Friday 23 June marked the 30th anniversary of Bob Hawke’s promise to ensure that “By 1990 no Australian child will live in poverty”.
Right now 731,300 children or 17.4% of all children in Australia are living in poverty, an increase of 2 percentage points over the past 10 years (from 2004-2014).
Last Thursday Fr Frank Brennan, CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, joined other leaders in the social services sector, for a vigil on the lawns in front of Parliament House to remind our elected representatives that they can, and should do more, to rescue Australian children from the grip of poverty.
“It is a national shame that after 25 years of economic growth, we have not been able to ensure our most precious national resource, our children, are given the best possible start in life,” Fr Frank Brennan said.
“I am concerned not only that the rate of child poverty is increasing but that our Australian society is becoming a less caring. Last year, there were 225,487 children suspected of being harmed or at risk of harm from abuse and or neglect.
“While Bob Hawke was lambasted for having such lofty ideals 30 years ago, it was at least a statement that was powerful and valuable. It sparked debate and told Australians, and the world, that child poverty was not acceptable and that we were going to try to fix it.
“We now live in a society where many of our elected representatives want to blame people for being poor and vulnerable, and want to punish them.
“When questioned by ACOSS prior to the last federal election, all the major parties said they wanted to reduce child poverty and to give every child the greatest possible chance in life to succeed, and not live in poverty.
“Prime Minister Hawke was a popular, pragmatic, experienced politician who was able to dream dreams and to lead the nation on a path of nobler inclusion. Standing outside new Parliament House on this winter evening, I hope there can be a new generation of popular, pragmatic, experienced political leaders able to inspire us all with a vision of greater inclusiveness and equality.”
“Our quiet vigil when our Federal politicians are packing up and leaving Canberra for six weeks, acts as a gentle reminder to them that as a nation we have failed to deliver for children and that we need to renew our commitment to reducing child poverty,“ Fr Brennan said.