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Monday, 28 June 2004

Launch of National Anti Poverty Campaign - Vote 1 No More Poverty

Church leaders from across Australia, including the Uniting Church, gathered in Canberra last Friday to keep poverty on the agenda in the lead up to the Federal election.

Vote [1] No More Poverty is a joint campaign of the Uniting, Anglican and Catholic Churches and their social services agencies and aims to raise awareness among members of our community and our political leaders about the growing rate of poverty.

The Uniting Church was represented at the launch by UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds and National Assembly ex President, Rev Prof, James Haire.

Ms Hatfield Dodds, said poverty is a growing problem in Australia and not just among unemployed people.

“While Australia has experienced economic growth in the last two decades much of this prosperity has passed by many Australians. Today, we have the dubious honour of being ranked fourth on the OECD list of countries with the highest percent of population living in poverty,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.

“Today, 852,000 Australian children live in jobless households and 3.6 million Australians live on a household income of less than $400 a week.

“Agencies like UnitingCare which deliver the majority of community support in this country, see the despair and deprivation of Australia’s poor every day.

“Each year more and more Australians are suffering an unacceptable standard of living and poverty is no longer just about unemployed people.

“Many working Australians now find themselves struggling with poverty and as a caring church it is time we took a stand to see something done. That’s why we started this campaign.”

The campaign was launched at Parliament House in Canberra on June 24 following a national newspaper advertisement in the Australian that day.

Church leaders, including Prof Haire, told politicians and media representatives of the desperate need for the Federal Government to take a national leadership role in tackling poverty.

“Our faith and ethical traditions call us to ensure the health and well being of our communities. With this in mind we believe all Australians have the right to a decent life including access to work, education, housing, food and recreation.

“The message that we sent to our political leaders was that sadly, for more and more Australians, this is a pipe dream.

“There are no easy answers to solving poverty – it is a multi faceted problem often caused by more than one factor. However, the first step is to acknowledge the problem and work together at all levels of government to find real solutions.

“We called on the Federal Government to take a national leadership role on this issue and work through the Council of Australian Governments with State and Territory Government’s to develop a well resourced national action plan working across government and in partnership with the broader community.

“This is an issue we all need to be concerned and we are asking church members for their help to make politicians and political candidates aware of this issue. Please, in the lead up to the next election take the time to write to them or call them and ask …‘Do you care about poverty in Australia and what will you do to address it?”