NICOLE GIBSON. A Letter to Canberra from a young Australian.

“Each Australian story I’ve heard is etched on my heart, permanently shifting my views and perspectives on leadership. I pray that you also have the humility to silence the chatter in your own minds and be inspired by the people you represent.”

I suppose I should begin in the way that you’d expect a young Australian to begin; with disinterest, or apathy or for the engaged few, perhaps disappointment.

I’m not going to though. I’m going to lead with love – and with compassion.

The little time I spent in parliament as a young Mental Health Commissioner, I realised and observed many things. The feeling I’d get in my body when I’d walk through the doors of parliament and be hit by its sterile environment, interactions as cold as the air-conditioning, niceties wrapped in “I’m too busy to be truly present”.

The meetings would always seem to cut straight to an agenda, followed by clock watching, and jarred formalities that were anchored in the assumption that everyone you interacted with simply just wanted something from you. I can’t imagine what that would be like week after week. I do hope, in amidst all of this, you have all found some sort of kinship irrespective of what the media leads us to believe.

I’ve always taken an unlikely interest in politics; considering my background was as an artist. My background in the arts, followed by some difficult life-events, lead me down the path of social entrepreneurship. I embraced this, and considered my position one of servant leadership, I trust that this may be a point of relatability between you and me.

Servant leadership began to sculpt a far different perspective on the world for me. Pursuing my social mission to minimise what seemed like an unstoppable epidemic of mental ill-health amongst Australians, I soon realised that the only way to truly serve, and to heal, was to listen. I spent years on end, serving hundreds of Australian communities out the back of a yellow diesel van, falling in love with every single inch of this country. A sacred land that holds magic beyond our people’s comprehension. It is a centre of deep wisdom, as are its citizens.

I began to understand what listening really was. It wasn’t tokenistic, and I realised very quickly that true listening was not fuelled with biased filters or filling time until the next opportunity to speak.

Listening meant an inner-silence and listening meant total non-judgement. True listening was love; and thus, others felt loved when you were with them. It became apparent to me, very quickly, that leadership requires a deep connection and understanding. Without this, you are not leading; you are dictating, assuming and making a fool of those who you are supposedly representing; the individuals that are vulnerable to your direction, words and decision making.

In light of this, I wanted to ask you a question. Do you feel like you are listening? Do you feel a deep empathy when you think about the 25 million Australians who are vulnerable to your petty arguments, personal disagreements and ultimately, the impact that this has on your leadership?

Do you stop, in your day, between press conferences and meetings, to think about the young indigenous boy somewhere in rural Western Australia? Do you think about the business owner that fuels their local community with opportunity? Do you bless the eight Australian’s we lost yesterday to suicide? Do you think about the school girl who perhaps dreams of becoming a politician one day, who watches you and your behaviour, just to one day follow in your footsteps? Are these thoughts that enter your mind as you walk down the never-ending halls of parliament?

I understand that you’re not superheroes. In fact, it would be a beautiful thing, to witness a true vulnerability surrounding your imperfections. To see you all be a little forthcoming with your rivalry, and how it’s impacted you; rather than abandoning any real sense of personal responsibility, and declaration that politics is no place for humanity. Is there really no time to speak from the heart?

Or better yet; do you feel that the list of facts you use as armour, truly cover up the war  that’s going on in your hearts and minds? If only you could see that until you learn how to tame that internal war, no peace will ever be found in the external world you are leading. They are not separate.

A gentle reminder that we must all be the change we wish to see in the world.

I appreciate your wounds, and how you’re projecting them onto each other in an attempt to feel more like men. If only you could see that a true man knows how to stand by, and with, his emotions, rather than voiding all responsibility for them. I’ve worked with many men and women, who are still boys and girls. Perhaps this is a result of what’s been demonstrated to them.

Irrespective of the past week’s events, I urge you to take a moment and to feel. Feel the implications of what’s unfolded. Feel the implications of your own intentions, the hidden thoughts in your own minds, the nature of your own egos. Know that humanity will always prevail over bureaucracy. It has to. People have never remained suppressed indefinitely, they have always risen up. It’s the laws of nature.

Each Australian story I’ve heard is etched on my heart, permanently shifting my views and perspectives on leadership. I pray that you also have the humility to silence the chatter in your own minds and be inspired by the people you represent.

Above all, I hope you find a place of service, where the true gifts of leadership can be birthed, and most importantly, experienced.

Yours truly,

Nicole Gibson

Nicole Gibson is a multi-award winning social entrepreneur, a finalist for the Young Australian of the Year at 20 years old, and listed as one of Australia’s top 100 most influential women at 21. A former Mental Health Commisioner, she is now an author and public speaker. More @ nicolegibson.com.au

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