Gain from pain

ReversalsVictorian premier John Brumby has secured a massive lead over the state opposition following the Victorian bushfire crisis last month. According to Newspoll published in The Australian on Friday, the proportion of voters favouring Labor has surged to 46 per cent, compared with 33 per cent for the Coalition.

Commentators including The Australian's Rick Wallace suggest that Brumby 'seems to be the beneficiary of the voters' tendency to rally around a leader during a crisis'. But it's more likely that Brumby has shown his true colours as a competent leader. It's only necessary to contrast his performance with George W. Bush's inept and divisive handling of Hurricane Katrina, which left America rudderless, and precipitated his popular downfall.

It's a truism to say that a community will emerge stronger from a well-managed crisis. A leader's task is simply to remind people that they can pull through, patch and fix what's broken, and set up a mechanism that will not only support the community through the current crisis, but prepare them to better face future crises, should they arrive. Brumby has proven more than capable.

The bushfires occurred during a time of great financial uncertainty. But Australians distinguished themselves by generously giving money. It was as if they were consciously and calculatingly investing their funds in a scheme called 'the solidarity of the community', because they believed that would bring them the best long-term gain to their own sense of well-being. Time will tell that they were not far wrong.

Jesuit clinical psychologist and trauma counsellor Peter Hosking reflects on the bushfire crisis in the first of a series of Lenten podcasts launched last week by Jesuit Communications.

He says that the bushfires were genuinely shocking, and the disruption to the lives of the communities since has represented an acute sense of pain for many individuals and communities. But for the community at large, there has been 'an extraordinary amount of bonding for people as we've experienced that with them'.

'It is tremendously helpful for people to have that sense of solidarity ... to know that there are people out there who understand, and who are willing to work in solidarity with them as they do their recovery.'

Some Australians are aware that the quality of life of other Australians has been severely diminished by circumstances beyond their control, and they are willing to contribute their own resources towards doing something about it. Such goodwill has the makings of a solidarity that can extend to other more ingrained calamities at home, such as Aboriginal health, and overseas, such as the genocide in Darfur.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.



Topic tags: michael mullins, john brumby, victorian bushfires, father peter hosking, jesuit lenten podcast series



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