• Eugene McGarrell

Bring back the village to create a "Healthy Australia"

Updated: Jan 6

How do we sleep while our beds are burning?*


Australia is burning and social media is running hot about the Prime Minister’s leadership credentials and many are fanning the flames of conspiracy theories from “deliberate burns to build a high speed train track” to the “climate denier cabal” urging us all to put our heads in the sand.


Keyboard warriors sharing their anger while families lose the annual holiday they’ve worked hard for in 2019, small business owners losing the income they were relying on to survive 2020 and of course people losing their homes and belongings wondering how they will continue to live their lives.


Then of course we remember the people who lost their lives. We remember the children that lost a parent and the people who lost a spouse, a sibling and a friend. We remember their grieving will continue well beyond the current media attention, well beyond the next crisis and well beyond this new decade.


 We remember their grieving will continue well beyond the current media attention, well beyond the next crisis and well beyond this new decade.

The Australian Government generates narratives with support from the likes of Rupert Murdoch about the “Aussie Battler” and the “Quiet Australian” suggesting we just suck it up and take it on the chin without complaining. Well maybe we should adopt our own narrative.

A Healthy Australia narrative. One which unites the country to take care of the environment, to take care of our safety, promote our health and provide education for all.


The neo-liberal promise heralded by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s has delivered prosperity for the few, has created a golden cage for the many and has sustained poverty for people living on the margins of "society".


 ...prosperity for the few, created a golden cage for the many and has sustained poverty for people living on the margins of "society"

Despite decades of neo-liberal governments the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, the environment is deteriorating in our pursuit for an endless fossil fueled growing economy and the rates of chronic disease increases despite what is known about health, fitness and diet.


Now is the time to pause. Now is the time to ask ourselves, “do we want to pursue an ever-growing economy that is bad for our society, bad for our health and bad for our environment?”.


 ... “do we want to pursue an ever-growing economy that is bad for our society, bad for our health and bad for our environment?”

Is there another way?


Make no mistake, the economy is growing at the expense of our environment and is built on a shed load of lies selling us sugar, gambling, alcohol, plastic and carbon fueled products.

The economy must grow for the rich, they are the ones with shares and stocks demanding a return on investment.


We are sold the lie that our homes (our golden cages) are making us money, yet the more expensive the house prices are, the less accessible home ownership becomes. The larger debt we take on, the more time, effort and energy we invest in our work. The investment that would otherwise go into our families, our children and therefore the health of future generations.


 We are sold the lie that our homes (our golden cages) are making us money

Now the Australian Government wants to make lending easier for first time buyers, which in turn will put upward pressure on house prices. It’s a game to make us feel rich, yet we work for 50 years just to pay off the mortgage and put food on the table. Many of us live hand to mouth with a large debt over our heads. No wonder anxiety, depression and suicide rates are sustained despite this better life we have been promised.


The cage is golden, but it is still a cage.


What if we stopped worrying about the economy? What if we stopped obsessing that everyone should work a 5 day a week, 8 to 12 hour a day job? What if we re-thought policy to focus on our health, on healthy families, on healthy neighbourhoods and on a Healthy Australia?


 What if we stopped worrying about the economy?

There are many thought leaders out there sharing their ideas about new economic, environmental, social, health and education policies. Policies that encourage local community sovereignty founded on the human right of self-agency; policies that encourage local economies founded on bartering and crypto-currency; policies that place responsibility on manufacturers for carbon neutral outputs and recycling of their waste; and policies that educate children about their health, ethics and promote critical thinking.


 local community sovereignty founded on the human right of self-agency

A circular economy is not a new idea. It is possible to achieve an economy that serves all the people while taking care of the environment. The planet does not need us. If we continue down this route we will destroy humankind. When we reach the tipping point on climate change, humans will not survive let alone thrive on this planet.


The planet will breath a sigh of relief when we are gone.


 A circular economy is not a new idea.

A strong economy relies on a healthy environment. A healthy environment creates the foundation for the health of humankind. We cannot keep taking from the environment without the planet reacting. And when it reacts, as it has started to do, humakind will become extinct.


 The planet will breath a sigh of relief when we are gone.

The status quo keeps those of us with privilege in power. Disrupting the status quo means sharing that power. But those in power will not let that happen. They are rich, they live the good life, they holiday in Hawaii and they call the shots.


But if we want a Healthy Australia for our children and their children, we need start a movement. A movement the connects community with their power to create healthy households, healthy streets and healthy communities. This movement does not seek permission from governments, it acts within its own authority. This movement does not seek power except in the knowledge that self-agency and community sovereignty can create healthy environments, healthy lives and a healthy local economy.


 But if we want a Healthy Australia for our children and their children, we need start a movement.

The role of government is to provide a safe and secure environment for us to live our own self determined lives. Governments around the world are failing to do this by damaging the environment so that the privileged in power can keep their authority. They deny climate change as they denied smoking caused cancer, not because they don’t understand the science but because earning another dollar is worth more than the health of the people they govern.


They deny climate change as they denied smoking caused cancer, not because they don’t understand the science but because earning another dollar is worth more than the health of the people they govern.

The old paradigm of right and left wing politics does not serve us anymore. As the old paradigms of religion and ideologues of communism and fascism also do not serve us. These were narratives that kept the minority in power despite their promises to the people.


It's time to bring back the village. It's time our children felt safe to play outdoors. It's time we had a local space in our neighbourhood to connect and build a local community. It's time that our elders living on their own had support form their neighbours and felt connected. It's time we felt part of our community. It's time we took responsibility for our local space and environment. It's time we produced fruit and vegetables locally. It's time we created our own neighbourhood economy.


 It's time our children felt safe to play outdoors.

Now it looks like another war is looming to gain further control of the oil fields in Iraq and Iran. Most of us realise that oil in the region is the only reason the West continues to play this lethal game with sovereign states.


This fossil fuel economy will kill humankind slowly through climate change or violently through nuclear war. There are more than 7 billion of us on this planet, it’s time for us to say “enough is enough”.


 This fossil fuel economy will kill humankind slowly through climate change or violently through nuclear war.

And before there are none of us left.


But global politics is out of our reach. We do what we can to vote the right politicians into office despite the lack of choice provided by a 2 party political system. We feel powerless to have an impact so we take to social media. But our rants on Twitter fade into the night or attract trolls that do nothing but create reductive arguments and generate polarised debates.


So our power lies in the action we take locally. Reaching out to our neighbours, talking to strangers, starting a weekly community dinner event, joining the local community garden initiative and volunteering with a local community organisation are some of the things we can all be doing.

For me, I am comfortable behind a lap top. I feel safe in my house with my door closed. I feel vulnerable sparking up a conversation with a neighbour I haven't met.

For me, I am comfortable behind a lap top. I feel safe in my house with my door closed. I feel vulnerable sparking up a conversation with a neighbour I haven't met. But I grew up in the late 60s and late 70s and I know it wasn't always like that.


We played out doors, our neighbours looked out for us and we knew everyone on our street.

We played out doors, our neighbours looked out for us and we knew everyone on our street.

I know I can take that next step.


I know we can all take that next step to create a healthy street, a health community and a healthy Australia... and who knows, a "Healthy World"!


*Lyrics by Midnight Oil





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