This year has been defined by election upsets and the ever increasing need for humanitarian aid in besieged parts of the world. For many of us, the globe has seemed to fall further out of balance, become colder and darker, and it has sometimes been difficult to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel: those glimpses of joy and rays of hope that could sustain us in such times. But they are there.
In keeping with the abundance of tinsel at this time, here is our pick of the ‘sparkly’ moments you might have missed during the year. The moments that made us smile, rejoice and feel—even for an instant—that all might be alright in the world.
1. Reflecting our diversity on the world stage
In what was literally a glittering performance, South Korean-born Dami Im represented Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest. While we continue to shout from the rooftops that being ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ is not marginal (statistics show it is in fact the mainstream), Dami’s performance was a clear statement to anyone who thought the title ‘Aussie Songstress’ could only belong to women named Kylie.
2. Reaching a gold standard in sport
The ten athletes of the first-ever refugee Olympic team made history at this year’s Rio Games. Many top athletes have had to triumph over adversity, but the refugee Olympians overcame extraordinary odds to achieve their dreams. The team also helped raise awareness about refugees world-wide. As Syrian swimmer, Yusra Madini, who had swum for over three hours in the sea pushing a sinking boat carrying 20 people to safety, said: “I want everyone to think refugees are normal people who had their homelands and lost them not because they wanted to run away and be refugees, but because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go.”
3. Taking the right turn towards marriage equality
This year many of us learned a new word: plebiscite. It’s basically holding an opinion poll on an important public question (interesting fact : there have only been three plebiscites in Australian history — two relating to conscription during World War I, and one to choose a National Song in 1977). However, this time, the question was whether or not Australia should be holding a plebiscite on whether or not same-sex marriage should be allowed.
For many of us who support same-sex marriage,holding a plebiscite would have only served to cause same-sex couples and their families grief and trauma. But after enduring several months of political debate, there was relief: the proposal was voted down early last month. The road to marriage equality may have hit a bump but it’s fantastic to know that the journey continues.
4. Allowing our inner selves to shine
Victoria passed law in August to allow transgender people to change sex on their birth certificate. Transgender, gender diverse and intersex people will no longer have to divorce or undergo sex change surgery if they need a new birth certificate. While it may seem like a formality, it’s actually a really big deal, especially for people who have been forced to jump through discriminatory and emotionally painful bureaucratic hoops to be recognised for themselves. The legislation also shines a light on how we, as a society, might see ourselves in the near future. Perhaps a society that also sees marriage equality as the right thing to do, and sees people as equally deserving of rights and services, regardless of their visa status. We live in hope.
5. Trail-blazing a path in parliament
Linda Burney became the first Indigenous woman to enter the House of Representatives and Egyptian-born MP Anne Aly became the first Muslim woman elected to Australian federal parliament and her Labor colleague. At a time when the Australian parliament continues to be mainly white and male, Anne’s and Linda’s achievements made us fiercely proud. If you want to recapture that feeling of pride, you need to listen to their maiden speeches.
6. Looking forward to a dazzling future
Achieving gender equality might not happen in our lifetime, but it’s certainly possible for future generations. Victoria’s Gender Equality Strategy has provided us with the framework. But if this transformational change is to happen, we need to listen to and learn from the next generation, as well as taking on board the lessons of the past. This is why supporting youth-led initiatives is critical, particularly when the issue directly affects or is most likely to affect young women and girls.
Take for example, the award-winning work being conducted by Integrate UK, a youth-led organisation working on issues such as the prevention of FGM/C, violence against women and girls, and forced marriage.
Earlier this month, the organisation released the ‘My Clitoris’ music video to raise awareness about FGM/C. The video is bubbling over with best practice messages about cultural dignity, women’s empowerment, community leadership and the power of peer support. ‘We won’t stop until we see changes’, the young women of Integrate remind us. It’s a refrain we should all happily (and loudly) sing along to.
The future is merry and bright.