I don’t know about you, but I have not felt like this in a long time! Sally McManus is a real life hero. Sally is a bringer of hope.
It Cuts Deep
Equality and fairness cut very deep for me. I was one of six children and my father was on the disability pension. I was raised in housing commission in a regional town, in Queensland. One thing my Father used to say to me is, “On the pension, you can’t improve. This is it. There is no more money than what they give you.’ I understood life was different for us.
From the moment I could read, I took a keen interest in politics. I would sit at the table and trawl through the Australian and Courier Mail, turning the pages (which were almost as big as the table). Amongst the political stories, I searched for hope.
I would stare intently at photos of Malcolm Fraser and Joh Bjelke Petersen. Through the eyes of a child, they did not even have kind faces. They looked important but uncaring.
Day after day, there were never any stories about hope for kids like me, or for mums and dads like mine. Did they not see us? Did they not know we were here?
A New World of Fairness
One day, I was sitting cross legged in the middle of the lounge room floor (like you do as an eleven-year-old). A man appeared on the television and he was talking about fairness.
The feeling I had inside was overwhelming. I felt very, very emotional. Finally, in the world of huge newspapers and two television channels, here was one of those important men on the television, but I liked him. He was so much different.
I do not remember his exact words, (I am sure there will be a speech somewhere), but this man said that he would fight to make sure everyone was equal. He would make things fair.
I knew he understood us, without even knowing us. He saw us.
I turned around to Dad and said, “Who is that man?”
“That man is Bob Hawke. He was head of the ACTU. He’s a very smart man and by God Ish, he knows what he is doing. Bob Hawke is going to be our Prime Minister one day.”
In the world of six o’clock news and huge newspapers, I finally existed.
I drew his words in.
Finally, I had hope.
I felt hope.
Starved of Hope
As I have travelled through life since Bob Hawke, I have not felt that same moment of overwhelming hope. Of being seen.
My first real understanding of the opposite of Bob Hawke was John Howard and Work Choices. My first real protest was fighting against Individual Contracts imposed on University workers.
The Howard Era for me was an era of oppression. Of really pushing the working class to the floor. Of making sure if something went wrong, it was too bad. Suck it up losers! A world thrust upon us where we could not speak up and find justice if wronged. We just had to ‘cop whatever employers decided to give us.’ Even the sack.
It didn’t matter if you were loyal, or really good at your job and worked hard, the threat of the sack loomed dark over everyone’s heads and you could tell others felt it every day too. They were dark times.
I will never ever forget Work Choices. Ever.
The night Kevin Rudd won office, I was deliriously happy. To cut a long story short, I was still sitting on the footpath at six in the morning.
Although Rudd knocked down the bad guy. I never had that same feeling of hope. No emotions stirred within me. I was not looking up to a man fighting for fairness. The same with Gillard.
Tony Abbott destroyed my soul. Enough said. I don’t need to explain.
Malcolm Turnbull has the personality and empathy of a cardboard box. One thing you pick up on when you grow up poor is fake people. His fakeness – his insincerity demoralises me on a daily basis, because every single day, I think of today’s kids that are kids like I was. He never will understand the world these kids live in.
I was starved of hope again. The desire to feel hope again was strong.
Fast forward to 2017. The biggest news was Sally McManus was the first female secretary of the ACTU. I had waited all day for her interview on ABC 7.30 Report.
Leigh Sales, a journalist known for interrupting Labor politicians was the interviewer. I felt trepidation. What games would be played? Was the aim to tear down another woman? Did Sales have trick questions up her sleeve? Would Sales cut Sally off to leave misinterpretations hanging in the air?
I watched intently as Sally answered the questions. A calm, clear, steely resolve. An explicit air of knowing her stuff. Of intelligence, higher thought and compassion. A voice of fairness.
Traits I search for in women to admire were before me in abundance. I was stoked!
The emotions that welled inside me, took me back to my childhood sitting on the floor. Here I was sitting, in the lounge room again, watching ABC again and hearing words about the ACTU and fairness again. But this time, it was a woman. How good is this, Right?
Then the words boomed out of the screen….
“It is okay for workers to break unjust laws.”
I drew her words in.
Finally, I had hope.
I felt hope.
I Just Want a Sally McManus T-Shirt
Ever since this day, I have watched intently and Sally McManus is everywhere. Fighting the good fight. Travelling all over Australia. Standing with workers. Speaking words of hope. Fighting for workers. Standing in Solidarity with the unemployed. Fighting for all of us. Knocking down walls. Smashing the insidious thought that has permeated our culture since Howard, that “Workers will get what they are given.”
Telling us to stand together to not back down. A consistent strong unwavering message of hope and fairness, every, single day. Every, single day.
My desire to feel hope is finally fed.
An iteration of Howard and Work Choices will never ever rise again under Sally’s watch.
And that makes me feel bloody good. For me and for kids today who were like kids like me. I feel good for the workers. For the jobless. For everyone doing it tough.
I no longer search for hope. No longer do I desire to be fed. I wake up every day and eat hope for breakfast.
Sally sees us. We exist. She is present.
Sally McManus IS a real life hero.
I echo my Father telling me about Bob Hawke, the man from the ACTU, but now about Sally McManus, the woman from the ACTU:
“Sally McManus will be our Prime Minister one day.”
I just want a Sally McManus T-Shirt!