Connections UnitingCare Chief Executive Officer Angela Forbes used a very Melbourne analogy to powerfully illustrate how hundreds of thousands of children are not being given a sporting chance in Australia.
Speaking last Friday afternoon at the WJ Craig Lecture and Anti-Poverty Awards presentation ceremony in Federation Square, Ms Forbes said last week’s published research by the Australian Council of Social Service revealed the number of children living under the poverty line had increased by 2 per cent.
Ms Forbes said that 2 per cent might not sound like much but it meant a “whopping” 731,300 children, which is 17.4 per cent of the child population, were living in poverty.
“This should be unimaginable in a country like ours that has had uninterrupted 25 years of economic growth,“ Ms Forbes said.
To make that figure of children living in poverty seem more real, Ms Forbes used a sporting analogy.
“This equates to filling the MCG for the AFL Grand Final game for eight years in a row,” she said.
“When you think of that, that’s a lot of noise that should be heard by our society about why children aren’t given a good enough go.
“If you bought those eight Grand Final cheer squads of a full MCG together we hear a shout around Australia to say ‘this isn’t good enough’.”
In presenting the Anti-Poverty Awards Ms Forbes said the 33 entries across the school and individual categories showed that many young Australians had already heard this shout and were determined to do something about it.
“They will make a difference in the next generation,” Ms Forbes said.
“They have taken up the challenge of making lives better… they are spreading the word that all of us can and need to contribute.”
“We thank them and their supporters for encouraging them to step up and make a difference in others’ lives.”
The Anti-Poverty Individual Award went to social entrepreneur Marcus Crook, who is the co-founder of HoMie, a non-profit clothing store and fashion label that clothes, trains and employs people who are experiencing homelessness.
Mr Crook, and his friends Nick Pearce and Robert Gillies, also run Homeless of Melbourne, an online advocacy and support network which shares stories of people experiencing homelessness and those attempting to assist them.
Along with Mr Gillies, Mr Crook has also begun a second social enterprise Charity Tap.
So far 17 bars have signed up to nominate a tap to be a charity tap, which means 10 cents in the dollar paid for every beer poured from it is donated to a rotational set of charities.
This year’s school award went to the Community Action Team at Marian Catholic College, a secondary school in NSW. The team of students volunteer their time to engage in projects that involve the school and wider community in reducing social inequality.
They recently prepared ‘I Care Kits’ containing basic items of hygiene donated by Marian College students, to be distributed among those in the local community experiencing hardship or financial distress
Among other activities, the students also spend every Monday lunch learning to knit to make blankets for people in need and cook on a roster basis for a mobile kitchen called Care Van that delivers meals to disadvantaged people.
The Individual Encouragement Award was given Alice Wojcik, who started the Tomorrow Foundation, which runs Victoria’s first refugee children migrant support centre in Melbourne.
The centre and foundation evolved out of a homework club at a local school that Ms Wojcik started while at university, before she eventually left a corporate job to concentrate fully on helping refugee children.