You work hard all year, then December hits, you stop for a holiday and may even be lucky enough to get a few weeks off. Then you head back to work, refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. It is a feeling most of us long for throughout the year.
This year was different, after years of drought fires ravaged the east coast of Australia and this was followed by storms and floods. It became undeniable, even to the most resistant, that climate change was upon us. The losses to lives, ecosystems and animals are unimaginable. I have spent my whole life in Australia, and thus have experience many droughts and fires yet this one felt different, and all those I have spoken too they express the same feeling.
Whilst we have seen disasters on similar scales before, never has the impact felt so overwhelming. When I reflect on it there is two aspects that stand out. The first is air quality, the blanketing smoke made it unescapable, you couldn’t just turn the tv or radio off to seek respite from the vision, you were surrounded by it, that suffocating feeling of smoke and the darkness when the sun can’t cut through. It was being surrounded by the physical presence of fire.
The other thing that sets this disaster apart from other, was the lack of leadership from where it was expected, and the amazing leadership that emerged. Sitting with my feelings around this, I have reflected on why did the absence of leadership at a national level feel so personal? But overwhelmingly, feelings of positivity came from the local leaders that emerged.
Not only am in the midst of a women’s leadership program, but I privileged to spend the last few days at the Catalysing Gender Equality Conference. I have been reflecting on what the last few months have shown me about leadership and these take homes (which are nothing ground-breaking) resonate with me:
Having a position of leadership doesn’t make you are leader.
If as a leader you leave a void, other will step up and lead. So if you find yourself in the absence of a leadership, be that person who steps up.
To be a leader you need to be present, by this I don’t mean physically present.
I hope that over upcoming months and years, in the face of increasingly significant effects of climate change, that from all parts of the community, including myself, more and more leadership is shown.