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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 8912

Mr HAYES (7:34 PM) —I too begin by thanking the member for Parramatta for raising this very, very important issue. Poverty and severe hardship affect more than a million Australians, and more than a billion people around the world would be considered desperately poor. Anti-Poverty Week, which focuses on poverty around the world, commenced yesterday and was established in Australia as an expansion of the UN’s annual International Anti-Poverty Day, which is on 17 October. The success of this week depends on people and organisations taking action and, particularly, drawing attention to reducing poverty and hardship throughout the world. Last year, there were more than 250 official events, and this year I have been advised that the figure will be even higher, which is a positive testament to the effects of the Micah Challenge and of the Australian community at large.

I take this opportunity to convey my gratitude to organisations in my electorate who are undoubtedly changing the lives of people and making a difference. Only last week I attended the community kitchen run by the Church at the Crossroads in Liverpool. I acknowledge the outstanding contribution of Pastor Gino Zucchi, national coordinator Tony Benjamin and Liverpool coordinator Jessica Buffa in providing services to the disadvantaged people of the south-west of Sydney. This community kitchen in Liverpool offers free, regular and nutritious meals to many people who would otherwise not have access to those meals. Additionally, it is also a great referral point where people can be put in contact with emergency accommodation, counselling and legal services, and more importantly it is an opportunity for social interaction. When I was talking to some of the people during my visit there last week, they were telling me how much they appreciate that there are people in our community that care for them. Imagine that on a worldwide scale. What makes this program at Liverpool even more wonderful is that Work for the Dole participants work there serving meals, providing hospitality to these people and, hopefully, receiving a sense of fulfilment from helping others in the community less fortunate than themselves.

Another area of my electorate I also draw attention to is the Guise breakfast club that Bernadette, my wife, and I attended a couple of weeks ago. Seven years ago, this club was started by Linda Ufope, a former P&C president of the Guise Public School, which is in the middle of Macquarie Fields. Dedicated volunteers provide breakfasts to kids who otherwise would be at school without any breakfast on a daily basis. Throughout the years, this program has provided a safe place for thousands of kids and has also resulted in improving attendance rates. The club runs five days a week and has at least a hundred kids every day it operates. So my sincere thanks go to the principal of the school, Bev Newitt, the current P&C president, Anne Sibley, and all of the volunteers and parents who volunteer their time.

On a wider scale, the Rotary Club of Ingleburn has taken on a very substantial commitment in helping the Nofo School on Emae Island in Vanuatu, an area in our own backyard. Vanuatu has a very small population, limited industry and resources and would be regarded as a very poor South Pacific nation. Its young people are increasingly vulnerable to poverty and health problems, particularly HIV and AIDS. I thank the President of the Rotary Club of Ingleburn, Reg Robinson, and his members, for what they are doing—physically building a school on this island for those kids to give them an opportunity.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of both the Micah Challenge, who are here today and whom I will be meeting with tomorrow, and the Make Poverty History campaign for their continued commitment to this important matter. I understand that the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent remains an aspiration. This government has made an election commitment, and will honour it, to increase official development assistance to 0.5 per cent of gross national product by 2015, which is a Millennium Development strategy. I also note that this is a substantial increase in our international commitment. There are many different ways to make a difference, and I am proud to be a member of a government that is determined to maintain its focus on reducing disadvantage and improving the life chances of children and families throughout the world.