International Women’s Day – Make it Happen

 

I
gave a talk this week for the Monash Rural School of Health on Advocacy as a Tool for Change as part of International Women’s Day celebrations.
Here’s what I said:

There are many ways we can make
change happen. One critical way is advocacy. “An advocate is someone who
represents and works with a person or group who needs support and
encouragement to exercise their rights.” (Definition from Aged Rights)

I am passionate about advocacy in community.  My first advocacy role was as President of the Bendigo Sustainability Group from 2008 to 2010, with 500 members and many more
supporters. At the time we were the “go-to” organisation
on issues such as climate change. I was often on the radio speaking up
for better policy, educating people on the issue and what we could do
about it. We ran events, activities and practical projects. We wrote
numerous letters and submissions to local, state federal governments to
advocate for the changes we saw were needed.

We had conversations in the street, for the 100% Renewables Campaign, with people about renewable energy. It started with a small group of us, including Ann. (Ann is on the left in the photo at the top of this blog.)

Ann was a
volunteer who wanted to do something, but didn’t know what
to do and was frustrated. She didn’t want to
be a leader, she just wanted to get in and help. We went door knocking and started with 70 people to signing the survey.

I mentored and
encouraged Ann. We had fun and formed a friendship. She
ended up coordinating 20 volunteers over a weekend and we engaged with
700 people. This then combined with communities all over Australia
and 14,000 conversations were held nationally.

There
is a huge need for all of us to take on advocating for change. There
are many issues and many challenges – health and well-being, social
justice, standing up for the marginalised, and environment.

There
are many scales we can operate in too, from our own workplace or family,
our own neighbourhood, town, country and globally. No matter how big or
small the advocacy work we take on, it all makes a difference. It’s about speaking up when you see something you think is
unjust.

So the question is who would YOU like to advocate for and what would YOU like to do about it?

This
is a big question for many, but it’s really about thinking what area
you are passionate about and what is it that you see that you think
should change. You may already have this worked out.

Whatever
advocacy you take on, keep in mind that it’s not actually what you do
when advocating for change that’s the most important, it’s who you are
and who you choose to be. Example you may choose to be an “inspiring
leader” or a “make it happen person”. Whatever you choose, step into
this way of being right from the start and the rest will follow.

Van Jones talks about advocacy as standing for something in an authentic way:

I
don’t think an authentic stand comes from your head. I think an
authentic stand comes from your heart. If your child is sick, right?
Something happens in you to make a miracle, to make a miracle. It has
nothing to do with the facts. And that’s all that’s required is your
child my child your grandchild, your child’s child’s child – they’re in
peril. And if you start thinking about it, you’ll sit down. But if you
feel it you’ll stand up!


That’s the amazing thing about this
thing. It’s that it’s when you stand up you license other people to
stand up. Now you standing up by yourself don’t make a dad-gum bit of
difference in the rational world. You’re just one fool standing up. But
if you’ve ever seen a standing ovation? It starts with one fool standing
up. And then pretty soon the whole stadium is standing up. And it’s a
different moment!”


Van Jones

 
Now
with Make a Change, one of the roles I have taken on is to advocate for
changemakers. People that put their heart and soul into making a
difference for others. I advocate for funding to provide training for
changemakers and I organise events to provide changemakers with support,
inspiration to keep going and opportunities to make new connections. A
key area I am advocating for at the moment is advocating to governments
and businesses and people in the community about the “value” that  changemakers provide and how that should be recognised and invested into

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