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poverty in australia

October 14-20 is Anti-Poverty Week in Australia.

In a new report just released, the Australian Council of Social Services said that around 1 in 8 Australians live below the poverty line.

17% of all children live below the poverty line.

This equates to around 2.2 million people.

Poverty in Australia is measured by 2 standards. The first standard of poverty is 50% of the Australian median income. The second standard is slightly higher at 60% of median income.

For a single person this equates to $358/wk (50% of median income), $537 for a couple with no children, $573 for a single parent with 2 kids and $752 for a couple with two children.  Read the rest of this entry


foreign aid budget: how much should australia give to help the world’s poor?

How much would you expect the Australian Government to give to help the world’s poor? Where does our responsibility begin to help the poor and what constitutes a good reason to cut what we give in foreign aid?

Talk in Australian politics, ever since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), has been about bringing the budget back to surplus.

The Government recently noted the possible cuts to the promised $2.7 Billion spending boost to foreign aid as part of the Governments promise to meet the UN Millenium Development Goals (MGDs) spending target of 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015. This was a promise the Government made in 2007 under then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and since then we have more than doubled our spending from that of the Howard government era. However, now with further economic pressures, the comparatively small about of spending that currently goes to foreign aid is in the firing line. Read the rest of this entry

you can’t not be involved in ethical shopping

Fairtrade. Rainforest Alliance. Ethical coffee, tea, chocolate. Its all about choice, right?

You can choose to buy a Fairtrade easter egg this Easter, or drink a Rainforest Alliance ethical brand of coffee… but can you choose to simply not engage? Can you choose not to be involved in ethical shopping and consumerism?

This was just one of the questions posed and discussed during a workshop, “Hope – less with money”, run by TEAR Australia at the recent SURRENER:12 conference in Melbourne.

Many people think that being involed with social justice in the products they buy is something they can choose to be involved in or simply opt out. In addition, many people think that the only way you can be involved in ethical shopping is by seeking an ethically certified product. These are usually certified as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or something similar.

Most of our choices when shopping are made due to cost and convience. We seek the cheapest price, the best value for money and we will settle for a particular product because it’s there and its too hard to search for an alternative. Where a product does not have the possibility to buy something ethically certified, does this mean we can not be involved in making ethical choices?

One point raised by TEAR’s worshop discussion is that it is impossible to “not be involved”, to opt out. Even being uninformed does not mean you are not involved. We are all involved whether we want to be or not, whether we are informed or not. Our choices at the shops are ethical choices whether we want them to be or not, whether we are informed or not. Read the rest of this entry

invisble children: kony 2012 – a response

Invisible Children’s campagin to bring down Joseph Kony has gone viral!

IC is an organisation that strode to promence when they released videos about the tragic child soldiers in Uganda, the DRC and Sudan, many of which have been abducted by Kony’s Lord’s Resistence Army (LRA).

The IC Campaign sates:

KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

But how do they seek to do this? And is this the best way?

The IC Kony 2012 campaign states:

We are taking action to ensure these two things

1) That Joseph Kony is known as the World’s Worst War Criminal.

2) That the U.S. military advisers support the Ugandan Army until Kony has been captured and the LRA has been completely disarmed. They need to follow through all the way and finish what they have started

Seems nobel enough. I myself would love to see the end of child soldiers and the violence, the murders, rape and kidnapping that the LRA has conducted since 1987. Read the rest of this entry

i’m no bludger!!

One in 10 Australians live below the poverty line. Photo: Kate Geraghty

In Australia is $35 a day enough to live off? That’s what some 600,000 Australians have to pay their bills, medical costs, rent, and buy their groceries.

A Sydney Morning Herald  (SMH) article (Jan 2011) asked the question: If you income was cut to $234 per week, what would you go without?

The answers that Australians gave included fresh fruit and vegies, education, driving, trips to the doctor, holidays and about two-thirds said they would probably have to stop paying some bills!

Australia is (seriously) one of the lucky countries, with a welfare system and public health system. However, if you find yourself unemployed and on Centrelink’s Newstart Allowance, $243 per week is what you can expect… that’s only $35 per day (the SMH article states the Newstart Allowance is $234 which was the amount in 2011. It has now been raised by a mere $9).

