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Friday, 29 October 2004

Poverty kit launched for congregations

Poverty is about a lack of means to live a decent life. It’s about not having enough money to eat healthy food. Poverty is not being able to take your kids to the doctors or dentist. Poverty is never having new clothes, or holidays. Poverty means standing in supermarket queues, quietly praying you’ve added up your handful of items correctly. If you haven’t, you'll face the embarrassment of having to put something back.

Poverty is about always having to say “no” to school camps and excursions. Poverty means never going to the movies, or out for a casual coffee with friends. Poverty means putting up with rotten teeth and a bad back. Poverty means standing in the rain waiting for busses that never run on time. Poverty means having your name on an endless Government list for somewhere safe to live. Poverty means that other people make decisions about your life most of the time.

Could you and your family live on $400 a week? Four hundred dollars for everything? Four hundred dollars to pay the rent, food, transport, clothes, the doctor and chemist, school and kids sports…. This year more than 3.6 million Australian households are struggling to survive on four hundred dollars a week.

Poverty exists. It’s bad for everyone. Together, we can make a difference.

A new UnitingCare Australia action kit targeting Uniting Church congregations and UnitingCare agencies and missions was launched recently to coincide with National Anti-Poverty week and to help the Church meet its aim of getting poverty, especially child poverty, on the National agenda.

Developed in partnership with congregations and agencies the Not Enough poverty kits aim to enable local mission, by empowering UCA members and UnitingCare staff and supporters to use their gifts, skills, and local connections to act for change for those whose lives are less rich and more troubled than they need to be.

The action kit has four sessions developed in cooperation between congregations, agencies and Assembly Agencies UnitingCare Australia, Uniting Justice and Uniting Education. It aims to develop conversations about how Christian tradition and experience can be brought into focus to encourage us to work together.

UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said each session is designed for a small group to work through in one meeting and there are a range of activity choices available in each session, both for those who would describe themselves as people of faith, and for those who work or volunteer in our agencies and share our passion for justice.

“The action kit was designed by people in congregations and agencies for congregations and agencies. If you want to produce resources that excite and engage people you need to have them help shape the project,” she said.

The kit follows on from UnitingCare Australia’s on-going advocacy work on poverty at the Federal level and the recent decision of the UnitingCare National Conference to commit the 450 strong network of service providers to getting child poverty on the national agenda.

“We deliver children’s services, child protection, out of home care, programs for homeless young people, family support and early intervention. Our credibility lies in our direct and daily contact with families, the work that we do and the outcomes we achieve.

“As a nation, we have the knowledge, the skills, and the resources to tackle the causes and impacts of child poverty. As a network, UnitingCare has the experience and knowledge to work with Government to do that.”

Lin said one of the ways to achieve change at a Government level was to mobilise local congregations, UnitingCare providers and communities to act and agitate for change. “Imagine if every Federal politician was contacted in their own seat by locals with the same message about serious, well resourced national action on poverty.”

Poverty exists. Its bad for everyone. Together we can make the difference.

“Working together, we can transform our neighbourhoods, our communities, and our country, one choice and one act at a time, to be places of hope and belonging for everyone”.

‘Every day, UnitingCare community service providers see the tragic effects of poverty and financial hardship and the way these compound for the most disadvantaged in our communities—people who are homeless, those with poor mental health, people living with a disability. We need to turn around Australia’s poor record on dealing with poverty. Working locally through this action kit provides a way for national action and transformation to begin at a grass roots level.”

Want to know more? You can download the kit from the UnitingCare Australia website (www.unitingcare.org.au) where you will find lots of information about poverty and inequality.