A Call For Kindness and Cohesion: Grace Brennan’s Speech is Just What Australia Needs Right Now – Hope 103.2

A Call For Kindness and Cohesion: Grace Brennan’s Speech is Just What Australia Needs Right Now

By Clare BruceWednesday 22 Jan 2020

Above: Grace Brennan gives her uplifting Australia Day Address. Image: Sky News, Screenshot.

In a time when many Aussies are feeling weary, angry, and battleworn by natural disasters, Grace Brennan’s national rallying call for solidarity and optimism, couldn’t be more needed—or more spot-on.

The rural entrepreneur from Central West NSW, founder of the wildly successful “Buy From the Bush” campaign, gave the official address kicking off the nation’s Australia Day celebrations in Sydney on Tuesday night, 21 January.

Her inspiring speech – which drew a standing ovation – called for unity, courage and generosity, and urged Australians to look for ways to support one another through tough times, instead of turning to outrage and blame, which only divide us.

Describing herself as “a self-employed Mum” with an “ordinary bio” who is “still finding her feet”, Grace held the room captive as she described the birth of “Buy From the Bush”.

She set up the now-famous Instagram account in October 2019, at her kitchen table in Warren. She’d just been listening to the radio, hearing yet another interview with a politician that failed to empower everyday Australians. With her background in community development, Grace had a hunch that if she could just connect country businesses with city customers, it might spark a movement of positive change, far better than any government handout.

And that’s exactly what it’s done.

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Jobs Created, Businesses Saved

In only six weeks on Instagram and Facebook, BuyFromTheBush generated $2.6 million of revenue for rural small businesses, selling products like fashion, jewellery, gifts, art and homewares. Those businesses saw six times the revenue and 10 times the web traffic that they’d normally get at that time of year. The boost in sales led to 25 new jobs, and more than $320,000 was spent at Australia Post shops in small country towns, as boutique stores sent their precious wares all over the world.

Now, 13 weeks in, the campaign has 400,000 followers on social media, and the #buyfromthebush hashtag has been used by country businesses 63,000 times. Numerous small businesses have been saved from the brink, and thousands of Australians are changing their buying habits.

Grace said the campaign hasn’t just proved the power of social media; more importantly, it’s shown the power Australians to lift one another up, if they are just shown how.

“This was not about pity. It was about joy – the joy of giving beautiful things with a precious story of origin.”

“At a time when much is made of the divide between city and country, between the left and right, between big business and small business; the strength of a united community, albeit an online community, has achieved real change,” she said.

“Beautiful, impressive things from the Aussie bush found their way to Christmas trees in Melbourne, Perth, London, New York and across Australia. This was not about pity. It was about joy – the joy of giving beautiful things with a precious story of origin.

“It has opened conversations, lifted spirits, created jobs and undoubtedly saved businesses.

“Buy From The Bush is less about crisis relief and more about sustainable support for rural communities in the long term. It is not about charity. It is about investment.”

The Resilience and Resourcefulness of Rural Communities

Grace Brennan and Buy from the Bush Staff

Above: Grace (L) and a fellow Buy From the Bush staffer.

Grace, who fell in love with her farmer husband at the tender age of 14, spoke of the culture shock of moving from Sydney to Warren in the NSW Central West, and of being tested by “consecutive floods, rising debt levels, the impacts of severe mental illness and intense family stress, physical isolation, loneliness and exhaustion.”

She spoke glowingly of the resilience, self-reliance, and adaptability of country people.

“On any given day, an Australian farmer is an amateur scientist, vet, builder or mechanic,” she said. “They often manage multi-million-dollar assets. They might trade commodities before lunch and genetically test their sheep flock after lunch.

“Our local bus driver, a mother of three, is also an aged care worker and fire fighter.  Farmer’s wives might feed their stock or do an irrigation run in the morning and then go to work as teachers, fashion designers, agronomists, researchers, online business owners or lawyers.”

Buy from the Bush first Instagram Post

Where it all started: The first-ever Instagram post of the Buy From the Bush campaign.

Grace wants to see an end to unhelpful, depressing caricatures of “bush battlers”, and a new, more optimistic way of telling the Australian story.

”I have searched for the Aussie bush battler,” she said, “and I can tell you, I haven’t found her yet. As Australians we need to start telling a different story about the bush. And about drought.

“Images of emaciated sheep, dry dams, defeated men – poor buggers. They sit nicely in a media reel of ‘the year that was’. But is that the story of drought?”

Grace said drought is not just a story of struggle and suffering; there is also much adjustment, learning, innovation, and positive change that goes on, long after the TV crews have gone.

“In my mind, the bush narrative needs an update and the story of drought needs to be captured in a different way,” she said. “One that engages community and allows them to feel connected to the bush. Not out of pity. Out of pride, curiosity and desire.”

The Australian Identity is Helping, Solving, “Getting Stuck In”

Buy from the Bush Instagram page

Above: Posts from the Buy From the Bush Instagram feed.

Speaking of the devastating bushfires of recent months, Grace pointed to the spirit of caring and unity that’s been demonstrated in many communities, and she urged Australians to continue in that spirit.

“We [have] witnessed tremendous fear, loss, inspiring courage and great generosity,” she said. “However, there has also been a noisy community outrage. The same social media channels that carried such useful positivity through the Buy From The Bush campaign have seemed heavy with angst, resentment and anger.

“We are a country of people who want to help each other. What a triumph that is.”

“In many instances, the outrage is fuelled by genuine concern and disappointment. People feel they have been ignored and now vindicated in the worst possible way. In less than subtle language they say, ‘We told you so’. They draw a firm line between ‘them and us’. They lay blame.

“But I think blame tends to isolate; it does not empower. To me, it’s not what the Australian spirit calls us to do.

“The very foundation of Australian identity, so present in the bush, is about doing. It’s about helping. Solving problems. It’s a modest, practical kindness. ‘Getting stuck in’.”

Let’s Celebrate What Unites Us

Grace’s address was a subtle call to the media, as well as to everyday Australians, to focus less on the differences that divide us, and more on the positive things that strengthen us.

“As Australians, when faced with great fear about our future, and a desire for positive change, I would urge us to think about the story we tell,” she said.

“Because a good story has great power. Let’s tell a truthful one. One that acknowledges our flaws, but in equal measure celebrates our enormous successes.

“A story that is not shaped by our divisions but instead weaves a narrative all the more interesting for our differences. A story that inspires progress, not perfection.

“We are a country of people who want to help each other. What a triumph that is.”

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