Our National Conference in Hobart, Tasmania on 18/19 November will be a celebration of 25 years of the Australian Greens and a chance to reflect on a quarter of a century of changes, challenges and growth – we hope many of you will join us!
Perhaps you are one of our foundation Greens who has been with us through thick and thin, able to recount the histories of our various State parties and the challenges of starting from a handful of people with the vision and intent to establish a political party – virtually from scratch!
Or maybe you’ve joined us more recently, recognising that we Greens are a party of humanity, compassion, optimism and integrity. Whenever you became a part of the green movement and whenever you became a member of the Australian Greens we’d love you to come and share your stories, celebrate our wins and plan for our future.
So a brief history...
The Green movement evolved spontaneously in many parts of the world, largely as a reaction to a world in which scant regard was being paid to social justice, world peace or ecological sustainability. It became clear that to be most effective, the Green movement needed to have voices within parliamentary spheres and seek elected representatives. Green political parties were formed - arguably the first, in 1972, being the United Tasmania Group followed a few months later by the New Zealand Values Party. During the 1970s other Green parties were formed in several European countries. The first party to call itself ‘Green’ was the (then) West German Greens, Die Grünen, which was formed in 1980. In Europe, collaboration between the different Greens parties dates back to the 1980s and globally Greens have continued to gain strength and inspiration from each other’s achievements. The Australian Greens have been at the forefront of establishing and growing the Global Greens, now with over ninety countries as members.
And still growing
Over our history we have grown to be the third force in Australian politics with a membership of over fifteen thousand and ten times that number in our supporter base. Plus our members are active members - keen to engage directly with the community in the challenging debates of our times: climate change; refugees’ rights; responding to globalisation and growing inequity; the transitioning to a sustainable economy and a reliance on renewable energy; and ensuring that people have access to rewarding and meaningful work and affordable housing.
We should celebrate our resilience too! We have weathered, survived and even thrived on the well resourced and relentless attacks from our political opponents and their vested interests. Many of the issues that we Greens were ridiculed for raising are now mainstream – global warming being the one that springs to mind the most quickly! And many a time our demise has been predicted - such as “the Greens will go the way of the Democrats” – only to see us grow stronger. The work we need to do is too important for us to fail!
We continue to improve our representation with nine Senators, one in the House of Representatives, 25 State MPs and more than100 local councillors around Australia.
We have done considerable internal work over the past few years to establish and develop a well functioning National Council, able to effectively deal with the day to day running of a large organisation, work closely with our Federal MPs, to direct national election campaigns and provide strategic planning.
We also know the importance of good teamwork and respectful political debate, being the only political party committed to consensus building and nonviolent conflict resolution.
Join us to celebrate...and continue our work
This conference will provide a great opportunity to discuss priorities in policy and direction for the party and our representatives. Given the lengthy list of challenges we face collectively and the level of uncertainty in the future this should lead to lively debate which I’m sure we will embrace with passion and open hearts!
Let’s also have conversations about how we can continue to improve members’ experiences in the party. Obviously this includes being part of successful election campaigns at all levels of government but it also should include learning and sharing activist skills; working closely with our local communities; being part of an effective movement for change; and enhancing our own capacities particularly in managing conflict in turbulent times. Let’s discuss what participatory democracy looks like in a group of fifteen thousand people dispersed around the country and how timely and meaningful engagement can be facilitated.
So, looking forward to seeing many of you in Hobart for a great conference!
Giz Watson and Alex Schlotzer, Australian Greens Co-convenors.