“I feel proud of Australia again – and so full of hope.”
This was what Meg, one of Environment Victoria’s long-standing volunteers told me as I arrived in the office this morning. It was the same thing I heard time and again as I rang volunteers around the state to find out about their experience of the federal election.
The message that Australians, and particularly Victorians, sent this election couldn’t be clearer. In cities, suburbs and regions, voters demanded stronger climate action and leadership from our federal government.
This is a huge win for all of us – whether you were involved in a local group, volunteered with a campaign, or talked to your friends and family about climate. And it didn’t happen overnight. The momentum we’ve seen in the lead up to this election is the result of tireless efforts over the last decade, to build the power of our movement and put climate action firmly on the agenda.
We know there are important lessons for us in the election results, and over the coming weeks we’ll be combing through the data to find them. But right now, it’s important to celebrate this win – and the many people, community groups and organisations who made it possible. You can read some of their stories below.
For Alex, who grew up in Germany and now lives in South Gippsland, working with like-minded people made it possible to believe we could change the conversation and make the federal government listen to communities.
Alex helped to organise a bike ride from Loy Yang coal power station as part of a community rally for climate action in Gippsland. She laughed about how the miserable weather put a few people off on the day “in Germany you go out in any conditions because otherwise you’d never leave the house! But we still had a great group and the energy was really potent.”
For Alex, getting people to think about their responsibility to kids is key. When Labor candidate Jessica O’Donnell bent down to accept the Gippsland Open Letter from Alex’s four year old daughter, there were tears in her eyes. “You’re responsible for their future, if you have the opportunity to take action then you can’t say no.”
Faizul is deeply involved with the Bangladeshi community in Dandenong after moving to Australia fifteen years ago. He told me it’s a really good feeling that after the major parties failed to put climate change at the centre of their campaigns, the community forced them to listen.
“While there were lots of other issues – housing, the cost of living – people put climate first.”
Faizul spent many hours talking to people in his community about the difference between the climate policies offered by each party.
“We have to get the message out to the community that clean energy is good for the economy, it will create more jobs for us and future generations.”
Bruce has volunteered with Environment Victoria for over a decade. This year he felt the election was so important that he took four weeks off work to give it everything he could.
Bruce was active in several groups working to make climate a vote decider in both Higgins and Goldstein. They held “democracy walks” where they would engage locals in conversations, as well as knocking doors, and leafletting the entire Goldstein electorate several times throughout the campaign.
Whilst the last six weeks were the most intense, the Higgins campaign began in earnest six months ago with a vigil held every Thursday outside Liberal MP Katie Allen’s electorate office.
“Of course it was good getting ‘toots for climate’ but most importantly it built spirit and connections in the group so that further down the track we could really rely on each other.”
Work wasn’t the only thing that took a back seat. “The lawn here is pretty long” he tells me.
After such an intense effort I expected to hear a sense of exhaustion. But one after the other, people told me they were energised by the campaign – and felt a sense of urgency to keep pushing.
Alex said something that rang really true for me: how working alongside like-minded people — even when the challenge is enormous — makes it possible to look out for your mental health. She’s thrilled by the new energy that organising together has brought. “Now change is finally here, we’re not going to stop. We’ve only just started.
“The work starts now,” says Bruce, “accelerating this change and doing it in a way where the economy stays strong so there’s no backlash. We’re already thinking about the state election, we know that EV’s campaign will be big.”
This election has shown us that, together, we’re an unstoppable force for change.
In Gippsland, Ballarat, Shepparton and the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, we’ll soon start planning our next steps. If you’re a local in one of these areas and are not already connected, now a great time to get involved with your local Action Network group. And wherever you are in Victoria, thank you for the role you play in this incredible community.