Connectivity, compassion, collaboration – a reason to cheer

If it can be said that if a positive aspect has come out of all the flooding in Australia this summer, it would have to be about connecting people at local, state and national levels. In every aspect, harnessing the capacity and creativity of the community to deal with this unbelievable crisis together has produced amazing results.

Having watched the drama unfold in Queensland residents of one tiny town in Victoria, with only hours to spare, rallied together to build a natural sand levee to protect their homes and businesses. So far today it is holding the majority of the flood waters back. It is to be hoped their quick thinking ingenuity inspired by another’s experience has at least saved their day. And, all of its citizens from having to deal with devastation like their Queensland counterparts.

There will be a huge emotional human cost still to come out of this continuing event.

As people realize what they have lost and how long it will take to rebuild there will be casualties both mentally and physically. It will also affect the ongoing economic outlook of this country, unless we can get the majority back on track very quickly. Premier Anna Bligh and Lord Mayor Campbell Newman have already demonstrated they understand this but they are up against human nature, which can be so complex.

It will mean that those who have come together must remain connected. Then they can go through what they have shared compassionately and come out the other side with the capacity to help build the future.

Going forward depends on how fast we heal following traumatizing events. And, in order to do that coming to terms with what has passed is an important part of the process.

It would be a good thing if businesses, big or small have learned that in order to forge closer links with local communities they need to step up and enhance the connectivity enjoyed during this time of crisis. It is the only way that each will continue to go from strength to strength. Bearing gifts of money or goods is not as good as building long term relationships. Each will have to prove their commitment to social responsibility for the long haul.

To grasp the challenges current systems face and can’t seem to deal with we will have to invent a different future, one that fits well with our current social and cultural identity. No more burying heads in the sand. We have all come up for air now so its all about ensuring the time is right and ripe for reforms.

If anything the crisis has proved that a networking role goes far beyond daily professional life. It must also embrace the personal. The old power of one is pertinent only when each person in the chain continues to hold hands together.

Time, skill and creativity, when combined is a powerful force for good. If that can be harnessed for the future in the days, weeks and months ahead it will aid a sensible approach to new policy making.

For instance we need a change in attitude in this country to property ownership. People have been borrowing and spending far too much to have home with all mod cons with a landscaped backyard and a hills hoist, which is supposed to equal happiness. But does it? People are strongly influenced by others who often exaggerate the benefits.

It doesn’t help families or wider society when parents work overtime to provide and protect children who are very often left alone to fend for themselves. Children need to be spending quality time with their parents so they can learn about becoming a responsible adult. Families have been brainwashed into believing children will suffer if they don’t have the whole Aussie dream.

Young married people are putting off having babies until they have a whole furnished house and nursery. Babies need love and security, which can be provided even at a makeshift level with a box and blanket, which is just as cosy and safe as a bassinet. And by parents giving of themselves and their time rather than just things. There is a lot beyond bricks and mortar. It is about enhnacing the wellbeing of the family in its community as a whole.

A single minded focus on home ownership means that to make ends meet some people resort to fraud with its inevitable homelessness.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not advocating that everyone give up the idea of owning their own home. Its about achieving a balance so that life can be agreeable for everyone in the family unit.

In Europe for centuries people have grown up in apartments. Their children have played in public parks and on local beaches. And, they have emerged quite normal in every respect and often achieve great success.

Renting needs to be come respected and respectable in this country, as in countries like Germany, which is a powerhouse of manufacturing with low levels of debt. Business has suffered as development sites for housing has meant demolition to the detriment of local manufacturers, who generate local employment. There are no easy answers, it is about getting back on track and ensuring that in the future government, corporate and individuals will all enjoy lower levels of debt.

Many children living in rented properties become actively involved in local youth sport, which contributes to the health of the community. In recent times some of our sporting youth seem to think they are not part of anything, focusing all their efforts on self. This needs to change so that they can once again embrace personal and educational development and become socially active, helping others less fortunate than they are.

In England, an article I read recently told me that some swimming pools destined for closure have been given new life by sporting community groups and clubs as they take them over from ‘cash strapped local councils’. What a great idea.

Fuelling change is always costly, but not making it has also often proven costlier.

We need the tools, the knowledge and the support to ensure that communities can remain connected and build again from the bottom up. We have to continue to co-operate, compromise and collaborate to remain a society that takes its corporate responsibilities seriously.

Education for young people is a key in bringing creative industries to life and connecting communities together. We cannot all be president or prime minister it is an unrealistic expectation. We can however help each other through compassion and cooperation. Engendering children with optimism is empowering.

You only have to take notice of the story about the young man who built a social network. It has proved invaluable in Australia in its time of crisis. The messages of support and help for others has given many people and communities a reason to be cheerful.

Carolyn McDowall, January 2011

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