Our emotional responses to life are varied.
We are mostly calm, walking through our streets, the streets of uni, colleges and those around our homes with a sense of quiet.
But sometimes, feeling overwhelms us; anger, incense and desperation.
The “These Cuts are Killing Us” movement is one example of this, just one example of how flares of emotion can cause mass movements.
For those who mightn’t be aware of the campaign, over the summer break, Prime Minister Turnbull sought to institute the same health care cuts that Abbott proposed in his disastrous 2014 budget. He proposed scrapping bulk-billing incentives, raising the cost of life saving pap smears, raising the price of urine and blood tests that check for cancer to at least $30, and the cost of MRI’s to $173.
At the bedrock of the Australian way is a commitment to universal healthcare; no matter where you stand in this community – rich or poor, man or woman, queer or straight, regional or urban, Indigenous or not – the government is supposed to have your back and ensure your health and wellbeing.
It’s only fair… and this policy was not.
What came next was monumental momentum across the country. Starting with outrage from a small group of 6 women across the country, channelling their outrage into a petition that over 200,000 Australians signed.
From the actions of these 6 women came a national response opposing the attack on the universality of our healthcare system.
Next, on the 20th of February, came coordinated protests against the attacks in all major cities. Political leaders like Bill Shorten spoke, banners were waved, and thousands upon thousands of Australians attended.
Amongst the many hoards of these people nation-wide were twenty or so ANU students, who walked from Union Court to where the Canberra protest was being held.
There, leaders of our territory stood in solidarity to oppose the cuts and to stress to us the great number of groups who would be disadvantaged by them.
I realised, due to this protest, that the issue was not Turnbull’s short-sightedness but rather the disastrous extent to which marginalised groups would be put off by the cost of a trip to the doctor, and ultimately just not get tested. When women, Indigneous and regionally located individuals die at all too high a rate from cervical cancer already, these cuts are more than disastrous.
“These Cuts are Killing Us” is more than just a motto. It’s the direct impact of Turnbull’s plans on Australians who will be severely impacted, to the point where it isn’t just a slogan anymore.
I didn’t know how to feel. On the one hand I was outraged by the policy, but on the other I was disappointed by the rather small ANU contingent.
Yes it was hot, yes it was in the morning, but in the face of the universality of health care being shattered, did it really matter?
We pride ourselves on being champions for the marginalised at the ANU, and so we should. Our Queer, Women’s, Disabilities and other departments are revered by Australian campuses everywhere.
And yet, in the face of cuts that will hurt the marginalised, we were largely absent.
Then I thought though, maybe ANU students thought this protest was too partisan or political, despite it being supported concurrently by the NUS, Greens, Labor, Unions Act and CPSU. Maybe we didn’t hear about it, despite 6 separate organisations on campus creating events for it. Maybe protest isn’t our preferred form of rallying against bad policy. For these reasons, and many more, there was an entitlement to non-attendance.
Students though, for centuries, have been the leaders in fighting back against governmental overstep and policies which insult our appreciation for fairness, equity and caring for the marginalised.
We need to do more. As a community, we need to stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and say “NO” to the policies that will hurt us along with the communities we want to fight for.
It’s about momentum. Political change doesn’t happen when twenty ANU students rock up to a rally. Rather, political change happens when entire communities are mobilised. There will be more protests, and this year, two elections. We should never stop seeking opportunities to have our voices heard by the fat-cats on the hill.
For the moment, the debate over these cuts continues. But here’s something I know for sure: communities who bother to shift their feelings to actions cause genuine political change.
For each other, for those we love, and for those that this government needs to love more; more is required of us.
We may be the leaders of tomorrow, but there’s no reason we can’t be the voices of now; being the equity minded and socially concerned students that the ANU was created to produce.