Poverty in Australia
The CRC25 Australian Child Rights Progress Report claims one in six children currently live in poverty in Australia.

The report defines poverty as “households earning less than 50 percent of median household income.”

Adrian Graham, UNICEF Australia chief executive officer, said, “Australia is not the lucky country for many children.”

Almost 30 years ago, Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention included the right for children to have “a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.”

Australia agreed that every child deserves equal rights. In addition, the government would give more attention to the most disadvantaged and marginalized children.

However, the report confirms that discrimination is persistent for most children growing up in poverty in Australia.

The report also identifies that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children, children from rural areas, children with disabilities and children from migrant backgrounds are more likely to experience poverty and discrimination.

Despite two decades of economic growth, Australia still has over 600,000 children living in poverty. This totals at 18 percent. The statistics show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 2.5 percent of Australia’s population. However, they also make up 25 percent of the homeless population.

Additionally, school retention rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are considerably lower than non-indigenous students. Nearly 80 percent of homeless children have a mental disability, and 61 percent have a physical disability.

Children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children without disabilities. Many of these children do not have the language or ability to communicate their abuse.

In addition, 80 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children report abuse at school. Victims of sexual abuse experience reduced concentration, more absences from school, drops in school grades or dropping out of school entirely.

Graham said, “Children living in poverty have less access to both primary and specialist health services than the general population, higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system and greater exposure to domestic violence. Children living in poverty are also more likely to be removed from their families and placed into care arrangements.”

The Taskforce calls on the Australian government to set a national policy agenda for children to ensure that all children growing up in Australia have a decent quality of life.

Judge Alastair Nicholson, the Chair of Children’s Rights International, is hopeful that the report will encourage actions to reduce the number of Australian children trapped in poverty.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr

Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands are two strings of atolls located in the North Pacific between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. Their main exports are marine goods, coconut products, and handicrafts. Marshallese climate can be unpredictable, with climate change directly impacting the islands. In addition, securing sufficient sources for fresh water is a constant struggle. Because of these issues, many inhabitants of the islands live in poor circumstances, with bad health and little access to energy sources.

Since their year of independence in 1986, the Marshall Islands Government has been engaged in an uphill battle of physical, economic and environmental survival. Fortunately, there are a number of international lifeguards who are helping to keep the Marshallese government afloat.

The United States (U.S.)
One problem the Marshall Islands Government does not have to worry about is military security. Though it is a sovereign state, its military protection is provided by the U.S. But security is not the only service that the United States provides to the islands. The U.S. affords educational, medical and infrastructural aid, and donates funds in an effort to help the islands eventually attain economic self-sufficiency.

Roughly 50 percent of the revenue that the government obtains is gathered from foreign aid, and a large portion of this comes from U.S. coffers due to an agreement entitled the “Compact of Free Associations” which exists between the two nations.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Though it is an entity within the structure of the United States government, FEMA merits particular mention. Operating under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA’s standard focus is the prevention, response and recovery from disasters that occur within U.S. borders. However, due to the Compact of Free Associations, the agency is also obliged to assist the Marshall Islands when disasters arise.

Just this year, the Marshall Islands have been experiencing one of the worst droughts in their nation’s history, collecting only a quarter of the rainfall that they typically obtain. On April 1st, Marshallese President Hilda Heine declared a state of emergency, and on April 28th FEMA announced that it has allotted federal disaster assistance to the Marshall Islands Government. Millions have been spent in past years on similar disasters.

The Marshall Island’s southern neighbor, Australia, is dedicated to supporting the islands in the economic and climatic issues. Between the Marshall Islands and two other North Pacific states, the Australian Government has pledged almost $10 million within the next fiscal year.

Australia’s goal is to increase access to water, sanitary facilities, and education. Additionally, Australia is helping to introduce a new public school system and spreading gender equality awareness throughout the islands. Many of these objectives have been reached through the sponsored delivery of water containers and the establishment of better education and scholarships to continue on to higher schooling.

