Reflections on the spill
A museum is a place to reflect, a place to ask questions, a place to learn. As another leadership spill unfurled before us, MoAD certainly delivered.
Thursday the 23rd of August 2018 was never going to be a typical day for the people of Australia. Here at MoAD, the atmosphere resembled a stadium before a final; electric and energised.
Sitting among our exhibition on the best political cartoons of 2017, Behind the Lines, I became the commentator, with visitors eager for second by second updates on what was happening at the big house on the hill – Australian Parliament House. Armed with a live feed from various news outlets, it was difficult at times to keep up. There were periods when the news was coming in so fast that bulletins became redundant before I could even finish reading them aloud. The vote on the adjournment of the House of Representatives was like the final kick before half time. Some visitors were concerned about missing out on Question Time, others had larger concerns, asking “are they allowed to do this?”, and “why?”.
By lunch time it was clear the game had gone into overtime, and the frenetic energy only increased with the emergence of a new player on the field. It was now a competition between Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton, and Julie Bishop.
Like the cartoons that surrounded us, our visitors were eager to laugh and be entertained by the events on the hill. But like all jokes that rest a little too closely to the truth, it couldn’t help but leave a bitter taste. Once the laughter and excitement wore away, the hard questions came.
“Why are our politicians acting this way?”
“What about us?”
“How should I feel?”
And perhaps the most common and disheartening of all:
“Why should I care anymore?”
Disappointed with the behaviour of their leaders, our visitors were able to wander the corridors of governments past. They could reflect on previous members and parties, their successes, their failures … the previous spills.
They could reflect on the efforts of people who have made a difference. They could be inspired by the many who, against the odds, played pivotal roles in shaping Australia’s democracy. They could be reminded of the power of their voice in our new exhibition, ‘Democracy: Are You In?’.
What many visitors took away at the end of the day was the fact that Australia’s democracy doesn’t just belong to a handful of political players, it belongs to everyone.
There have been many occasions when I have been proud to be a part of this museum, but that week was one of the proudest.