The SMH writes:

Research by the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW in  2008 found Newstart recipients were highly like to miss out on what other  Australians considered the essentials of life.

Twenty-three per cent lacked a decent and secure home, 28 per cent were  unable to pay utility bills, 56 per cent lacked $500 in emergency savings, 56  per cent lacked home contents insurance, 17 per cent could not afford prescribed  medicines, and 45 per cent could not afford dental treatment when needed.

Read the rest of this entry

house of hope – sydney morning herald article

Just wanted to post a link to an article about a guy in, Mount Druit, Western Sydney who I met when I was studying at Morling College. Here are a quote from the Sydney Morning Herald article to get you going:

It’s a fair bet that if Jesus Christ were around today, he’d be doing what the Owens are doing in Mount Druitt. They feed the poor and house the homeless. They lead the lost and counsel the conflicted…

They’re experts at unconditional love: alcoholic mums, runaway kids, petty thieves, everyone’s welcome at the Owens’ home, a four-bedroom brick house that for the past five years has been equal parts street kitchen and safe house, as well as a home for their daughters Kshama, 8, and Kiera, 7.

“The most we’ve had here is 13 people,” Jon says, showing me around the cramped, single-storey home, the floors of which are strewn with sheets and sleeping bags. “They crash on the couches, on the floor. It’s busy, but it’s fun, too, especially at dinner time.”

Baby’s Coming: Is Everything Ready? – Part 2

In my last post I commented on the incredible disparity between a mother or mother-to-be in Australia (such as my wife Katie) and in developing countries. While maternal death in Australia is relatively good (1 in 13000), in Africa as a continent it is 1 in 9 and in Niger it is only 1 in 7. To add to that 9.2 million children die every year before the age of 5 and 7 million of these deaths are preventable with affordable measures. The chances of you as a mother surviving your pregnancy and then your child surviving past the age of 5 is incredibly different purely because of the country you live in. So what can be done?

I want to suggest 3 ways you can help: (1) become educated, (2) educate others and (3) act & give generously.

Become educated about these sorts of issues. Read the stats, read about the issues, talk to people who know about the issues… whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to become ignorant to the plight of the poor. It’s easy to gloss over something and not actually think about, let alone dig a little deeper to see more of the injustices in our world. Become educated so that you know about the issues and learn about what people are doing to help. For information about this issue of maternal health, see World Vision’s page on Maternal and Child Health.

When you are educated you have the ability to educate others. Tell others and speak up for the plight of the poor – this is called advocacy. In the same way that you haven’t allowed yourself to remain ignorant, don’t allow others to do the same. Teach others, educate other, empower others… help people to help. Help people to care, to love, to be compassionate towards the poor and to be empowered to do something about it. Educating people where they feel horrible about themselves or guilty to the point of despair disempowers people… educate people about the problems but also about the solutions and give them opportunities to respond with compassion and with generosity. To learn more about advocacy, see World Vision’s page on Advocacy or Baptist World Aid Australia’s page on Advocacy.

Finally, do something yourself – act & give generously. You can do something about these issues. You can use your skills, your training and go to where help is needed. But if that is not possible for you, you can do something where ever you are right now. Give generously. You can give to Aid and Development organisations such as World Vision or Baptist World Aid Australia (BWAA) or others and give to help fight poverty and injustice. To give concerning this issue of maternl and child health, it is easy. Through BWAA you can give a gift which can help someone in need. Just $105 will  train three traditional birth attendants in rural Cambodia in health, hygiene and essential midwifery skills, giving support to women and babies where there are no doctors – that only $35 per birth attendant! And World Vision has plenty of ways you can help too.

You can help with this issue of child and maternal health – learn, teach and give!

