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The Art of Voting Well

Updated: Mar 19

Image: by Michael on Unsplash

You can't have missed the fact that we have an election coming up in a few weeks. And if you read my social media pages, you will also have a pretty good idea where my preferences lie in terms of who I think should or should not be running the country. But perhaps you don't know why.

Aside from the issues around a lack of vision and competence as well as the propensity the current government has for lying through its teeth, there are some issues that are my passion in life and it is crucial for me to vote with my conscience in relation to these issues. It is very difficult to navigate through all the smoke and mirrors that all parties communicate via the media in the run up to the election. But for my money it is important to try; after all, the future of all of us depends on our willingness to thoughtfully consider our vote. So below are my major concerns regarding the future of the country and how that will influence my vote.


1. The environment

Bunya Glen, Ann Russell, 2022

Unless you have been living under a rock, you would know that the environment is a key election issue. That's because we are rapidly reaching the point of no return in terms of our impact on the environment. Despite this being a scientific fact that has impacted most of us in terms of extreme weather events, there is still an element of the population that likes to think that the idea of climate change is a conspiracy dreamt up by left wing radicals. Our current government constitute some of those who think that denial is the best way to deal with a natural world that cannot sustain us for much longer. The reason for this stance is, of course, money. The neoliberal ideology that underlines our society says that the economy is the most important thing: more important than kindness, tolerance, or the natural environment. But if the pandemic has told us anything, it is that the economy won't do us much good if we are not alive to participate in it. We need to radically change the way we think about the environment, stop digging stuff up and mowing down forests if we want to be able to exist past the end of the century. Yes there will be an impact on all aspects of society including employment, if we do. No, renewable energy sources and technologies are not perfect. But as Einstein said, to continue doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is the definition of insanity. So that would apply to conservatives who want to continue to plunder the natural environment for the sake of the 'economy'. It is time that we grasped the need for change and put some energy and effort into solving problems that may arise as a result. I want a government willing to do this.

2. Social Justice

It's Complicated, Ann Russell, 2020

Unlike many countries, Australia does thankfully have a social welfare system. But, our current government have largely sought to demonise anyone who might have need of it. Before you come up with the argument that there are people who 'wrought' the system, let me just say that I know. There are. No argument from me. But the vast majority of people who receive social welfare are justified in doing so. I am becoming increasingly distressed about how we as a country treat anyone who isn't a well-heeled (straight) white man. The way we still deal with our First Nations people, refugees, women, members of the LBQTI+ community, immigrants and the disabled is often appalling. Extreme weather events during the term of the current government has left many ordinary Australians homeless. Again, the pandemic should have taught us that any of us can find ourselves impacted by something beyond our control at any time. And in a country that calls itself democratic, we should not be in fear of losing our basic human rights like a roof over our heads. Aside from perpetuating the patriarchal neoliberalism that underpins our society, this government has failed its fairly basic responsibility to ensure all of its citizens are have a roof over their heads and enough food to eat. Added to that, they have allowed and even perpetrated appalling treatment of women and refugees. As such, my vote will go to those who genuinely want to make a difference socially, like the Greens who have committed to providing sufficient public housing for those who need it.

The Arts

White Spirit, Ann Russell, 2009. Winner National WetlandCare award, 2010.

As a practicing artist, trying to eek out a decent living from my work, I am very familiar with the idea that some people in our community regard the arts as an unimportant and optional periphery to society. Obviously, I disagree. But not just because I am am an artist.

Unable to even say the word 'Art', the current Prime Minister and his government have done their best to eradicate the arts from education and society in general by slashing funding and ignoring the sector during the pandemic. Despite that, online galleries have become hugely successful and the arts sector has (as is often the case) stepped into the void left by the government in raising much needed funds in times of emergency. The regarding of art as unnecessary and peripheral sets us apart from many other cultures who embrace artistic activity as foundational to their very existence. And even here, arts have seen a resurgence as a way of maintaining the well-being of a population that is feeling somewhat battered and depressed.

There are numerous ways that artistic activity is helpful, way beyond its entertainment value. It is a way of developing divergent thinking and problem solving, surely a necessity in a time when we seem to have so many problems. Creative activity also kills off some of the binary thinking that is such a feature of neoliberalism - the kind of thinking that perpetuates stereotypes and prevents lateral idea creation. Creativity asks people to imagine something that wasn't there before and artists are the people who do this and then bring it into the world. By virtue of the kind of people artists are - already tapping into their creative problem solving ability - they contribute greatly to society in ways beyond their ability to sing or paint or play the piano. Art and artists enable us to see beyond the literal, the concrete and to contemplate new ways of doing things.

As such, artists are an 'essential service' in my eyes, and when it comes to voting, I will be voting for the parties who see the value in artistic endeavour and are willing to support it. Again, the Greens appear to be winning that competition in their promise to follow the example of other forward-thinking countries and provide a living wage for artists.


In a democratic country, we are fortunate to be able to vote for the government we would like to make our country the way we want it to be. I urge you to fully consider the alternatives and vote in a way that aligns with your conscience. Often, the Independents and Greens receive fewer votes because they cannot be part of the two party preferred system. But, with more votes, they can often secure the balance of power, making their voice (and potentially yours) more audible in the general cacophony of voices in parliament house.

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1 Comment

Well considered and expressed Ann.

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