National Conference is always one of the highlights of the year – and the November event in Canberra certainly delivered for us.
By Willisa Hogarth
So, I have a small confession to make: Canberra is my favourite city in this big country of ours. I was so thrilled to find that the ACT Greens would be hosting us for our November conference – and certainly they delivered for us.
Holding Conference in the beautiful Ainslie Arts Centre, the venue provided us with a substantial-sized space for plenary as well as many smaller spaces for our workshops and facilitated sessions. If nothing else, the Canberra weather certainly turned it on for us with two beautifully sunny and warm days.
Whilst the temperature was very civilised in Canberra, our attention was very focused on the east coast of the country, where excessive winds combined with high temperatures and very dry conditions have created catastrophic fire conditions in parts of NSW and Queensland, with similar concerns coming for SA and Victoria shortly.
Adam Bandt, in the absence of Richard Di Natale (get well soon Richard!), focused on the climate crisis for his conference address, calling again for the Morrison government to take swift and direct action. The government's dedication to the coal industry is outdated and dangerous. And Adam reminded us just how vital the Australian Greens are in calling out this irresponsible inaction in parliament.
Shane Rattenbury came to the stage to highlight just what benefit the community gains when it has Greens in government. Hearing about the inspiring achievements of the ACT team, it was especially exciting to learn about the plans for a focus on the justice system and the importance of proper funding, staffing and focus on people rather than punishment. Many members commented on how great it was to hear about how our policy really can make a difference in government.
I myself gave a short conference address about the benefits of taking risks and trying new things even when we are worried they might not work, and challenged Conference to take what they learnt here in Canberra over the weekend and share with their local groups so that we could all benefit from each other.
Over the weekend, members took part in sessions on a Green New Deal, defence, Newstart, the Australian Greens’ strategic plan for 2020 onwards, continued discussion on choosing a parliamentary leader and many more interesting, heartening sessions. On Sunday, the day began with our First Peoples Network hosting a talking circle, which we look forward to becoming a regular item at conference moving forward.
Later that day our member body delegations took part in plenary, discussing and making a series of decisions including the acceptance of the Australian Greens’ Strategic Plan. The MPs present at conference took place in a really informative and interesting Q and A session. It’s such a great opportunity for members to get to know the Greens we have representing us in Canberra, and it was great to see some difficult questions being put to them. We can’t thank them enough for their hard work and dedication to the party.
Developments and news
Obviously a highlight for Catherine and I was being re-elected as national co-convenors for this upcoming term. We are humbled to have the trust of the party to do the work that we need to keep our movement strong.
We would like to give our enormous thanks and gratitude to the hard work put in by our outgoing office bearer team: Photi, Giz, Daile and Hannah. It’s been such a fabulous experience working with all of you and we appreciate everything you’ve done for us.
We welcome in some new faces to the team, with Jordan Hull taking on the role of national secretary, Damiya Hayden taking on the role of deputy convenor, Gemmia Burden taking on the role of deputy secretary and Heather Lonsdale taking on the role of treasurer. Nick Cooper will remain on the OB team as deputy treasurer. Catherine and I look forward to a productive year alongside you all. A huge thanks to Patrick from the ACT for acting as our returning officer for these elections.
It was great to see so many of our wonderful staff at conference this weekend – from both member bodies and the national office. Thank you for giving up your weekend to spend even more time with us!
Of course, Conference could not have come together without the hard work of our staff – in particular Adele Doust from the ACT and Brett Constable from the National Office. Your effort and commitment is never unnoticed – THANK YOU.
In 2020, Conference will be held in Melbourne in May and Perth in November. We hope that you’ll be able to join us for one or both of these amazing weekends. If you’re not able to join us in person, we are beginning to make plans for an online stream of conference, so watch this space…
Willisa Hogarth is the Australian Greens’ National Co-convenor.