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Seismic shifts and other revolutions

Gabrielle OBrienGabrielle O’Brien
CEO
Birthright NZ

Come opinion writing time, I am always watching out for a topical or newsworthy event to comment on.  This time around I feel like it’s a case of be careful what you wish for!

Here in New Zealand we have felt the ground shift literally under our feet whilst in the United States, the physical earth may not have moved but there is no doubt that they have experienced change of significant magnitude.

American author, Frederick Douglass once wrote:

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

I suspect there are a few people around the country who might want to debate that one with him!

In the days after an earthquake, our natural human response is to rally round, to offer what support we can and to seek comfort from the strength we can offer each other.  In Kaikoura, as after the Christchurch earthquakes, generosity of spirit has been shown again and again whether that is the putting aside of political differences, the comfort of food and a resting place on the marae, individuals working to reunite families or helping neighbours in the clean up effort.  We see the power of community in action.

Sometimes though, time passes and we forget.  We forget how we respond in extraordinary situations in the busyness of everyday life.  We may also forget the importance of everyday community action in helping those who are negotiating their own personal seismic events on a daily basis.

In the social services sector at the moment, it feels like the ground is constantly shifting.  There is a background of unease with a sense that a “big one” is coming and constant small jolts to keep us on our toes.   We have that sense that no matter how well we might try and prepare ourselves, we have little control over what happens next.

We know that big seismic events and their aftermath can result in new ways of doing things for the longer term.  New alliances are forged, assumptions are questioned  and mindsets change. We learn some lessons and try and prepare ourselves better for the next time.

But those we represent can’t afford to wait for the “big one”.  We need to be working together  as a sector now to ensure that the interests and needs of our clients are at the forefront of change.  Yesterday at the Fourth Data Hui, the Honourable Bill English offered an invitation to the audience to persist and put pressure on Government where we didn’t think they had it right .  That’s an invitation we would be foolish to ignore.  Working together provides us with the opportunity to do that with maximum effect.  That’s what I appreciate about groupings like ComVoices.

Contemporary Turkish playwright, novelist and thinker Mehmet Murat Ildan wrote:

“A planet with no mountains, no storms and no earthquakes will create a planet of weak people!”

Well, we have no excuse then do we?!

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

Click here for our website:  http://comvoices.org.nz/