One of the inspirations for Challenge Poverty Week in Scotland has been a similar initiative in Australia. Below Jill Lang, National Co-ordinator of Anti-Poverty Week, describes the development over more than 10 years.
Anti-Poverty Week in Australia was established in 2001 by the Social Justice Project at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and was inspired by the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17) and an inquiry into poverty by the Australian Senate. The Project’s Director, Julian Disney, is a former President of the International Council on Social Welfare and has been National Chair of the Week since its inception.
The Week quickly grew to be an Australia-wide program with nationally-coordinated leadership groups in each State and more than 450 activities each year. In 2014, more than 600 organisations convened or sponsored an activity during the Week. They included welfare agencies, community centres, overseas aid organisations, religious groups, schools, libraries, technical colleges of further education, universities, businesses, service clubs, unions, disability organisations and youth organisations.
Anti-Poverty Week is concerned with poverty around the world, especially in the poorest countries but also in wealthier countries such as Australia. The main aims are to
- strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and within Australia;
- encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.
The Week aims to encourage as many people as possible to express publicly their interest and concern about poverty and hardship. It seeks to demonstrate in this way that, contrary to assertions by many politicians and media commentators, most Australians are concerned about these problems and want action taken to address them.
In this way, the Week can increase potential support and reduce potential opposition for specific actions that may be advocated by particular organisations during the Week or at other times. This is enhanced by trying to involve as many people as possible from outside the welfare sector and other traditional sources of anti-poverty activists.
Anti-Poverty Week is a process for encouraging independent activities by a wide range of groups and people. There is a special emphasis on encouraging activities at the local community level, however modest or predominantly “social” in nature they may be, and also activities by “conservative” groups not usually associated with anti-poverty activism.
The Week’s areas of concern include ways of preventing people from experiencing poverty or hardship, as well as ways of helping people to escape from or reduce the impact of poverty and hardship. It covers a wide range of the causes and symptoms of poverty and hardship, including, for example, issues relating to health, education and housing.
Over the last 14 years Anti-Poverty Week in Australia has demonstrated the importance of showing solidarity with people living on low incomes and has highlighted what can be done to address the problem of poverty by a wide range of groups and organisations. We hope that Challenge Poverty Week will have the same success and together we can turn this into a global initiative.