Lucky country can make a difference

Sue Packham | South Gippsland Sentinel-Times | 6 September 2016

Fundraising is not everyone’s favourite activity, but for some it is routine and even fun.

Each week I read in this paper about inspiring local people raising money for great causes – for both lo­cal and overseas needs.

Recent examples that caught my eye included the Mary McKillop school supporting a schoolgirl in a wheel­chair; the ‘Days for Girls’ group pro­vides hygiene kits for marginalised third world women; ‘Bryn’s Schools’ raise funds to go and build schools in impoverished villages overseas; stories about local volunteers work­ing for non-government organisa­tions like Oxfam and World Vision; and refugees and asylum seekers are supported in our area.

It is a show of love and kindness rather than fear and mistrust we so often hear about in the media.

It’s heartening to see that the good­will and compassion seen here on the Bass Coast community is not unique.

Charity Aid Foundation’s survey of 160 countries shows that Aussies are the most generous people in the world, based on volunteering, help­ing strangers and donating money. Public support for not-for-profit aid organisations has doubled over the past 10 years with 2 million house­holds donating to those organisa­tions during 2012-13.

What’s bothering me is that this compassionate attitude is not reflect­ed in the current Federal Govern­ment’s aid budget.

While public donations increased, the government cut aid by $11 billion in the past two years – now at its low­est level ever.

As a post-war European refugee, I’ve been acutely aware of injustice since childhood.

My family came to this ‘lucky coun­try’ in 1946 from Austria via China and embraced the opportunity to live well.

Now a retired pre-school teacher and a ‘never-retired’ mother and grandmother, for 30 years I’ve cho­sen to volunteer with RESULTS In­ternational Australia.

Just like the committed everyday Bass Coast people who act to make change happen, we use our voices – written and verbal – to influence po­litical decisions that will end poverty for the poorest of the poor – because they need the most basic of services like sanitation, clean water, educa­tion and health.

I know aid works. Along with other wealthy nations, Australian aid has resulted in halving global poverty and the number of women dying dur­ing childbirth in the past 10 years; access to clean water has doubled; in the 1960s 40,000 children died each day from preventable illnesses and now that number is 16,000; and there’s been a one-third decline in the number of people dying from HIV, TB and malaria since 2002, due mainly to the work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

The Global Fund is an international financing body aiming to rid the world of these three diseases.

It’s a partnership between govern­ments, civil society, businesses and people affected by the diseases.

The Global Fund raises and invests money to support country-owned pro­grams against HIV, TB and malaria, designed and run by local experts. On­going funding is only given to countries with proven results.

Those results show that 20 million lives have been saved and over the next three years the target is another 8 mil­lion lives.

That’s because around 3 million people still die from these diseases an­nually and millions more lack access to testing and treatment.

Australia can help. On September 16 in Montreal, Canada, the Global Fund is holding a replenishment conference to unite world efforts in raising US$13 billion to save those 8 million people.

Australia’s previous contributions of $400 million to the Global Fund have been of huge benefit to people in our Indo-Pacific region.

They have received $4 billion for anti-disease programs – that’s $10 for every $1 we contributed!

Our taxes are like ‘fundraisers’ for maintaining our services and lifestyles and not forgetting aid allocations for those less fortunate. Australia’s fair share to the Global Fund’s proven life­saving efforts is $300 million. It would be an investment to manage the detec­tion and treatment of epidemics in our region as well as safeguarding the well­being of us all.