With the federal election campaign in full swing, the national media has been in overdrive with references to ‘Canberra’.
‘Canberra’ is, of course, used ceaselessly as a surrogate for the Federal Government. For some, the two are interchangeable.
It seems pretty simple to those who live here, but for some, the Federal Government is Canberra and Canberra is the Federal Government. Hence, we get the ongoing anti-vax protests descending on Canberra even when most politicians aren’t here because they’ve gone home to the electorates where they spend most of their time.
There appears to be a perception that we, as a community, Canberrans, are responsible for the decisions impacting Australians.
How can people get this so wrong?
But this perception isn’t new. We’ve been hearing this same thing for years: “Canberra did this, and Canberra did that.” It’s irritating, naïve and so wrong.
So an idea: should we appoint Canberrans, who might not even currently live in the city, to become advocates for our city?
And perhaps sportspeople could play a role.
When sporting teams such as the Raiders, Brumbies, the Capitals and Canberra United have won competitions they are often honoured with a civic reception and given the ceremonial keys to the city.
It’s pretty much over once the fanfare dies down, but while the attention is on the team, Canberra appears to be more than the home of Australia’s decision-makers. It is seen as comprised of humans who do other things, such as playing sport, watching sport, and celebrating wins. You know, ‘human’ – not political – things.
Think of the impression this has on others who only see our city as the seat of government.
Consider also the likes of Patty Mills becoming a voice for the city even though he is based in the US.
He has pretty much received every major honour Australia has to offer in the past year: carrying the Australian Olympic flag at the Tokyo Olympics; leading the Australian men’s basketball team to their first Olympic medal; becoming a Member of the Order of Australia; winning the Don Award for inspiring a nation; and being named the ACT Australian of the Year.
If that is not enough to convince the powers that be that Patty should be offered an official title as the city’s ambassador, there are two more compelling reasons.
In April, his special project, the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament, took place. This was deemed the pinnacle event of the National Indigenous Youth Basketball Program Australia.
If that is not enough to convince anyone of Patty’s significance, his latest accolade provides the slam-dunk.
Patty received the Joe Dumas Trophy for winning the 2021-22 NBA Sportsmanship award. The award, which over 300 NBA players voted on, is presented to honour the player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.
His comments after winning the award highlight what a worthy recipient he is: “Now I’m in a position to be able to inspire others to love the game, and to go about it in a manner that’s respectful.”
Patty has a global platform and has expressed his love for this city. Maybe he can cut through where the rest of us have failed. Perhaps he can help people see that Canberra involves more than politics and political decision-making.
And if you want cut-through, we could also try to enlist Nick Kyrgios. He loves Canberra. He’s expressive, he’s a colourful personality and he is not a politician. He inadvertently works at people understanding that Canberra, and its people, are not surrogates for the Federal Government.