News

Listen to rural people

By Yarrawonga Chronicle

Shelley Scoullar

Chair – Speak Up Campaign Inc.

At this time of crisis in our nation I believe it is vital that we acknowledge a major problem around policy development that is dictated by city-based ideologies yet ignores those who live and breathe their environment.

Politicians and the media alike need to start playing a more responsible role and listening to rural people with lived experience, instead of developing policy based on the views of those who read text books but lack real life knowledge.

It is particularly important that the media presents fact-based reports, including the perspective of those who live and breathe the forest areas and towns that have been burned.

Many journalists who are covering the fire crisis and everything around it often look for a different angle or perspective to report. 

Unfortunately, some of the commentary has been based on personal views, generally developed from within the concrete jungles that we call cities. 

Their knowledge and experience of rural issues is often lacking, but this does not stop a bias towards the city-based ideologies that are posing significant risks to the wellbeing of rural communities. 

In line with this progressive thinking is a propensity to attack politicians who they do not support, or to persist with questions (which are often more like statements) that are designed to highlight their views, at the expense of more important issues.

As this bushfire crisis continues, the eyes of the nation and indeed the world are watching the tragedy unfold. 

Now, more than ever, those with microphones or recorders in hand need to understand and respect the responsibility they have. 

With social media at our fingertips, talkback radio and constant news feeds, there is often a race to provide sensational coverage. 

We also have some commentators who appear intent on promoting their own viewpoint and ideologies – political or environmental. Lack of research can also become an issue.

It is unfortunate that some sections of the media want to continually focus on climate change yet appear to ignore or downplay the impact of land management policies and lack of hazard reduction. 

They also have a desire to attack the Prime Minister at every opportunity, rather than questioning state governments about Natural Resource Management policies, which people in affected areas continue telling us have played a major role in exacerbating the current crisis.

Our organisation (Speak Up Campaign) has not been immune from criticising Mr Morrison over policy and management, especially in relation to water, however we attempt always to highlight the issue and offer solutions.

It is time to take stock, learn from past mistakes and start involving local people, some with generational involvement in management of their environs, in the decision-making process.

Whether some people like it or not, we must accept the indisputable fact that we have failed our nation in the Natural Resource Management stakes. 

Consecutive governments over two decades at state and federal level have contributed to the mess we are now in. 

We need to work with local communities to turn this around and become NRM world leaders.

The ‘lock up and leave’ policies which have been developed have increased fuel loads and the problem is exacerbated with reduced maintenance and fewer controlled burns.

We need to support the rural communities that are grateful for all the support they are receiving at the present time, but desperately want the changes that are essential to shore-up their future and help us avoid a repeat of what we are seeing this summer.

Let’s stop promoting policy that is developed around the views of those who give advice from behind a latte or a bottle of Grange.