I first became aware of injustice when I was a child growing up in India. I noticed that people were treated differently, based on their ‘value’ within India’s caste system.
It seems so strange to talk about this now, in Australia in 2021, but we had a servant when I was growing up; it was the norm in India at the time and continues to be today. One day I saw that she was eating different food to us. Even though she cleaned our clothes, cooked our food, and was in our house every day, she wouldn’t sit at the table with us, and she wasn’t considered a member of our family. She wasn’t considered equal.
It was jarring to see her treated differently simply because she was born poor. I remember being so confused – why are people made to feel unworthy, based on things they’re not in control of? This experience was what stirred those feelings of ‘this is not okay’ and ultimately led to me pursuing a vocation in the social justice space.
Taking action is a learning process
We moved to Australia when I was nine, and that’s when I started participating in various activities to raise money. I signed up to various initiatives, like the MS Readathon and Walk Against Want (now Oxfam). This was my first experience of amplifying the voices of people that were less privileged than we were. Even though I didn’t completely understand what all these causes were, I knew that I was helping. It was about taking action. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have all the answers; I realised it was more about getting started, and learning along the way. The way I serve has evolved, but my passion for serving hasn’t changed.
For the past 18 years or so, I’ve taken more notice of how my actions are contributing to the broader social and environmental crisis. Consumerism plays such a huge part in waste and exploitation in many parts of the world.
So the first big choice we made was to stop buying gifts for people. In Australia many of us have more than we need, and I was giving and receiving gifts out of obligation and I started to become resentful.
I told my family and friends that we’re opting out of buying and receiving presents. It was a massive statement and made some of them uncomfortable because it’s generally not how things are done!
When we purchased our home, we decided to invest in solar panels and as a consequence had no electricity bills for years afterwards. We converted to a plant-based diet to reduce the impact of agricultural practices on the environment, I purchased many of my clothes in op shops, to avoid that fast fashion cycle, and I get my coffee from a local café employing and supporting people with mental illnesses. It was an organic process, but very deliberate. There are so many alternative ways to shop and consume, and plenty of businesses doing good in the world. Check out ethical fashion guides, what brands have B Corp certification, and which Fairtrade products your local supermarket stocks to get started.
Small steps add up
If you want to start actively making changes in your life about where your money goes, the first step is to start caring and inject empathy into the cause that you care about. You have to be aware of how your choice to buy a cheap T-shirt impacts that person in Bangladesh who’s getting paid less than a dollar a day.
So many people have said to me, “I don’t have the time to do all the things you do”. But there are all these little, everyday things that can make a difference.
Buying less meat, taking your own shopping bags to the supermarket, paying a few extra dollars for Fairtrade items. Even something like changing banks can make a profound difference.
I realised that our previous bank invested in the very things that went against what I stood for, such as nuclear weapons. My membership with that bank was an endorsement of their unethical practices. Nevertheless, when I discovered Bank Australia, the decision to switch didn’t come quickly and I found I kept putting it off.
I’d have to change my pay, my direct debits, my home loan… But once I made the decision to do it, it wasn’t nearly as onerous as I thought it would be. I wish I’d done it sooner.
You realise that we have the power to make a decision in the organisations that we choose to subscribe too. We changed our super, energy provider and started to ask questions before we entered into contracts with corporates. It doesn’t have to take too much time. In the process, you may find that you save money and contribute to the betterment of our world.
These types of changes can be really energising for people, because we have the power to stand for what we believe to be right.
Our choices can have a positive impact on people and the planet, but that power can be overwhelming. It’s pretty natural to think that making changes is all too hard. But even when life is busy, or you’re feeling like you’re too small to do anything meaningful, know that we can all make a difference – it’s just working out how, not if. The most important thing is to just start. It’s okay if you don’t get it right straight away.
We’re proud to have Tina as a Bank Australia customer. Find out more about our people here.