The words we use matter

The words we use matter
Josh Burns

Two weeks ago, my office in St Kilda was vandalised.

Windows were smashed, and two fires were recklessly lit outside on the street.

Those fires seriously put the residents who live in apartments above my office at risk.

Local businesses on Barkly St were unable to trade the following days, as they didn’t have Wi-Fi or phone connection due to the damage.

For the Jewish community – the devil horns drawn on my head were reminiscent of awful historical memories.

The broader St Kilda community was left shocked and appalled.  

The attack demonstrated a confronting truth in modern Australian politics.



There is a difference between reaching out to your MP to discuss political disagreements or issues that matter to you and committing acts of violence or intimidation.

We are so lucky to live in a vibrant and multicultural community like Macnamara.

My own grandparents came to Australia as refugees in search of opportunity, freedom, and community. They got that and so much more.

People move to Australia from all across the world. They come here because they know they are free to be who they are and participate in our wonderful democracy.

Our community of Macnamara is a beautiful example of that.

I want to make a few things clear:

Vandalising my office or any of my colleagues, is not going to bring us closer to peace in the Middle East.

The confronting reality is, we don’t have that kind of leverage here in Australia.

Nothing changed except that we now need to clean broken glass and red paint off the inside walls of the office.

What the vandalism of my office did do is scare the local community, harm political debate and block that people in Macnamara who need urgent assistance with government services from accessing myself or my staff.

Looking at the world today it’s very easy to feel defeated.

While it sometimes feels like there’s not much in our control, the one thing that we can do to make a difference is treat one another with kindness, respect, and empathy.

As a leader I see that as my responsibility.  

The words we use as political leaders matter. The language we use to discuss issues which are so personal to so many Australians matters.

Most importantly, the way we treat one another in Canberra should reflect the best of our diverse and multicultural society – embracing our differences through respect, understanding and compassion.

Parliament should set an example to the Australian community, that we can be better at listening, better at understanding and better at respecting different views and opinions.

While peace in the Middle East seems further away than ever, we must hold onto hope for better days.

While our social media feeds are echo chambers, we can lead by example and reject the idea that political debates must be in absolutes.

We must not forget what Australia means to so many people, a place of understanding, acceptance, and respect.

That is what I try to hold onto. Even though it seems so simple, it’s essential. 

As always, my office and my team are always able to discuss issues which matter to you, and please feel free to send me an email.


Josh Burns MP is the Federal Member for Macnamara.

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