Why there remains hope for the future

I've been experiencing some time-based confusion recently, which has little to do with the local Coles playing only music from the 1980s.

Events in parliament concerning the fracas between Sarah Hanson-Young and David Leyonhjelm, and the very public response to the heartless murder of Eurydice Dixon, make me believe I'm simultaneously trapped in two eras.

As an older teenager 30 years ago, I heard all the same arguments and discussion that Ms Dixon's murder has provoked. And I’m saddened to note very little has changed. 

Women are still the main victims of domestic violence and are made to feel vulnerable in many situations. 

And they are still accused of being somehow responsible in cases of rape and assault. 

Over more than 30 years, nothing has changed on that front.

The “discussion” wafting out of parliament leaves me thinking that I am indeed a product of another, very different era.

At almost 50, my soul and stomach can no longer tolerate listening to those in parliament. 

It is much easier for me to try have a positive impact on the world around me if I ignore that Australia is drifting along without strong, mature leadership.

For that reason, I am a little out of touch with the personalities of both Hanson-Young and Leyonhielm. But I have been unable to ignore all the fuss.

The early ’90s was not an easy time to be a professional woman in a male-dominated industry, although it was certainly an easier environment than that faced by my mother and grandmothers. 

Being the sole female in so many of the places I worked in Japan was far from a picnic at times, and it was a pleasant surprise to discover more women in politics, sports and “non-traditional” roles when I returned to this country in late 2010. 

However, I would hardly describe the situation between the genders as equitable – more akin to the beginnings of a war between the sexes.

The types of comments flung at Hanson-Young are consistent with so many I had lobbed at me, and many of my female peers. 

The way I, as a product of my generation have handled such comments would be to respond similarly. 

Perhaps that is because I was raised as an equal to men, and have always seen myself as any man's equal. 

I have never regarded myself as a woman first, nor regards my male colleagues as men. 

We are equal, and any slurs, razzing, or patronising is returned in kind, with dignity and decorum. 

I regard myself as an equal, and if horrible slurs are made against me, I can certainly turn them around and disarm an attacker. 

Sadly, it seems that sometime since the 1980s, many women have grown to be ultra-sensitive, and look for slurs and insults in each and every action they encounter from a man. 

I feel sorry for men raised in a different era in their efforts to negotiate how to interact with women. 

There certainly are some horrible people of both genders out there. 

However, most men are not like that, they are just confused as to how now to treat a woman, especially in a world where the differences between are being focused upon. 

While legislation that ensures equality is a positive step towards equal opportunity for people of all genders, races, religions and sexual orientation, we seem to be living in an era where resentment is taking over, and a hideous and fatal attack on an innocent is not regarded with universal horror. 

I fear we are heading towards an era of division, hatred and mistrust. 

I make no apologies for my race, religion, sexual orientation or gender, and do not expect anyone else to. 

I was raised to see beyond what society considers differences, and see the individual. 

Therein lies the answer to the problem. People's behaviour is being directed to what they are told is politically or legally correct. It is not coming from within. 

Acting a certain way without conviction is hollow, and leads to resentment and anger. 

Treating someone as an equal out of respect is far superior and healthier than being afraid of being judged or being punished.

I despair that between the late ’70s and now, the distinction between the two has been lost, to all our detriment.

However, I did recently come across a beacon of radiant light in the guise of Young Leadership workshops.

Respect is something that is learnt, not only by teaching it, but by showing it.

The young are the best to train in how to interact and function as a harmonious society, and we are still a species that tends to follow a leader.

While our politicians busily attack each other while the ship sinks, there is an organisation directed at saving us all through our youth.

I went along to what is called a GRIP Conference, where a small group of 30 somethings run workshops for primary and secondary school students in leadership skills. 

At this particular conference/workshop were dozens of grade 6 students and teachers from schools across the region, including the Rotary-sponsored Daylesford Primary School.

I was blown away, and nearly brought to tears by how enthusiastic the kids were, and how effortlessly they took on board some fantastic leadership skills and qualities. 

Daylesford Rotary, as part of the many projects it runs and supports in the community, is providing financial and human support to roughly 25 grade 6 students chosen for their leadership qualities, to build upon what the kids learnt at the workshop. 

I have attended a couple of these follow up sessions, and have seen how the kids have really learnt and incorporated some brilliant qualities.  

These kids, under the Rotarians’ gentle mentoring, are showing that it is possible to treat each other with respect and inclusion. 

There are no egos vying for dominance, no abuse when opinions differ, no slurs, and no sulking by anyone when they don't get their way. 

The kids are open and honest with each other, and have thus far shown themselves to be able to work together far better than parliament or much of the rest of society.  

Secondary school, the teenage years, and the crap social media and a consumer-driven economy teach kids may all work to dampen down the brilliance these kids are showing.

But even if only one of them retains the skills they have learnt, a significant difference will have been achieved. 

A difference for the better, all centred around respect for others.

Perhaps in another 30 years the chaos, confusion, and conflict of this age will be a thing of the past.

If that is the case, I look forward to the future.