The United Nations (U.N.)
The Marshall Islands and other low-lying countries are particularly susceptible an increase in global temperature.  It is projected that low-lying countries like the Marshal Islands will be submerged, or at least uninhabitable, if the global temperature rises just 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels.

In response to this dilemma, the U.N. has held multiple conferences over the last months in an effort to promote awareness and compliance to goals regarding carbon emissions. Just last month 175 countries were gathered in Paris to sign an agreement on the reduction of fossil fuel usage. The U.N. noted that this conference marked the largest number of countries to sign an international agreement at one time in the history of the world.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
A less recognized, but equally engaged organization is the Japan International Cooperation Agency. JICA focuses on what they call “inclusive development,” which emphasizes individual initiative in evaluating one’s own situation to improve it. JICA simply provides the resources necessary to carry out these improvements.

For the Marshall Islands, JICA is carrying out programs to improve waste control and worldwide education programs. JICA has been training volunteers to travel world-wide in an effort to address these issues, and in 2015 alone almost 3,500 volunteers traveled to the pacific to assist in humanitarian aid projects.

Despite the aid that these organizations are providing to the Marshall Islands, many inhabitants of the country live without the basic necessities of life. Further efforts are needed bring these individuals out of poverty. According to the World Bank, development must begin within the Marshall Islands Government. They commented, “The growth in the economy would be strengthened and sustained by the government’s commitment to reform.” The rest of us simply need to do our part.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

The end of 2015 has proven to be the time to shift focus. Worldwide, countries have shifted from the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On a smaller scale, Australia is shifting focus in its aid programs.

Aid for Trade was launched in 2014 with a two-year budget of $823 million. Its main agenda is based on the idea that “no country has achieved high and lasting growth without participating in international trade.”

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), “aid for trade supports the aid program’s key objectives of reducing poverty and lifting living standards through sustainable economic growth.”

The Aid for Trade investment from 2014-15 was used to build productive capacity in agriculture, economic infrastructure and trade policy and regulations.

According to the EUROPA, through continued innovations in how aid is tackled, various governments and organizations have found that trade is able to:

  • Boost development and reduce poverty
  • Enhance competition
  • Open access to new markets and new materials
  • Encourage innovation
  • Expand business opportunities and removes barriers to new markets
  • Expand choice and lowers prices for consumers
  • Cut government spending
  • Strengthen ties between nations
  • Create new jobs

As 2015 comes to an end, Australia’s Aid for Trade program moves into a new year of helping developing countries boost their economies through trade. DFAT estimates its budget to be $698 million for 2016.

When considering what to expect from the new year, one must look to the past. Over the few years of the aid for trade program, more women have been empowered, trade has been increased, infrastructure and finances have been improved, along with health and agriculture.

One example of an Australia Aid for Trade success story from DFAT states that, “Australia worked with the World Bank and other donors to help Lao PDR undertake the necessary trade reforms to join and benefit from WTO membership. As part of the reforms, Laos reduced the clearance times for goods by non-customs agencies by 42 percent.”

According to DFAT, “Aid for Trade supports developing countries’ efforts to better integrate into and benefit from the global rules-based trading system, implement domestic reform, and make a real economic impact on the lives of their citizens.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: 1, Europa, 2
Photo: Wikimedia

A new report points to renewable energy as the most efficient poverty-fighting strategy rather than burning coal. The study by Oxfam Australia revealed that coal is a poor power source for the majority of people living without electricity.

A report shows that more than one billion people worldwide do not have power and 84 percent of those people live in rural areas. Given that the cost of extending electricity grids to those rural areas offsets any economic incentive of coal power, renewable energy is the cheapest option.

Moreover, it is quicker to install local solar plants than to build coal plants. Dr. Simon Bradshaw, Oxfam Australia’s climate change policy adviser, explained that along with improving energy access, this strategy provides jobs, brings new prosperity and strengthens the foundations of development.

