22 June 2023

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

There’s a question I’ve been grappling with recently, and that’s around a quality I think all Australians feel is at the heart of our national identity. That is the idea of the ‘fair go’ and whether we as a community are living up to this concept that all of us should be treated equally? From the conversations I’m having, and those that are dominating our headlines, it feels to me that as a society we are at a junction in deciding if this nationally defining value of fairness from our past is the value which will also define our future. 

And I feel that our current leadership has a part to play in this potential shift – do Australians see the authenticity and conviction that we need in our leaders in order to build trust in and respect for the commentary and decisions they make. Is the ‘fair go’ something they still value?

Authenticity in our leadership is more important than ever. We live in a world of countless platforms for citizen journalists, keyboard warriors and loud voices which smother measured voices, against the backdrop of a growing disconnect between the bread-and-butter issues people are facing and a view (whether real or perceived) that the game of politics distracts from politicians tackling these issues.

After 30 years of living and working in and around remote, rural and regional Australia, I’ve seen the resilience required for country living and it’s been my experience that this also tends to manifest in a strong sense of respect for others, of mateship, loyalty and taking the time to listen.

Our communities want leaders they can trust, policies that are relevant to their everyday challenges and strong and inspiring ideas that they can believe in. Conviction-led leaders are who we need to advance our development, whilst retaining that very special identity of that we have in rural, regional and remote NSW and Australia.

As we know, what the country stands for is very much in the frame right now, and the capacity of our national leaders to communicate and engage with Australians is being tested in a way that it never has been. Having said that, I think one of the challenges we face is emblematic of the broader malaise confronting Australian politics at large and I would posit, also Australia’s identity at large.

We’ve always been a fair country, but I don’t necessarily see that as much. I think that our sense of fairness is eroding. It’s now based on politics and these polarising ideas of what camp are you in – are you in the ‘yes’ camp or the ‘no’ camp – rather than genuinely listening to what communities are saying, and then being prepared to take a position and be accountable for delivery.

Despite current challenges, there’s a lot of opportunity over the next five, 10 and 20 years. We must lock in the gains of our economic successes and pursue inclusive growth and in a post-COVID context, where our physical and mental health has been tested to the extreme, our goals should be about growing well and making decisions about investments, infrastructure, and services with the businesses, health and wellbeing of communities, particularly in rural and regional areas, top of mind. To do this, we will need authentic leaders, unilaterally motivated by a conviction in the long-term prosperity and wellbeing of our nation – one where the ‘fair go’ is still alive and well and not a relic of the past.