I am the oldest child of Don and Mona Wyatt, who raised ten children. My father served in the RAAF towards the end of World War II as a driver and left to work for the Western Australian Government Railways where he worked and ended his career as a railway ganger. In 1972, when I graduated from teachers college my first pay was more than what my father was earning towards the end of his career. My mother was one of the Stolen Generation and spent her childhood years in Roelands Mission near Bunbury in Western Australia.
As a child, I used to listen to the stories shared between my mother and her brothers and sisters about growing up in the respective missions they were sent to. They reminisced about the people they grew up with outside of their own families and the family connections they re-established after leaving the mission. I often wondered about the experiences that remained locked away in their memories and not talked about. What I found even more fascinating was the blurring of the lines between real family and the many others who were accepted as family because they had shared a significant part of their childhood together in the mission.
We all have vivid recollections of the way things were, but as children we did not comprehend the significance of many actions until much later, when we were more capable of understanding the reality of life my mother experienced while she was in Roelands Mission and later as a domestic worker. My parents substantiated this when I was much older and the missing pieces were gained through reading the numerous entries, correspondence and field officer’s reports in my mother’s native welfare department file. It gave us an inkling of the challenges that she faced as a child and later as an adolescent woman when she was sent out to work. The letters from her parents or the entries made about parental contact over a period of time clearly established the fact that her parents had not relinquished their parental rights.
All this, of course, raises a pertinent but mostly unasked question: how relevant is parliament to the political process? Is parliament really all that important now that we have seen off absolute monarchs and established democratic government?
Well, yes it is, and the institution should really stand as the cornerstone of our democracy, safeguarded from the abuse and disregard of government just as it once stood as a bulwark against untrammelled royal privilege. Parliament constitutes the essential and definitive link between the governed and government; it is both the symbol and the reality of representative democracy. The parliament connects the people to their instruments of government. It is where they can see and hear issues of public importance being discussed and debated, and observe – or at times even influence – the processes of decision-making. It is too easily forgotten that parliament has very real power over people’s lives as the decisions it makes are binding on all.
It reminds me of when, as a newspaper excutive, I met The Sydney Morning Herald‘s famed rugby analyst, Sprio Zavos, outside the final of the 2003 World Cup. “Who is going to win?,” I asked him. “I don’t know Mark,” he replied. “That’s why they’re playing the game.”
Then he stumbled across the Transition Town movement, which was just picking up steam in his city—Bristol, England. When Mundy attended a training session on Transition Towns, he found a group of people addressing the big problems of our time, and doing it with optimism and a sense of celebration.
The Transition movement is built around making the transition to a world after peak oil—the time when world oil production reaches an all-time high, then goes into irreversible decline. Oil prices will spike and the economy will stop growing, wreaking havoc in our society, which depends on petroleum for nearly everything, from growing food to maintaining economies. The Transition movement aims to prepare communities for peak oil—or climate change, or economic meltdown—by reclaiming lost skills, teaching new ones, and fostering local self-sufficiency.
The movement’s approach and attitude, as much as its goals, galvanized Mundy. “It’s not about being angsty, and doing worthy things. It’s about celebrating,” he says. “I like parties—I’m a bit of a party animal,” he adds with a grin. “So it’s perfect for me.”
IN MY next life, I want to be a central bank governor. People fawn on you, whatever you say is taken as gospel, and others rarely challenge it.