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Share Community Appeal for the Uniting Church in Victoria, Melbourne, Monday, 1 June 1998: address on the occasion of the launch.

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It is indeed a pleasure for Helen and me to be with you this morning for the launch o f the 1998 SHARE Community Appeal for the Victorian Synod o f the Uniting Church in Australia

When I accepted appointment as Governor-General, I expressed the hope that Helen and I might, during my term o f office, help draw attention to the plight o f the disadvantaged in our community. In the two-and-a-quarter years since then we have tried to fulfil that aim We have visited or become associated with a very large number o f Government and non-Government institutions serving the disadvantaged. Those visits and that association have served to confirm what we already instinctively knew, namely, that the collective plight o f the disadvantaged in our affluent Australia is an overwhelming national problem. Indeed, the gap between the haves and the have nots, the advantaged and the disadvantaged, has seemed to us to be widening rather than narrowing. Our impression to that effect has been confirmed by professional studies such as those contained in the outstanding collection o f essays -"A ustralian Poverty: Then and Now ” - which I was privileged to launch at Melbourne University some weeks ago.

What is common to so many areas o f disadvantage, as you well know, is the stark face o f poverty: material poverty in the form o f homelessness, inadequate clothing, sustenance, care or help which o f course can lead to other consequences and other disadvantage such as alcoholism, physical and sexual abuse and family break-down. For so often, in these days o f high unemployment - particularly youth unemployment, the grim companion o f disadvantage is poverty o f the spirit - the absence o f hope, the deprivation o f self-esteem, and the loss o f confidence in one’ s ability to do anything about it

It is my firm belief that the ultimate test o f our worth as a democratic nation is how we treat our most disadvantaged and vulnerable And by “ we” I refer to all o f us, as members o f the community Certainly the collective assistance provided through government is essential Indispensable But inevitably, it is not o f itself sufficient. And there are a great many human needs which require the personal compassion and vision and assistance that so often can only be found among committed men and women working individually or, more generally, through voluntary agencies such as those dedicated to the


implementation o f the message o f outreach to the disadvantaged that lies at the heart o f the Universal Christian Church

It is that Christian mission which underpins the history o f the Uniting Church in this country. In recent years Helen and I have become increasingly aware o f the extent o f the Uniting Church’s work for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members o f our community. That work is o f critical importance not only to those in need but to the maintenance o f minimum standards o f decency and mutual respect, support and tolerance in our nation as a whole. I f there is anyone here who doubts that that is so, I would respectfully suggest that he or she spends a little time at the Church’ s Prahran Mission which I visited last year. Or becomes personally involved in any other o f the extraordinarily large and diverse network o f health, poverty, disability, employment and training, aged care, community support, youth, child and family programs which the Church supports throughout this State and our nation.

Through the Church’s residential and day care centres for the aged and those suffering dementia ... through its food banks, emergency relief and family assistance services ... through its home visitation programs, Lifeline centre, kindergarten and child care services ... through its independent living centres for the elderly or disabled, its parish missions to young people, the homeless and the disadvantaged, the Uniting Church, its members and those who support its works o f charity are making a profound contribution and difference to the lives, the welfare, the sense o f self-esteem and hope o f thousands o f individual men, women and young people.

Currently, there are some 600 such programs in Victoria alone. They are, o f course, dependent upon the dedication and work o f those who inspire and run them. They are also, in a different way, dependent upon the support given by members o f the Church and by the community generally through the annual SHARE Appeal, now in its 19lh year. There are three main ways by which donations are dispersed throughout Victoria: through the ParishCARE food voucher program, through individually-nominated projects, or through the grants process by which money is made available to worthwhile community service providers regardless o f their cultural backgrounds, gender, religious or political beliefs. As a further fund-raiser for the SHARE Community Appeal, a new recipe book has just been published, “ Favourite Five Dollar Feeds From Famous Cooks” , which Helen - who is the favourite and a famous cook in our family circle - is shortly to launch.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do commend the SHARE Community Appeal to you. No one acquainted with the work o f the Uniting Church on behalf o f the disadvantaged can fail to be conscious o f the extraordinary goodness - and that is the only word - o f those who serve it. Those involved in that work demonstrate a Christian spirit and commitment which is truly deserving o f the support o f the community as a whole. Their mission is obviously o f fundamental significance and importance to the hundreds o f thousands o f the most disadvantaged and vulnerable o f our fellow Australians It is also, as I have said, o f critical importance to the maintenance o f the minimum standards o f decency and the mutual respect, support and tolerance which sustain our nation

And now, with the greatest pleasure, I officially launch the 1998 SHARE Appeal for the Uniting Church in Victoria