Bradshaw pointed to India as a real-life example of the wide-reaching benefits that the renewable energy strategy can bring. He made the critical distinction that India’s commitment to solar energy comes from a two-part intention: to make power more accessible to everyone but also to avoid emissions that threaten the environment.

The report showed that on top of threatening the country’s environment, the Australian government’s “love affair” with coal threatens Australia’s economic future. Given that renewable energy is looking to be the world’s leading source of electricity within the next 15 years, it is time for Australia to modernize.

Bradshaw even went so far as to accuse the Australian coal industry of falsely promoting coal as the most efficient solution for increasing energy access and reducing poverty across the globe. He claimed that the industry has taken on this strategy in the face of the rapid decline in the value of its assets.

The climate change policy adviser went on to explain the downside of the coal strategy. Along with failing to improve energy access for the world’s poor, burning coal contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths annually due to air pollution. It is also the single largest contributor to climate change.

Climate change often works to perpetuate the poverty cycle. As explained by Bradshaw, the world’s poorest people can become increasingly vulnerable to increased risks of droughts, floods, hunger and disease that arise from climate change.

Bradshaw pointed out that along with India and China, other major economies have conducted major shifts in energy and climate policy. He urged the public not to zero in on previous shortcomings of the renewable energy strategy. Recently, new technologies like advanced batteries have worked to rectify past problems.

To wrap up his argument, he reminded the public that investors have been shifting their focus away from coal and toward renewable energy due to the evidenced damage that coal-burning can cause. He encouraged Australians and all citizens worldwide to “wake up to the changing global realities.”

There is no telling of the benefits that a united global shift towards renewable energy and away from coal-burning could bring to the worldwide anti-poverty fight. By looking at leading examples like India and China, however, we can rest assured of the majorly progressive steps that such a shift could achieve.

– Sarah Bernard

Sources: 9news, The Morning Bulletin
Photo: mediacoop

anti-poverty 2015
Australia is preparing for Anti-Poverty Week, an annual event that raises awareness about poverty in Australia and around the world. During the week, people are encouraged to participate in activities and events that highlight issues of poverty.

This year, Anti-Poverty Week will take place from October 11-17. The event was originally established as an addition to the United Nation’s International Anti-Poverty Day, which is October 17.

Organizations, businesses and individuals are encouraged to fully participate in the events. Various activities will be held all over Australia to engage and educate others. Some of these events include providing food for those in need, educating children on what it means to be hungry and courses on how to save and donate finances.

In addition to attending events, people have the opportunity to organize an event of their own. Some of these events could include holding conferences, writing letters to newspapers or setting up fundraisers and exhibitions. Leaders of Anti-Poverty Week encourage participants to be creative and have published activity ideas.

An important aspect of Anti-Poverty Week includes involving and educating children about poverty. Schools can become involved in three ways: by organizing an event, by teaching students about the causes and consequences of poverty and/or by launching programs that help students assist others who face poverty.

Anti-Poverty Week also strives to connect with local government and communities. In the past, the event has created posters that are given to councils that are willing to participate with Anti-Poverty Week. However small the chance, Anti-Poverty Week leaders hope that local councils will embrace the opportunity to educate and assist those in need.

During Anti-Poverty Week 2014, 400 activities occurred. Six hundred organizations, including welfare agencies, overseas organizations, religious groups, businesses and schools, participated and sponsored events. The activities consisted of a wide range, from speeches to film nights to clothing drives. More than 150 articles were written about the event and more than 1,300 people followed Anti-Poverty Week on Twitter.

Every year for the last five years, the number of organized events has exceeded 400. Leaders hope that 2015 will be just as, if not more, successful as previous years.

So what does Australia’s annual event teach Americans? Their Anti-Poverty Week has succeeded in educating others and raising awareness about poverty. With a group of dedicated people, the event has changed lives. This event proves that in only seven days, people can change the face of poverty.

