This Saturday, 1,000 young people set off from around Australia as part of the Make Poverty History Roadtrip. They departed from every capital city, and are currently travelling around regional centres and marginal electorates on their way to Parliament House in Canberra. Global Poverty Project correspondent Renee Carr reports on the amazing progress these young people are making around the nation.
I confess. Despite two years of campaigning - last night was my first electoral forum.
You can understand why - ‘electoral forums’ don’t sound like the most exciting thing, and it certainly wouldn’t rate on my normal Saturday night options. And yet, I’m a convert.
But - I’ve gotten ahead of myself…
The Roadtrip. 7 days, all capital cities, 1,000 young people, 40,000 signatures.
It’s a lot of people, and a lot of noise - for a really important issue. We’re asking our political leaders to renew their commitment to halve extreme poverty by 2015 - by giving more and better foreign aid.
And only one day in - we’re kicking goals. Door to door campaigning yesterday in Torquay we spoke to a hundreds of local residents, who added their names in support of The Act to End Poverty. We’ll be presenting this Act to Parliament to be passed into law when we hit our target of 40,000 signatures.
After Day 1 of the Roadtrip, we’ve already hit 15,000 signatures.
These signatures are a massive win, and a great signal to our leaders that they have the mandate to take action on extreme poverty. But by far the biggest win of the day came at last night’s electoral forum.
Darren Cheeseman MP, and Greens Senate nominee Dr Richard Di Natale made commitments to Roadtrip Ambassadors and Corangamite voters that they will take further steps to ensure Australia gives more and better aid.
Mr Cheeseman stated that “0.5% [foreign aid] is not enough. We need to be doing a lot more.” He also recognised that ‘the government needs to take further steps’, and committed to work within the government to take those further steps. Mr Cheeseman spoke to those in attendance about his personal desire to see Australia’s foreign aid contribution raised to 0.7% by 2015. He also said that “in years to come we will probably need to go beyond the 0.7% of GDP in order to mitigate the costs of climate change on countries that suffer, through no fault of their own”.
Dr Richard Di Natale also committed to more action - stating that the Greens will emphasise the goal of 0.7% in their negotiations with the new government, and move forward the timeline for achieving that goal. He also committed to using his own power in negotiations to do everything he can to make sure he can influence policy on extreme poverty.
Beyond these commitments to increase aid quantity, the forum also highlighted support for increases in aid quality. All parties agreed that our aid effectiveness can and should be improved, and it was great to hear about the difference that Australian aid dollars are having right now. We already knew that Australia’s aid had wiped out polio in the Pacific. But Dr Di Natale added his own personal success story from previous work in India - noting the massive drop in HIV transmission rates which resulted from an aid funded programs.
These changes, and the commitments made by the attendees at yesterday’s forum are not small gains. And they won’t be the last. We were told there is power in our large number. These numbers are particularly attention grabbing when they defy the apathetic and self-interested images of young people too often promoted in the media.
Last night’s forum was inspiring - and the take home message was - you need to continue making sure your representatives know this is a priority. Your advocacy is really important.
After one day on the road, we’re inspired. Inspired by the difference we have made, and by the number of people we know stand with us. You may have seen our flashmob on the news. You may have seen us on the streets. On Thursday you’ll see us at Parliament.
You can add your voice to the chorus of Australians letting the government know that we support action on extreme poverty - and lend the 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty your voice.
Day 1 over and out.