I must admit I didn’t really want to. I was tired and the footy was on TV at the same time. I had already been at church in the morning — surely I had fulfilled my obligations?
But somehow this day was different. I knew I had to go and march. I had to stand up for the things I believe in, the things that I see this government seeking to take away from those who need it most.
Mostly I had to march because my memories compelled me.
My memories of growing up as an Irish-Australian working class kid in the Robert Menzies era. Watching my chronically ill, cerebral palsy-suffering brother get sicker and sicker as the bills for his medical treatment ran higher and higher. Eventually taking him to palliative care in a “home for peace” hospital.
Trusting a relative to pay for his funeral because we were not even able to afford a decent send-off for a young wheelchair-bound boy of nineteen and a half who had suffered so much in his time on this earth.
Watching as the NSW police officer came to our house to arrest him six months after his death on the charges of not answering his conscription notice.
Watching my mother cry as she defended him by telling the officer of his death and then having to prove it by showing his death certificate, and even a photograph of him in his wheelchair before they were satisfied.
Watching as the other kids at our high school prepared for tertiary studies and being told laughingly by my teacher that I would never be able to go to university because my father was a railway worker.
My teacher chuckled when I told him I was reading and studying at the library. He told me that it would make no difference. University was always going to be beyond me, not because of my ability or my willingness to work hard, but because of what he called “the cold hard economic facts”.
Cold and hard certainly sums up this government’s policies and ideologies. This government would happily return us to the Menzies era.
These elected representatives already have their educations, they have their private health and every other insurance and they have their economic futures secure. They don’t pay rent — they own too many properties to live in.
They tell working people and pensioners, the disabled, the Indigenous and every other struggling individual to try harder.
I marched because I and every other working class kid of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and beyond have already tried harder. I ran on the garbage run at 4am every morning to get through teacher’s college. I lived in a garage for three years with no running water.
I won’t be told now, nor will I allow others to be told to try harder by those of privilege, driven by profit and greed, who sadly, though they claim religious faith and association, have never truly understood what Jesus meant when he fed the 5000 hungry people.
He was teaching an all-time truth. It is simple really, if you didn’t learn it from Jesus, you learned it in kindergarten or at your grandmother’s knee. It is called sharing.
That is why I marched and I will march again and again, if I have to. I will also speak up and I will not be silent or apathetic or afraid. I finish with a quote from one of the greatest Irishmen of all time, James Connolly, who said, “The great only seem so great, because we are on our knees. Arise.”
[Don Wright is a Pastor and a member of the Socialist Alliance.]