Search for hope amid gloom

Climate change, the war in Ukraine, a global pandemic, cost-of-living crisis, tensions with China, the list of global crises goes on, all of it overwhelming.

According to a Digital News Report for Australia by the University of Canberra, the constant barrage of negative news is too much for many Australians, with fewer trusting news sources and many shutting off completely.

It's easy to understand why some Aussies feel the need to disengage from the news and, in turn, politics. But as someone who's been down in the weeds of Federal politics for more than a decade now, I'm here to say there are ways to balance your need to know, with your need to tune out for your sanity's sake.

What keeps me going is taking heart in the positive and working towards the things that I can actually change.

There's a website called The Good News Hub, which only tells positive news.

If you're looking for a dopamine boost, yesterday's front page of the website had a story about a homeless man who returned a $15,000 cheque to a woman, who in turn rewarded him with a “whole new life”.

Stories about pets being reunited with their owners, a baby turtle miraculously surviving an arduous journey from the US to Ireland, and children raising enough to buy a disability-friendly playground at their school also featured in the heartening news.

There are a lot of other things to be optimistic about and to fight for - here are a few to get you started.

Extreme poverty is declining. Progress is certainly patchy but the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets a plan to eradicate poverty within this decade. With the percentage of the world's population living below the extreme poverty line dropping from 36 per cent in 1990, to 10 per cent in 2015, the UN is confident we can meet, or come close to, its target.

Global energy is another positive. We now get 11 per cent of our energy through renewables and this number is rapidly increasing. In Australia alone, we're now expected to reach 82 per cent of power generated through renewable sources by 2030.

Kids are staying at school longer. From less than one year of education in the late 1800s, to 12 years in developed economies and 6.5 in developing economies. Clearly there is more work to do here, but as the world becomes more digitised and interconnected, access to education for people from disadvantaged communities will increase.

Another important win - according to the 2023 Australian Cerebral Palsy Register Report, Australia now has the lowest rate of cerebral palsy at birth in the world.

Plus, people with cerebral palsy are also living better lives because of the NDIS. It's a milestone to be celebrated.

We have tangible evidence that the early intervention offered through the NDIS for babies and children with cerebral palsy has contributed to better outcomes. The severity of the condition is in decline with fewer people needing wheelchairs or other supports to walk.

This is fantastic news, especially when considering that cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood.

The NDIS supports people with disability to live their lives to the fullest.

As the Minister for the NDIS, what keeps me focused is the fact that the scheme has changed lives.

NDIS participants or their families write to me every day to tell me that the services and supports they receive through the scheme have allowed greater social and economic participation and independence. More chance to live an ordinary life many take for granted.

We can't allow negativity to overwhelm hope. We have to remember that we have more knowledge now than any time in history and, as the saying goes, knowledge is power.

We have significant capability to enact change not just for ourselves, but for everyone on the planet.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 29 March 2023.