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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1006

Mrs MARKUS (7:00 PM) —I rise today to speak about Anti-Poverty Week, an expansion of Anti-Poverty Day, which was held on October 17. Anti-Poverty Week is a nationwide campaign with the stated aims of, firstly, strengthening public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia and, secondly, encouraging research, discussion and action to address these challenges, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments. Across Australia this week people are gathering for food drives, fundraisers, trivia nights, art exhibitions, church services, seminars, workshops and festivals in the name of raising awareness on this important issue. I am deeply committed to eradicating poverty wherever possible, and I am a fierce advocate for the Millennium Development Goals.

In September, a UN summit was held in New York to re-affirm the commitment to achieve the goals by 2015. The summit included a $40 billion commitment for the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. The strategy will aim to: save the lives of more than 16 million women and children; prevent 33 million unwanted pregnancies; protect 120 million children from pneumonia and 88 million children from stunted growth due to malnutrition; ensure that access for women and children to quality facilities and skilled health workers is improved; and advance the control of deadly diseases such as malaria and HIV-AIDS. I have firsthand experience of the last issue. As many in this House would know, my husband is from New Guinea and we have had many family members who have suffered, and indeed lost their lives, as a result of both these diseases.

As stated on the UN summit outcome document, the MDGs are achievable, but:

Every effort must now be made to accelerate progress to achieve these goals through national action plans, policies and strategies that address barriers to progress.

The eight goals which we continue to promote—and I think it is important to highlight them tonight—are: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; to achieve universal primary education; to promote gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; to improve maternal health; to combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases; to ensure environmental sustainability; and to develop a global partnership for development. This final goal is plainly not the least in importance.

Anti-Poverty Week provides us with an opportunity to remember that poverty is also something that is indeed happening in our own backyard. The time tonight does not allow me to expand on this significantly but I do want to make a few points. First, it is important that we face the matter of poverty in terms of homelessness and joblessness in our own local communities, and I wish to acknowledge all those non-government and volunteer organisations that are working very hard on the ground to respond to those challenges.

I also wish to acknowledge the many community organisations and not-for-profit-organisations that this week have focused on poverty being an important issue for us to respond to. One such organisation is the Blue Mountains TEAR group, which seeks to raise awareness about social justice issues by partnering with church and aid organisations, locally and around the world. TEAR is also one of the key Christian organisations supporting the Micah Challenge, which focuses on delivering better outcomes for the poorer communities across the globe. Both TEAR and Micah seek to work within the key framework of the Millennium Development Goals which I mentioned earlier.

We have an urgent duty to address the matter of poverty, not just around the globe but also in our local communities. In my final remark, can I note that 2015 is approaching rapidly and we, together with the nations in our region and around the world that also have committed to the Millennium Development Goals, can work together to make a difference. (Time expired)