As 2016 draws to a close, and we reflect on Brexit, the election of Trump, the many natural disasters around the world and the ongoing conflicts in Syria and South Sudan, it’s hard not to feel it has been a pretty difficult year for our world. Due to this, it can be easy to forget that there has also been some pretty wonderful things that have happened this year.
I think that 2016 has been a year where Canberra has demonstrated we are a smart, intelligent community, who cares about each other and cares for the planet. Here are my picks for things that happened this year that make me so proud to be a Canberran.
Its hard to think about 2016 in Canberra without thinking about the ACT Territory election. Beyond the corflute wars, there were some pretty exciting things that happened. In particular, through the election campaign, Canberrans showed that they cared about the city they live in by putting up their hands to be part of democracy. A record 141 of us dedicated our time and talents to run as candidates, and thousands more got involved through volunteering for parties and supporting independent candidates. This shows a health in our democracy and a willingness for people to get involved in public service. In an age where cynicism about politics often means that people decide not to participate, we can be proud that our citizens were given real choices about the people they wished to be represented by. At the end of all this, we elected a majority female Legislative Assembly, with 52% female representation across from all parties represented in the Assembly. This is a first for our Assembly and something to be very proud of. It means our political decision makers better represent the diversity of our community and decision making will be better for it.
Through 2016 the ACT continued to demonstrate vision and leadership around climate change. We achieved tri-party support for a 100% renewable energy target by 2020. We showed this is achievable and put in place the measures to ensure we achieve this ambitious goal. In this, Canberra is not only leading Australia, but is also leading the world – something highlighted at the recent global climate change conference. More broadly it showed what can be achieved when people are committed to developing policy based on evidence, and working together collaboratively rather than letting partisan politics prevail.
Over the year, the ACT continued to lead the way in the protection of human rights. This included the introduction of safety exclusion zones to enable women accessing legal health care services such as termination services to do so free of harassment and intimidation. We saw the opening of Dhulwa Secure Mental Health Unit which provides 24 hour treatment and care to adults with complex mental health issues. We saw the ACT Government step up and provide local funding support to ensure that the Safe Schools anti-bullying program will be able to continue in line with the evidence of what works best to protect our young people.
We continued to lead the country in our rates of volunteerism. Across the community individuals volunteered many hours to sporting organisations, school parents and citizens committees, arts organisations, residents associations and community organisations. This contribution back to our community shows the rest of Australia that this city has not only a soul but also a big heart. Generosity has also prevailed through philanthropy with initiatives such as Hands Across Canberra, work to expand the Boundless All Abilities Play Ground and the Deakin Charity House.
So they are my picks of some of the things that have made Canberra great through 2016. What are yours?