Proverbs 31:8-9: 8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Baby’s Coming: Is Everything Ready?? – Part 1

Later on in September (or early October) this year I will become a Dad for the first time. Over the last 8 or so months, Katie and I have been getting thing ready and organised for the new arrival – Doctor’s visits, ante-natal class, ultrasounds, blood tests, vaccinations, buying cots, car seats, baby clothes. It is amazing just how much time, care and preparation goes into becoming a parent, not to mention all the lovely gifts you receive from baby showers and friends and family showing that they love you. Katie has had a great time of being pregnant (for the most part) and is doing a terrific job… but for a lot of Mums-to-be in the world, it is not all that simple. Check out these stats from Micah Challenge:

  • 60 million women around the world will be delivering a baby this year without skilled attendant or midwife
  • Life time risks of maternal death in Australia is 1 in 13000 , in Greece and Italy it is 1 in 25000, while in Ireland it is less than 1 in 47600. Meanwhile in Africa as a continent it is 1 in 16 , while it is 1 in 8 in Afghanistan and only 1 in 7 in Niger (see The Best and Worst Places to be a Mother report) . 
  • This year, one woman will die every minute from pregnancy related complications. But almost all of the funding and research done on maternal health is done to reduce the 1% of deaths in rich western countries like our own, Australia.
  • 4 million babies die each year before they are 28-days old.
  • 99% of child deaths occur in less developed countries.
  • 9.2 million children die each year before they reach the age of 5 – about 7 million of these deaths could be easily prevented with affordable measures.

Katie and I live in Australia, therefore we are likely to have a healthy baby and Mum and if something did go wrong we would have skilled attendants and technology to help us out. In fact, according to Save the Children, a report issued in 2010 about The Best and Worst Places to be a Mother listed Australia and Norway to be the best places to be a mother in the world, meanwhile, in Ethiopia, 1 in 5 children will not reach their 5th birthday. I can’t even imagine giving birth on a dirt floor, in a hut, by yourself, with no pain relief… and even if that was a success, just because you live where you do your baby has a much higher chance of dying before the age of 5. All this because you are too poor, too remote and are unable to access basic health services…

Some Mothers in these less developed countries are “lucky” and do recieve help. In some countries NGOs and other organisations are seeking to provide Mother’s with basic care to give them a better chance of survival and to give their babies a lesser chance of infection at birth and a better start in life. There are still no doctors, still no midwives, still no blood tests or ultrasounds. What the “lucky” ones get is a maternal heath pack, such as the ones provided by The Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia). This pack could save their life and the life of the baby. Consists of:

  1. A clean razor blade to cut the umbilical cord
  2. A pair of  latex gloves for the person helping to deliver the baby who is probably unskilled and untrained)
  3. A plastic sheet for the mother to give birth on so that they are not giving birth on a dirty or even dirt floor
  4. A bar of soap for clean hands and to clean the stumps
  5. Gauze pads (x5) to wipe the baby and for any other fluids
  6. Cotton cord to tie the umbilical cord

That’s it. Nothing more… and they are the lucky ones, but it could save their live.

Its not fair that I get to live in a country such as Australia with all the technology and free health services that are availble to me, while others are left with nothing. We will probably be showered with gifts and have too much stuff to handle… we’ll probably have to give stuff away without even using it because we’ll have too much. Yet, so many woman and children will go without to the extent that it will cost them their life….

UK Riots: A Response

More and more talk has been heard in the media about the ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor, in London and the UK, as a major contributor to the recent London riots. With multi-million pound homes being built in the boroughs of London and more and more shops setting prices to match, some of the lower socio-economic citizens are feeling like they are being pushed out of their own suburb (see ABC News). High prices are set for rent and sale of properties, high prices for food and services, combine with high rates of unemployment (around 10% in some areas) and a government who is cutting funding for social welfare due to the current economic situation and massive debt, result in communities where people have little or no money to buy the ordinary requirements and still want the luxuries. Education is also harder to obtain for people from poorer families, and a dysfunctional or broken family structure only adds to already concerning list of social issues (see Guardian Article). People are unable to afford the designer jeans or big screen TVs and so when the opportunity arose to fight back against the system and take what they want, the opportunity was jumped on by hundreds.

Although those involved sound a bit like victims of an unjust system, it does not in any way excuse or condone the behaviour of the last week. But the situation of an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor is not isolated to the UK. Indeed in some countries around the world the gap is so large that the rich are rich by any measure and the poor are some of the poorest in the world. However, even in developed countries and even in Australia we see similar symptoms of a system which promotes hand-outs which dis-empower the poor and make them reliant on a system which, in the end, will enable them to move out of a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.So what is a response, not only to the situation in London and the UK, but in any area where a similar situation exists?

