Reflections on National Conference


Last week’s Greens National Conference was a timely reminder not to underestimate ourselves, the Australian people, or how bold the planet needs us to be right now.

By Huong Truong

I landed in Adelaide last week and gave the latest program for July’s Greens National Conference another once over. First Nations. Country Greens. Just Transitions. A Green New Deal. Showcasing Campaign Innovation. Breaking Through the Lower House. Internal Democracy. I’ve been a policy nerd and public servant for almost as long as I’ve been a Greens member, so I was very keen for this tasty menu of progressive workshops. A healthy and ambitious program!

This was only my third or fourth Greens National Conference in the fifteen years I’ve been a member. How heartening it was to see the conversations in and governance of our party have evolved. Frank and open conversations about who we are and what we can do better. Well-tuned consensus decision-making processes. Our vigilance in together living out the four pillars – from progressive speaking lists to the delicious vegan catering (including cake!).

I was relieved that we didn’t spend too much time rehashing all the reasons our planet and humanity is over-cooked (as if you and I aren’t already losing sleep over it all anyway). Rather, workshops and discussions were sharply focused on the windows for taking action closing on us and on building hope and grassroots power based on evidence and optimism. 

Some thoroughly inspired discussions around whether a ‘Green New Deal’ could work for Australia reflected our deepest hopes and fears, the stories we tell ourselves about what is possible for the Greens as a political force for our progressive movements. Some of us worried out loud about whether we, the Australian Greens, risked ‘putting people off’ our message (or our movement altogether) if we explicitly called the program ‘Green’. Or worse, whether we risked looking like bad copies of the US or European Green New Deal campaigns.

These notions sat in the room for a moment, as we all know how hard we’ve had to work in the face of cashed-up corporations and the mainstream media raising the odds against us.

But our collective wisdom rose to the top: we Greens have been thinking about these problems and these solutions for a long time. Ours is the vision, the values and commitment that will make a ‘Green New Anything’ be the inclusive, evidence-based, systems-wide transformative change we need to properly meet the many and interrelated challenges we’re up against.

So in these frightful times, when we’re inviting people to join our movement, what would someone new to our movement think of all this?

Hundreds of Greens gathering to explicitly seek new ways to build solidarity across movements many of us are already part of. Our campaigners and organisers showing us many fresh examples of how we already do this well IRL, during and between election campaigns. Each and everyone of us bringing our whole selves to the work of dismantling inequality and protecting all that’s worth living for. And not least, to witness the sometimes bewildering but always deeply democratic Greens model of consensus decision-making in action!

Imagine if parliaments and boardrooms could not reach decisions unless everyone in the room was required to make sure everyone most impacted could meaningfully engage in the process. Where the legitimacy of your voice in the room relies as much on extent you’ve engaged with everyone else’s contribution, as it does the merits of your arguments. And to see the wisdom of the group ultimately rise to the top, inclusiveness made real, and the bond within the group strengthened.

Deep decarbonisation. Decolonisation. Democratisation. Decommodification.

Who’s ready for the work ahead? We are.

Conference was a timely reminder not to underestimate ourselves, the Australian people, or how bold the planet needs us to be right now. Our work is to be needs-based, not profit-driven; popular, not populist; regenerative and life-affirming.

Radical lovers, welcome back to the Watermelon Social Club. See you when we reconvene at the next National Conference!

Huong Truong is a former MLC in Victoria's Western Metro region in 2018.

Back to JULY issue