Anti-Poverty Week

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT (Prospect) [6.30 p.m.]: This evening I speak on the matter of public importance, Anti-Poverty Week. Poverty has a crippling effect on our fellow Australians. Eliminating poverty is one of the greatest challenges the Government faces. It imposes a cruel punishment on innocent people. Many people in New South Wales receive high incomes but there are thousands of people who are not so lucky and who are living on or well below the poverty line. Sadly, more than 600,000 Australian children live in poverty. People sleep rough next to everything they own, either on the streets or in tents. Families live in cars and in improvised dwellings. Many of them are the victims of economic downturn, redundancy, domestic violence, abuse, mental illness, physical incapacity and other factors.

Some people may have a home and a job, but due to debt or other reasons they are unable to put food on the table or to plan beyond living day to day. Thousands of people live a life they do not deserve—a fact acknowledged by this House. The economic cost of poverty has wide-ranging consequences for our community. It is a fact that childhood poverty leads to increased rates of crime and is detrimental to long-term health. A report from the University of Canberra published last month reveals that while living standards are increasing in Australia, the gap between rich and poor is also increasing. The challenge for this House lies in how best to address poverty as it manifests itself today and as it will manifest itself in the future.

Members of this House are extraordinarily privileged to have the capacity to make a difference in people's lives. We must work tirelessly to make the most of this opportunity. When we enter this House, we must be mindful of those less fortunate, who are struggling to survive in a State with so much wealth and opportunity. We must consider the way in which our actions will influence the disadvantaged members of our community who are living in poverty. We in New South Wales are fortunate to benefit from the untiring work of individuals and organisations that dedicate themselves to working tirelessly and with dedication to prevent poverty and to assist those who live in poverty.

I acknowledge just a few of the thousands of Australians who dedicate their lives to helping the disadvantaged in our community: the national Chair of Anti-Poverty week, Julian Disney; the Deputy Chair, Lynn Arnold; and the New South Wales co-chairs, Janis Redford and Tony Gatt. I also acknowledge the principal sponsors of Anti-Poverty Week: the Brotherhood of St Laurence; the Australian Red Cross; the St Vincent De Paul Society; Anglicare Australia; and the University of New South Wales. These organisations have stepped up, not only in the provision of funding but in their daily work and in the policies of their organisations in an attempt to relieve poverty and to assist their fellow Australians.

This year more than 400 activities have been organised for Anti-Poverty Week. They include speeches, training sessions, film nights, school projects, a bicycle ride and, importantly, meal services and toy drives for children living in poverty. This House is united in fighting poverty. Working together, we can make a difference for the people of New South Wales. I call on members to raise awareness in their community about the one million Australians who live in poverty. Change will come, but this House must support organisations that are working towards realising their vision for the elimination of poverty in New South Wales.


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