A humbling experience: Rosanne Bersten and Sean Mulcahy

Over the past year, the AGPCC has helped facilitate a policy review process that’s been incredibly humbling.

By Rosanne Bersten and Sean Mulcahy

One of the Australian Greens’ four pillars is participatory democracy. That means a lot of different things to a lot of people, but one fundamental component of it is collectively creating the policies that we as a party draw from when we speak in Parliament, when we collaborate with our communities, when we take to the streets.  

We are nearing the end of another three-year cycle of policy review and it’s a humbling experience to facilitate a process whereby members from across the country contribute to creating visions of a future where the planet is green and lush, everybody has a home and enough to eat, and where we live together in peace.

It’s humbling because the specifics of how we achieve that vision are often very different. Our processes are designed to take those member suggestions through expert action groups, policy advisory teams and local branch meetings – and then finally come together as delegates of the Australian Greens Policy Coordinating Committee (AGPCC). Our role is to harmonise the language and the intent, and come out with a clear statement of principle and clear aims to strive towards. 

Collaborations and discussions

At a time when racism and poverty are worsening in Australia, it’s significant that this review has added key goals to address these issues. We’re especially pleased that our First Nations policy has been transformed in collaboration with the new Blak Greens national working group. Together, we're shifting the emphasis on Treaty; acknowledging sovereignty of clans; removing language relating to ownership and replacing it with language around custodianship; adding custodianship of sky alongside water and land; and adding reference to the Frontier Wars. 

We had lengthy discussions about guaranteed adequate income and how we address the growing inequity of wealth distribution in Australia. We've also held lively workshops at National Conference in conjunction with Adam Bandt’s office to come up with clear ways forward on how we transform the way we work. On top of that, we significantly altered our Community Participation policy, adding a number of principles and aims about Civil Society. 

We are now working on a position paper about the Rights of Nature and addressing the last of the policies to be reviewed before November National Conference, concerning economic democracy and the public service, among other things. 

In practical terms, AGPCC also developed guidelines for the ways policy initiatives, which are developed by parliamentarians, are reviewed by the membership. The Australian Greens By-Laws are clear that this is a task to be facilitated by AGPCC but until now there has not been a clear outline of how that review should occur. 

Farewells and thank yous

Finally, AGPCC was affected by the domino effects of Senator Lee Rhiannon stepping down. NSW MP Mehreen Faruqi stepped into Lee’s spot, Senator Richard Di Natale’s Chief of Staff Cate Faehrmann was preselected into Mehreen’s spot and Richard’s Policy Director Rod Goodbun was hired to replace Cate. Larissa Brown is the new Policy Director in the office of the parliamentary leader, and is therefore one of the new Party Room delegates for AGPCC.

AGPCC would like to thank Rod for his many years of service to the development of policy and for overseeing so much of what the members developed over the years into costed, practical initiatives. His calm, thoughtful and collaborative approach to complex political and ideological negotiations was deeply appreciated and we’re sure will serve him well in his new role. We also wish AGPCC delegate Rose Newbury-Freeman well on her maternity leave. 

I’ve noticed that many people think policy is a dry topic, but when we hold ‘strategic planning’ workshops, most people really want to talk about policy. We are part of the Australian Greens because we share values and a vision for a better world. Whatever we call it, participating in creating this vision together underlies everything we do. So thank you to all of AGPCC and the policy working groups around the country, and every member that contributed. We can’t do it without you.

PS: If you have a policy idea or suggestion for a policy initiative, templates are available on the Greenhouse.