SHARE YOUR STORY: Director of Australian Marriage Equality (Queensland Convener) Pete Black, Co-Chair AME Janie Middleton, and Olympic-medal-winning swimmer Daniel Kowalski in Grafton before the Marriage Equality Forum.
SHARE YOUR STORY: Director of Australian Marriage Equality (Queensland Convener) Pete Black, Co-Chair AME Janie Middleton, and Olympic-medal-winning swimmer Daniel Kowalski in Grafton before the Marriage Equality Forum. Caitlan Charles

Challenging society with storytelling

YOUR stories aren't just white noise, they are one of the ways Australian Marriage Equality is challenging society's perceptions of what marriage equality is and what it would mean for the country.

On Wednesday, the community had their opportunity to discuss marriage equality with former Olympic Swimmer Daniel Kowalski, Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality (AME) Janine Middleton and director of AME, Queesnland convenor Pete Black.

Ms Middleton said their movement has a lot of support across the country that sometimes people misconstrue to be just the country's major cities.

"Our grass roots supporters are from right across all regions and they are looking for us to come and they want an opportunity to speak about the issue of marriage equality in their own town and they look to us to come along and reinforce what their message is," Ms Middleton said.

"We're doing regional and city areas, a lot of places like Grafton, you'd be surprised that there is a strong local group and what a lot of people are wanting to know is what they do about it, sitting in Grafton, what can they do."

One of the main concerns Ms Middleton said people approach them about was how to talk to their local Member of Parliament.

"A lot of people struggle with that, how do they interface with their MP," she said.

"One of the things that's really important and is quite powerful is people just going and telling their MP the story, because MPs have a lot on their plate and they've got a lot of different priorities but when they have people in their electorate come in and tell them their story and why this is important to them ... that is a very powerful, powerful message but a lot of people feel slightly intimidated about doing that, so we spend a lot of time talking about that."

 

Australian Marriage Equality Forum Grafton on Wednesday, February 8
Australian Marriage Equality Forum Grafton on Wednesday, February 8

Ms Middleton said sharing stories is a critical part of the fight for marriage equality.

"People need to be able to put a human face on the topic and they need to understand why it's important to people and story telling is the way to do it," she said.

"I have learnt so much myself through listening to personal stories and it's just made me more and more passionate and more and more determined to have marriage equality.

"Bottom line is this is a human rights issue and people need to be equal under the law.

"At these forums, people are just crying out to say 'how do I have my voice heard?'"

 

Pete Black, the AME Queensland Convenor, who spoke at Wednesday's forum, said

the power of storytelling is what can help people in the face of adversity in regional areas.

"The ability of those stories to resonate with people and filter up, I think when someone knows someone affected by this issue, it changes how they see it, if not immediately, they begin to rethink it, so it does come back to empowering the local people," he said.

 

Australian Marriage Equality Forum Grafton on Wednesday, February 8
Australian Marriage Equality Forum Grafton on Wednesday, February 8

Olympic-medal-winning swimmer Daniel Kowlalski came to the Grafton forum to share his story.

Mr Kowalski, who announced he was gay in 2010 after being inspired by Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas who had recently announced he was gay, said sharing his story was a privilege.

"I love having an opportunity to tell my story, its probably a story that not many people get to hear because I always talk about my sporting achievements when I do go out, but I recognise that I have a platform, probably greater than most people," he said.

"As an athlete and dealing with sexuality, there is a lot of perception and stereotypes which made it really difficult for a young man or women to learn to deal with than and then compete, so being able to tell that side of things and then where I am today and how my life hasn't changed at all.

"It's actually been the best thing I ever did but it's also the hardest thing I ever did.

"So having that platform is fantastic and I'm looking forward to being able to tell the story and why it's important to me ... and there are going to be people who resonate with that.

"I come about it from a sport angle and sport is a massive part of our DNA in this country and even more so in regional areas, and while I'm not a big burly football player or a cricketer, I'm someone who is extremely proud to have represented by country and at the same time I'm a little big disappointed with my country."

  Page Marriage Equality ReachTel Poll Statistics   63% of people in the Page electorate said politicians should be be able to vote on marriage equality if the bill was presented in parliament. 22.8 said they didn't want them to vote and 13.7% were undecided.    If the Liberal Nationals Coalition continues to block members voting according to their conscience on legalising same-sex marriage, 16.7% of people were more likely to vote for the Nationals in the future, but 41.1 were less likely to vote for them in the future.    38.4% of people through it was very important that the government resolve the issues of marriage equity by the end of the year. However 42.8% thought it was not important at all. 18.8% found the issue somewhat important.  


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