We must approach this issue as people who have an understanding of the Cross and as people who have been transformed by it. We must see the Cross and how God treated us when we were destitute, poor, broken and dysfunctional. When we were broken, Christ came to make us whole. When we were poor and destitute, Christ became poor so that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ came and gave up all he had in heaven, to become a poor man in Galilee, without a home, without money, died a death of criminal and was buried in tomb he didn’t own. Christ took on our sin and gave us his riches of righteousness… all this when we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10). We were totally undeserving of any compassion, grace, forgiveness and mercy. Yet Christ came and gave up all he had for us. When we are transformed by this Gospel, we see the poor in a new light. We know that we ourselves were poor and God was extravagant with his generosity and lavished his grace and mercy and compassion on us. We too must see the poor this way and lavish grace, mercy and compassion on them in extravagant generosity.

Riots may get the issues in the headlines, it may bring to light some injustices of society, but only extravagant generosity, radical mercy and compassion, and a community which seeks justice and loves mercy and walks humbly with God (Micah 6:8) will have any lasting impact. Only people who have been transformed by the Cross will be able to act in a way which seeks the flourishing of others at their own expense and seek to empower the community to act with the same generosity, humility, servanthood, grace, mercy and compassion. A community like this can empower society to release people from disadvantage and poverty because they themselves have been transformed by the Cross and have been liberated from poverty and brokenness in Christ.

I don’t think I have covered all aspects or adressed the whole issue. What are your thoughts?

UK Riots: What’s fueling it??

From reading a FB discussion I was directed to a BBC News video where a BBC reporter interviewed two females who seemed to be involved in the UK riots. While they were somewhat affected by alcohol (at 9.30am!!), their response as to why the riots were occuring was somewhat insightful.

One girl said, “The reason we riot is because we’re showing the police we can do what we want. That’s what it’s all about, showing the police we can do want we want and now we have.” But when questioned about why they were trashing local people’s shops and why the riots were affecting people in thier own community, one girl said, “It’s the rich people, the people who’ve got businesses, and that’s why all of this has happened, because of the rich people. We’re just showing the rich people we can do what we want.”

The original violence appears to have stemed from the police shooting of a 29-year man in Tottenham, North London (see News Article). However, the rioting and looting that has extended to areas outside of London, including Manchester and Liverpool, do not appear to be directly related to this event. The events in Tottenham may have been a catalyst but now something else appears to be driving the unrest and violence. Perhaps this girl’s opinion sheds some light on what may be going on under the surface.

The interesting thing about these statements is that these two girls are angry with “the rich”.  However “the rich” are not the mega-rich millionaires of London but “the people who’ve got businesses”. A British government comissioned report in 2010 noted that the gap between the wealthy and the poor in the UK was the widest it’s been in 40 years (see Report). It suggests that the richest 10% are around 100 times better off than the poorest 10% of society. In addition, the UK’s social mobility (the ability to move between social or economic status’) is the lowest in the developed world. This means that poor families in the UK have a greater chance of struggling on a low income than poor families in other developed countries. Whether or not this gap obviously exists between people such as these girls and their local business owners (as opposed to reported gap between the bottom 10% and the top 10% of wealthy people), I can not say as I do not have nearly enough knowledge on Bristish politics and social issues to make that kind of judgement. But what is apparent is, for some, the feelings of oppression and resentment towards those in power (ie police and government) and those with power (ie the wealthy) obviously exist and appears to be contributing, in some instances, as a motivating factor for the continuing violence and rioting.

Even if the gap between rich and poor is not the primary motivating factor, the idea that all this violence is a result of opportunistic thugs and vandals I think is perhaps a little simplistic. No doubt there is opportunistic thuggery that needs to be condemned, and I am in no way wanting to make those involved any sort of heros of some more valiant cause. It is what it is – out of control thuggery, inexplicable violence, rioting and looting. It is damaging the community, familes, businesses and individual lives. But it all must point to deeper resentment, a dissatisfaction with the status quo and feelings of hopelessness across generations. The shooting may have been the catalyst, the riots may have lead  to opportunistic violence, but perhaps they are just a surface expression of deeper and more concerning issues.

What should our response be as of a follower of Jesus?

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