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Reflections on National Conference

Australian Greens

For the first time in more than two years, the Australian Greens held our National Conference in person. And while it was amazing to celebrate our recent electoral success and welcome our new representatives, the real reward was the convergence of members and volunteers from around the country.

By Willisa Osburn and Matt Roberts

The excitement of being at National Conference this month is not necessarily something that I could put into words. Being able to meet in person, in the hall Jordon Steele-John described as ‘Marxist Hogwarts’, for the first time in two years was really very special.

Whilst it was amazing to celebrate our recent success at the federal election, and welcome our new senators-elect and new lower house representatives, the real reward of conference was being able to ‘break bread’ with the machines of our party: the members and volunteers from around the country.

We have had significant success as a party – and we should all be proud – because this is our win. From the people who worked on booths in remote locations, to candidates who stood in seats that aren’t winnable but gave it their all. From the tens of thousands of conversations at the door across the country through a pandemic, to the volunteers who show up to meetings that are classed as boring or procedural. We all put ourselves into this movement, and we are all part of this win.

I really do love that word ‘movement’ – not only because it implies a notion of going forward, but also because it implies that there are many parts, working together. When a computer starts up, there are many components inside that computer that need to all work in unison in order for the machine to work. Similarly, when a human hands another human a how-to-vote card, so many muscles need to work together to hold, offer and greet that voter. Our movement is exactly that – so many muscles working together to develop, plan, produce, consult and implement. We recognise that with this cooperation comes progress; comes understanding.

This conference we started to try a hybird model of online and in-person, with some mixed successes. Personally, I’m so grateful to our Australian Greens office staff. They make us look so slick and polished that I can understand why members think that we are a larger organisation than we are. Our hybrid streaming services were all managed by volunteers from the party across both days, with equipment they brought with them. We are excited to continue to improve this technology, and in turn our accessibility options, as we continue our planning processes for future conferences.

We are a party that works through consensus – which is not an easy task – to reach positions on policies and strategies. It’s what sets us apart from other political parties and movements, and tests the best of our thinking. But it has helped shape the ideas that we brought to the doors of voters out there, across the country, to show people that there is hope: for a way past a broken two party system, and a way past political parties that are about power-brokering and personalities.

We are a party of our people. And even though we only officially have the member bodies as Australian Greens members (lol), we are all pulling in the same direction and it is working. Make no mistake: winning seats feels great, but there is work that we have done and been part of across the country and so many results to be proud of. Our national conferences provide space for us to come to these decisions while building connections across our member bodies, and these are always easier in person.

At this conference we were able to reflect on that work over the past 30 years. Our leadership panel of past leaders – including Drew Hutton, Bob Brown, Christine Milne and RIchard Di Natale, and facilitated by the Young Greens – allowed us to get an insight into these reflections and begin using them to look forward. This was a very special part of the conference and we are grateful for all who contributed.

Similarly, it was great to end our conference with a live recording of the Serious Danger podcast hosted by Tom Ballard and Emerald Moon. It was great to be able to watch this magic happen in person, again with a lot of forward thinking about the future and what work we need to do next. Huge thanks to Jono and Elizabeth for being Tom’s guests on stage. Emerald, we hope you had an ACE holiday.

So now we make our way back to the drawing board. Ready to begin planning the next conference. Ready to begin planning the next federal election cycle. Ready to involve our members in more Australian Greens events and grow our party as a result.

Thank you to everyone who organised, contributed to a session or panel, or attended conference. 

Willisa Osburn and Matt Roberts are the National Co-Convenors of the Australian Greens.

Hero image: Julian Meehan.

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