2017: A New Year to Create Opportunities for Change!

img_1438It’s quiet in my home city of Brisbane and it’s one of the reasons that I love this time of year. It reminds me of my childhood and how the city gently hummed along each day with a feeling of still being a little country town. This gentle energy returns again as each year comes to an end and holiday makers head to the beautiful beaches that surround Brisbane. And it is in the quiet that I find myself each year yearning to spend time reflecting on my year and extracting as much learning as I can from my experiences. And of course to begin the process of exploring my intentions – and my hopes and dreams – for 2017.


For many 2016 brought disappointment in relation to human rights and limited opportunities for social change. At first glance it may not appear that we’re ending the year in a better position than we began it. However like every year I suspect that in some ways we are in a better place and in others we still have much important work to do. The enduring theme for me however, is the importance of continuing to focus on what we each can do every day to create a better world – I believe that this still remains our best hope for long-term and sustainable change to the way we live.


There is something very important in doing something. Taking some action makes us feel less powerless. So regardless of how significant the impact (although we hope it will be significant) there is value in just doing something rather than doing nothing.  One of the keys is to find what works for you – finding what moves us to act is important, so we can then build and act on our passion – this will increase the changes that we will sustain our actions over time.


Sometimes we might find ourselves making excuses for why we can’t ‘do’ anything and if so, maybe the time is not right for us to take action or at the very least we might want to scale down our expectations of what we can happily do. As human beings living in a complex world it is inevitable that we will have different capacities from each other and at different times in our lives. We need to find what’s right for us at this time and be at peace with it.


One of the greatest barriers to ‘doing something’ is that we feel the issues impacting us are out of our control, that there is nothing we can do and we therefore feel powerless. This is often the case with social issues that seem so big and so overwhelming that doing nothing and giving up seem our only realistic options.


As a social worker one of the things we are taught is the art of reframing – to assist people to look differently at their experiences, to reframe them in a different light. An important part of the healing process involves looking at an adverse experience and seeing it in a different light that allows it to be turned it into an opportunity that we can grow from. We don’t dismiss how awful the experience has been but rather we understand that many of our experiences in life are actually fertile ground for our learning and our growth. This allows us to take control of the situation rather than the situation taking control of us.


And I’m not just referring to individual adverse experiences – this concept applies to any issue that impacts us but feels outside our control to influence and change – and it can be a helpful tool for approaching social change.


In 2016 many who believe in human rights have been shocked at the appeal that conservative and oppressive styles of leadership appear to have for many people. Rather than despair I believe we need to understand this situation, to turn our disappointment and despair into action by creating new understandings and new opportunities to create change.


One of my favourite authors in the trauma field, Judith Herman Lewis, writes about social change and the need to have both the social and the political will to usher in sustainable social change. Globally it may appear that our leaders have little will for change and even that many in our communities and societies have little desire for social justice. I believe this is our collective task – to talk, listen, share, inform, educate, and to build the social will that no longer accepts injustice and intolerance as appropriate responses to the world’s problems.
So again, there is always power in doing something, in acting and taking control of those things that impact on us rather than allowing them to control us, in reframing and exploring and creating opportunities to make the world a more peaceful and equitable place.


This year we began our series of posts on Let’s Change the World – and there is more to come in this series throughout this year. We also have some other exciting developments in WITADA planned for 2017 that we will share with you in the coming weeks. For now I’ll leave you with a picture of the beautiful North Stradbroke Island to calm our minds and restore our energy as we begin a new year.


We wish you all a peaceful and inspirational 2017 and hope and dream about a world where we all do what is in our power each day to make the world a better place!