Voices for Indi seeks to address the disconnect between community and politics by:
enriching political conversations and bringing values based politics into everyday life in Indi
welcoming commentary from all people regardless of political allegiance and finding ways for people of all walks of life to connect and be interested and involved in the future of their communities
the Indi region being recognised nationally for the way its citizens engage and for their enthusiasm to embrace new ideas.
View our event photo gallery here:
Two hundred and fifty people, including politicians from a range of parties and people from a range of political persuasions came together to hear speakers and to discuss the themes of ethics in politics, the contemporary practice of politics in Australia and how citizens can influence the political process.
Former Federal Independent Tony Windsor and Dr Simon Longstaff AO, Executive Director of the St James Ethics Centre, were the guest speakers at the recent IndiTalks Democracy events held at the Swanpool Memorial Hall on Saturday 18 October and the Yackandandah Public Hall Sunday 19 October.They were joined by key regional community leaders Kate Auty and Joan Tehan in Swanpool, and by Judy Brewer and Ali Pockley in Yackandandah.
Indi Talks Democracy was organized in response to people in the electorate wanting a follow up from earlier hallmark “Kitchen Table Conversations”. The regional halls of Swanpool and Yakandandah at either end of the Indi electorate became the site of the first Voices For Indi “Country Hall Conversations”.
The underlying values and process followed that of the kitchen table conversations: invitations were sent, the local community welcomed the visitors to their hall; all were invited to sit at tables, each of which had a host who listened and directed the conversations with respect and everyone had an opportunity to speak and listen, good food was shared, great speakers heard and respectful conversation had. The guest speakers challenged and informed the conversations that were conducted in table groups and there was opportunity to engage with the key speakers about the issues raised. Further exploration of ideas took place between the table groups and a Q&A panel in the afternoon.
Main themes from the table discussions: There was a strong expression of support for increased awareness and education about the democratic process; for finding new ways for citizens to actively participate in our democracy; and for improving the way politicians act in fulfilling their responsibilities ethically. There was a high degree of dissatisfaction expressed with the way in which politics is perceived and conducted: corrupt, disrespectful, abusive, lying, cynical, punitive, cheap. When this happens, it denigrates the politician responsible and it denigrates the people they were elected to represent. Alternatively, politicians who model good behaviour should be supported and recognised publicly.
People reported they are hungry to find a better way to engage positively with politics. They want to be much more involved, not just at the time of an election. They want to feel they are truly represented by their elected representative (there is an idea!) They want to further develop their understanding of the nature of their ‘contract’ with their representative. People felt that their elected representative is often constrained by allegiance to their party (and the backroom management group), and therefore not primarily accountable to their electorate.
On the rare occasions when MPs speak freely, they can truly shine as our representatives. The Politicians Pledge, being developed by the St James Ethics Centre, was strongly supported as a potential mechanism for holding politicians to account for their behaviour and actions.
Ethics was viewed as not being about perfection, but rather as a scaffold for reflection and self-awareness.
Ideas put forward at the Country Hall Conversations.
- People attending discussed the power of their vote, both individually and collectively, and how it should serve as a reminder and motivator to stay engaged with politics. eg rural people by their sheer numbers (30% of all voters), can collectively hold the balance of power at a national level, if they were to use it.
- There was strong support for conducting a ‘Country Summit’ of representative rural organizations, parties and groups with the aim of determining the commonalities in relation to relevant issues and policies.
- Younger people are to be encouraged and supported to connect and participate in the political process. There was concern expressed about the current low proportion of VCE and University students studying politics.
- The lack of diversity in the attendees at Indi Talks was noted and there was support to in future seek a more representative attendance to include youth, indigenous Australians, people with a disability and other voices.
- People want to explore strategies to challenge the political party structure, which was seen to provide little opportunity for MPs to be free to truly express the views of the electorate ahead of the Party position, except for rare conscience votes.
- Strong support was expressed for all people including politicians to use respectful language, to listen to opposing views, acknowledge differences of opinion and work towards collaboration.
- Voices for Indi is supported to continue heightening awareness of and creating opportunities for engagement in politics.
- The importance of the media was noted, particularly the value of quality work that is well researched and which has a useful purpose. Too often, the national media and our political representatives are viewed as a poor reflection of each other.
- Those attending generally agreed to be positive, be braver and be counted, to maintain their passion and interest in politics, continue the process of holding kitchen table group conversations, discussing issues of importance, reaching out to people who they may not necessarily agree with.
- It is citizen’s responsibility to stay connected and participate in the process of democracy. This means to not be silent, to be politically aware, write opinion pieces to papers, make contact with political representatives, local state, and federal. To support all hard working ethical and honest politicians, provide constructive criticism and use the language of communities and ethics not only economics.