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Article by Young Australian of the Year 2009, Jonty Bush
Standing on the lawns of Parliament House on January 25th this year, surrounded by 35,000 people, I took a moment to absorb how we, as Australians, can be so different, so unique, and yet aspire for the same things - peace, compassion, respect and love.
This is my understanding of community - that we don't all have to look the same, like the same things, eat the same foods or even talk the same, for us to celebrate what unites us. One of the greatest things about Australia is how it allows us to build our own communities.
We are able to be involved in several communities simultaneously. These communities are gathered for a reason - book clubs, sporting clubs, walking groups and service clubs are great examples of these. Our opportunities for involvement are limited only by our creativity and capacity to research. But perhaps my favourite type of community is that which gathers informally and spontaneously, but proves to be of tremendous value.
I had the experience of meeting survivors from the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires of February 2009, which took the lives of hundreds of people, and affected the lives of thousands more. Rather than speak of their trauma and loss, they spoke of the compassion, generosity and camaraderie that occurred after. Within hours of opening, the volunteer inquiry line was jammed as people offered to help rebuild these communities.
From those ashes rose the blessing of humanity, as ordinary Australians reached out to others in their time of need. I have witnessed such incredibly moving events in my life. I have watched bystanders turn and join a protest in a sign of solidarity, touched by the passion and conviction of others. I have witnessed grieving families receive hundreds of condolence cards from people they have never met, but were nonetheless affected by this family's pain.
But on a lighter note ... I am always amazed at football matches. Whilst football games in many nations result in violence, I love how in Australia we can barrack for other teams, heckle each other, and still share a laugh. I love how a Mexican wave will spontaneously erupt, and those surrounding its creators are
urged to stand up and join in. I find myself usually more fascinated with this process of leadership (and haranguing) than the game itself, and usually find myself mentally (and yes, I will admit to verbally) encouraging those to join in, waiting in anticipation for it to reach my row.
When it reaches us, we have two choices. Firstly we can ignore the plethora of bodies who jump up like people possessed, yelling and throwing their arms in the air. We can let it happen around us and remain steadfast in our seat. Or we can join in with the community and celebrate together.
So come on everyone, don't let life run over the top of you. Stand up, raise your arms, yell to the top of your lungs and embrace Australia.
- Daily Telegraph - 25 July 2009 -