I am sitting on my couch reflecting on this time and this day, two years ago. As the 2017 Tasmanian Australian of the Year, I was standing alongside 31 other Australians who had lived their work. Scientists, artists, chefs, and so on. Each, like me, feeling a sense of overwhelm, satisfaction, pride and, to be honest, exhaustion.
I congratulate the winners of the respective (and respected) Australia Day Awards this year. Such courage and commitment to the people and places of our country and beyond. And I honour our Tasmanian nominees.
I am thinking about how being named Tasmania’s Australian of the Year has helped me in promoting kindness and communication. I’ve grabbed on and held tight to every single opportunity to share my work, raise awareness of the power lying sweetly and strongly within honest communication, and to make a difference in the lives of… people… who we so often call ‘the vulnerable’. (Dang. I am vulnerable too. And I bet you are as well.)
Just this week, I was invited to speak to a conference room full of Supreme and Federal Court judges. My goal was to show them, through the use of the iconic Australian bush ballad, The Man from Snowy River, how communication can be so difficult when all the skills and rules of communication are not accessible to the reader, listener, speaker. I won’t go into the details of the workshop here (I’ll save that for another, more high tech post) but through a series of exercises, the room full of judges were brought to the stark realisation that without knowing, understanding or being exposed to the way communication works, a famous story of “the colt from old Regret” that “had got away, and had joined the wild bush horses” ended up as something about “a lot of f^*king horses”!
Yesterday, one of the judges who was in attendance at my presentation and had extended his stay in Hobart, passed me then stopped me in the street. He said “Your presentation was fabulous – the best… well… all the sessions were great. But that message about communication made us all think. I didn’t know communication could work like that. We all talked about you at the dinner last night. My wife does Circle of Security. It’s such great work. Keep doing that great work. I’ve looked at your [Chatter Matters] website. I’ll keep coming back to it. I’ve looked at all the other links you shared. Such great work.”
When I was a somewhat scared and naïve young speech pathology student, the law students seemed to me to be the ‘smart’ ones who knew so much more than I did. But over the years since then, I have learned how much we all need each other. Heart, head, rule, liberty. They all matter. They all contribute. And they are all mediated in the realms of expansive human good, by our kind and tender, respect-filled communication.
The more that people can understand the way communication works, its robust fragility and its challenging beauty, the more we will grow our happiness, and a shared grace within a challenged world.
In the words of Banjo Patterson, My “pluck was still undaunted, and (my) courage fiery hot,”
Congratulations again to our new Australians of the Year – Tick & Kate Everett, Danzal Baker, Suzanne Parker, Craig Challan and Richard Harris. We are so proud of you. May your 2019s burn with passion and set alight all those you touch.