The Case for Community-Based Referendum Campaigning

In the third of the Australia Speaks series held at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, Cathy McGowan emphasises the new – and successful – political action that is based in and around community rather than the narrow and conforming power politics engaged in by formal political parties as we know them. McGowan won the seat of Indi as an independent in 2013 and served two terms in the federal parliament paving the way for The Teals at the 2022 election (she is known as their ‘godmother’). And it all starts with discussions around kitchen tables to spread information, educate and hear feedback. It didn’t take much to find out that everyone has an interest in politics and opinions to share, she says. And tellingly added that there isn’t a known way to the future, we – the community – make our own paths towards it. This is an approach that needs serious consideration when planning for successful referendums and forms much of the basis of the YES case campaigning for Indigenous Recognition in 2023. It will be possible to assess its effectiveness in the short term and well before the coming Republic referendum. Imagine us all sitting together and working out how our Republic will be created and what kind of Australia it will represent: our own Australia. McGowan also repeatedly stressed the importance of all aspects of the arts and culture in forming political opinions and determining attitudes to democracy. And she commented in conclusion, “it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it”.