Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

To listen and learn with grace and humility: a personal reflection

31 May 2019 - by Katherine Waite

I grew up in the Central Queensland town of Rockhampton and spent 20 years of my life there. My family has a 100-acre hobby farm near Gracemere and some of my childhood memories include riding my bike, looking after my chickens and birds and helping around the farm. As I child I played sports such as basketball near Hegvold Stadium (last month it was renamed as the Adani Arena) and touch football at the Cyril Connell Fields, near the banks of the Fitzroy River. I studied business and communications at CQ University and after graduating worked a couple of years in Gladstone and Rockhampton at ABC Local Radio.

‘Rocky’ is a ‘Labor’ town and ‘would always vote Labor’ lamented the coalition supporters in town. According to the ABC’s election guide, in the last 113 years the seat of Capricornia (with Rocky being its major town) has been held by the non-Labor parties for only 29 years, 15 of those years being between 1946 and 1961. But at last month’s election the seat of Capricornia had an 11.4 per cent swing (after preferences) to the Coalition’s Michelle Landry. This is up from 0.6 per cent margin at the 2013 election.

I have friends and family in Queensland and know that there is strong support for the Adani Coal project which became a touchstone election issue. They see it as an economic issue. Property prices are stagnant and business people have put ‘I support Adani’ logos on their Facebook profiles. I’ve heard stories of hardship and challenge and the banks coming in to foreclose on properties with mortgage repayments as small as a car loan. These are only anecdotes and each town has its hardships and challenges.

Scientists tell us climate change has been human-induced and I support a transition to clean energy for our nation and believe it in the best interest for Queensland to do so. Labor’s inability to explain the cost of its carbon policies was a real weakness and used by conservative strategists as highlighted in an article in last weekend’s The Australian by Graham Young “A climate policy that’s right on the money”. Commentators say Labor did not talk about jobs and economic growth enough in Queensland.

I’m aware that since moving from Queensland 10 years ago that when I voice an opinion different to the prescribed orthodoxy some-not all- have told me I’ve drunk the kool-aid of Canberra. I take a deep breath and try to move on from those who play the man and not the ball. After all, I have spent more time in Queensland than Canberra.

Leaving aside ad hominem attacks, we still need wisdom in the way we go about engagement. So when I was watching the news and following Instagram stories about the Stop Adani Convoy led by Bob Brown in April I thought it was an error of judgement. Mr Brown has defended his approach saying it’s a morality issue and he has a right to voice his opinion. When host Stan Grant questioned the former senator on ABC’s The Drum program (21 May) and asked if he had actually walked into an RSL club in Rocky and asked someone what they wanted- he didn’t answer the question. Instead he reminded us that Joh Bjelke-Petersen travelled to Tasmania to argue for the Franklin Dam. Turns out many of us don’t really like to be told what to do, not just Queenslanders.

Two years ago I was fortunate enough to become a “rentvestor” when I purchased an investment property in Rocky in the heart of Berserker (a tip for southerners it’s pronounced Burr-SEE-kuh). I have everything to gain from the success of Queensland. But I want long-term success beyond a 30-year mine site and not at the risk of the environment and our future generations.

If we want meaningful engagement about the issue of climate it takes time, effort, empathy and understanding. The first step is humility and listening. Our method is as much as our message.

The work at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture attempts to model this type of engagement as we set about hosting and facilitating events that enable ‘Wisdom for the Common Good’ which is the Centre’s vision statement. We work hard at relationships that engage in challenging issues for our times.

Katherine Waite is the communications officer at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.