Referendum Compassion and Courage

How do we create a healthy environment for respectful debate about important social issues?

It’s all about making a space where people are free to ask questions and not feel what they are asking is stupid or offensive, according to Tiernan Brady, the internationally renowned Irish LGBTI rights campaigner.

Now the global director of inclusion at Clifford Chance, Tiernan led successful Australian and Irish campaigns for marriage equality amid an often-hostile and hurtful public debate.

“We can’t win if people can’t ask us questions,” Tiernan explained to Committee for Perth members at our New Horizons webinar this week.

“…Enjoy making the space, welcoming people into it, creating a tone that’s welcoming and understand that everybody will have a question, therefore we shouldn’t judge the person for asking the question.”

Committee for Perth CEO Paula Rogers’ chat with Tiernan was timely, as Australia prepares for the Voice to Parliament referendum later this year and many organisations look for tips in how to communicate sensitively.

Tiernan shared two pieces of advice from the campaign trail in creating the space for conversations which unite, rather than divide, people:

  • Set a respectful tone early and keep it consistent
  • Remind people that you’re using a respectful tone because these issues affect people’s lives

“We’re actually talking about real people,” Tiernan said.

“And we’re talking about their value and dignity and status and standing.”

It’s also useful advice for the Committee for Perth, which wants to stimulate and encourage debate about the kind of city we want Perth to be.

We’re an independent, apolitical member organisation with many passionate members and friends who join us in planning and advocating for the Perth of the future.


Learn more about Tiernan Brady.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.