Campaign behind referendum will need to address hard truths

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Andrew Butler
April 6, 2016

One of our key values at Etched is integrity. While we’re hardly going to embrace the opposite (though some Panamanian Law firms seem to have made a fortune from that offering) it is still an indispensable value to uphold in public relations.

More than acting with integrity, we’ve identified it as a value because it is a core and constant pursuit. For integrity – and the supporting pillars of truth and honesty – is central to any advice we give to clients.

Take the process of developing campaign messaging for instance.

At its heart, this process is about finding the inherent truths in your argument that will resonate with your stakeholders, that will persuade them, and/or move them into action. It’s a process best done arm in arm with the development of visual creatives as the two are intertwined in any integrated campaign.

To have integrity, the messages must try to present the whole truth, or at very least not conveniently omit a major fundamental truth.

So as the nation continues to mull over the pending referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians, there are some fundamental truths we must come to terms with. And all signs to date suggest those truths will be hard to bear for much of the community.

The Daily Tele led furor over UNSW’s suggested changes to language used to describe Australia’s colonization from settlement to invasion. Clearly the Tele and many conservative commentators were riled. It does beg the question – why?

Equally Stan Grant’s speech last year, while widely applauded, was revolutionary for its truthfulness on issues that each of us, frankly, ought already to know as truths – albeit shameful.

And the events that Grant chose to introduce in that speech – the sustained booing of Adam Goodes in the 2015 AFL season still divides fans – many of whom still insist their booing was motivated by Goode’s arrogance as a player – not by the colour of his skin. Dig a little deeper, and ask the same fans why they consider Goodes arrogant and it generally has roots in the fact that he’s dared to stand up for himself and his culture.

The discussion around the referendum will need to address our forefather’s most shameful acts. We’ve apologized for the stolen generation but even that isn’t the darkest part of our history. For it is this context that helps us understand the plight of today’s indigenous people.

Indigenous Australians were massacred, hunted, imprisoned, dispossessed and more. Australia’s colonisation – its invasion – was often bloody and far from peaceful. Yet few of us really understand it and it’s seemingly still vehemently denied.

If in the campaign for constitutional recognition is to have integrity – we can not ignore those truths, however painful they may be.

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February 8, 2017

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