There’s been plenty of rhetoric and response in the media about the current protestors, and there’s definitely a lot to dissect. I’m not interested in contributing to the conversation because not only do I find the whole thing somewhat distressing, I also feel like there’s little left to say other than that I’d like the Lifeline Bookfair to proceed unhindered.
But one thing that I can’t get past is the naming of the protest gatherings as ‘Occupy Canberra’.
There it is again – the constant and erroneous equation of ‘Canberra’ as being the same as ‘Parliament House’.
What’s it going to take for the rest of Australia to realise that Canberra is much more than Parliament, and that those of us who live here are sick of our city being conflated with whatever ruckus is happening in politics at any given moment?
Do people in Washington, or those who live in the suburb of Westminster, have the same problem as we do? Every time I hear a journalist on the radio refer to ‘Canberra’ when they mean Parliament House, it makes me want to call the feedback line and deliver a crotchety speech about how it’s factually incorrect to use the terms interchangeably. It does nothing for the well-being and community spirit of those of us who actually live here.
We’re referred to as being in a bubble, having a toxic culture, being out of touch, and now being the target of a large number of yahoos who have disrupted our day-to-day lives when their presumed target are politicians on the hill who remain unaffected by the traffic incidents, honking, vandalism and verbal abuse that everyday Canberrans have suffered.
Canberra has had a bad reputation nationally for as long as I can remember. We’re labelled as boring, uptight, barren, and full of zombie-like public servants.
Personally, I don’t care much about those opinions because the fewer people who come here, the better for the rest of us to enjoy our city in peace.
But when considered in the context of the past week, I think it’s about time we started to push back against the misinformation. Journalists shouldn’t be allowed to refer to ‘Canberra’ in place of ‘Federal Parliament’. Neither should politicians and pundits.
We might have been established as the site of Federal Parliament, but our city and community are about much, much more than that. We’re a multifaceted community of different cultures, political beliefs, niche interest groups and activities. We have a local flavour that is distinct to different areas, and a love of the outdoors, art, sport and excellent food.
Unfortunately, we have to endure politicians and their staffers occupying our home during sitting weeks, but they largely stay confined to Parliament House and one or two bars and cafes, and we’ve learned to ignore their presence for the most part.
So can the rest of Australia please learn to define ‘Canberra’ as being a city loved by the hundreds of thousands of fellow Aussies who live here, not the catch-all term for the toxic political culture of Parliament House, which is actually mostly the remit of FIFO workers who don’t live here?