle.
This intense coverage has triggered a huge outpouring of public emotion and grief, which has helped generate incredible support through public donations and other relief efforts, within Australia and globally.
It has also helped sharpened the entire nation’s focus on not only the vulnerability of our regions but also their huge economic potential and importance to our futures.
However, bitter political debate has also erupted over the links between these disasters and climate change and whether governments are doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or investing sufficient public funding into preventative measures.
While it’s vital to address these complex issues, it’s also critically important to put politics aside and remain focussed on outcomes.
It would only be a disservice to rural and regional Australians to continue blaming and attacking government representatives, while stoking needless divisions.
Those of us who’ve experienced these types of natural disasters before fully understanding most of the real damage will take years to repair, long after the television cameras and news reporters have dispersed to cover the next crisis, such as the Coronavirus.
That’s why it’s critical to maintain the positive momentum that’s been created, albeit due to tragedies we’d prefer never happened to start with, to implement genuine, lasting solutions.
This cause is best served by individuals and industry groups working together, as best we can; especially with governments and different agencies.
To only view our public servants through the prism of good and evil, depending on whether they agree with certain political views or not, is counterproductive to achieving the right results.
It pays to remember they’re also human and operating under intense pressure, while responding to unprecedented levels of community fear and anxiety.
If we treat them with disrespect or fail to engage on a basic level of human decency and empathy, it only makes the task of working with governments effectively, to achieve the best outcomes, doomed from the start.
This is not about letting them off the hook in terms of accountability or responsibility.
It’s about opening up positive, strategic conversations and communications that build effective working relationships.
To influence governments positively and overcome major challenges facing our regions – not just in agriculture or bushfire prevention, but also in perennial policy areas such as health, education and infrastructure – it’s vital to maintain this personal perspective and choose compassion over conflict.
Rather than making bureaucrats your personal punching bag in an ideological boxing match – start with humanity, to ensure rural and regional Australia’s best long-term interests are served.
By Robbie Sefton
Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains, and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.
This article was published in The Land newspaper on 5 March 2020. Link to the article can be found here – https://www.theland.com.au/story/6663954/put-politics-aside-for-the-good-of-regional-australia/