To find out more, visit Anti-Poverty’s website.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Salvation Army, Australian Government, Anti-Poverty Week
Photo: Arab Council

100 million people are currently living without power in rural India, and despite Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s claims, the coal industry isn’t going to save them.

A proposal for the Carmichael coal mine, which is one of the largest coal mines in Australian history, was overturned by the Australian federal court this week. This ruling has received considerable outrage from coal industry advocates and government members alike, most notably Tony Abbott.

“This coal will power up the lives of 100 million people in India,” Abbott said, “so this is a very important project, not just for Australia, but for the wider world, and if we get to the stage where the rules are such that projects like this can be endlessly frustrated, that’s dangerous for our country and it’s tragic for the wider world.”

Unfortunately for Abbott, his claims aren’t entirely true and probably would never come to fruition. India’s energy minister has stated that India is planning on stopping all thermal coal imports within three years. The World Bank has also stated that coal-based energy is not the answer to “energy poverty.”

According to the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, coal prices from the Galilee Basin, where the Carmichael mine is located, are twice as expensive as the current cost of wholesale electricity. Even if coal was the best option for India, the country would find a better deal in importing cheaper Indonesian coal, which is significantly less expensive.

According to a recent Vasuda Foundation study, solar and off-grid energy solutions are far more cost-effective than shipping and importing conventional energy sources like coal. The environmental impact of a resource like coal is also light years more harmful than solar and electrical energy.

So, no, coal is not the answer to India’s energy crisis. Far from it, in fact. Sorry Tony Abbott.

Alexander Jones

Sources: Kohl, Sarma, Taylor
Photo: The Guardian

povertyAustralia is considered a developed nation with rather good development indicators: children in school, high life expectancy, higher than average gross national income and the ability to be an agent of change. Yet, like most countries, there are still people living in poverty or at a disadvantage.

Guy Sebastian and his wife Jules have started a foundation to directly combat poverty in their native Australia as well as branch out and help others living in poverty abroad.

In the United States, Guy Sebastian is best known for the song “Battle Scars,” released in 2012 with Lupe Fiasco, but his musical career began when he won the first Australian Idol title in 2003. His wife Jules is a celebrity stylist and a copartner in The Sebastian Foundation.

Sebastian’s humanitarian work started very early in his musical career when he took a tour of Africa, specifically Uganda, as an ambassador for World Vision. During his time there, he saw the debilitating effects that poverty can have on a person, and he has worked for awareness surrounding poverty from that time on.

When the Sebastian’s family started to grow, they became even more involved with helping children and families in Australia and the world. Through this desire, The Sebastian Foundation was formed.

The Sebastian Foundation states, “Our focus is people. Our love is people. We want to see the need and meet the need. We want to help in any way we can and we hope you join us in our mission.” With this thought in mind, they form collaborations with like-minded organizations to work with as partners.

Recently, much of their work has centered on local initiatives such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, dance programs for youth with Downs Syndrome and children’s hospitals. They have also partnered with Sam Moran, the Yellow Wiggle as of 2006 and a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador; Sam works to help “Australian children who are sick, disadvantaged or have special needs.”

The foundation has global poverty in mind as well. Especially because of Sebastian’s time as a World Vision ambassador, The Sebastian Foundation focuses on families in regards of “poverty, poor health and disease, empowering women, educating children and giving them a chance at a better future [and] community.”

One way to be involved with this great foundation is to donate and, in return, one can receive a gift heart bracelet with the word “joy” on it. Or they have a shop where one can purchase a beautiful print of a photo taken by Sebastian, and all proceeds are a donation for the foundation.

Overall, the Sebastian family has used their celebrity status in Australia to help those who need it most in their home country. But through their global work, and Sebastian’s breakthrough on the U.S. music market, their reach can spread even farther than before, helping so many people in need around the world.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: Guy Sebastian, The Sebastian Foundation, The Sebastian Foundation Facebook Page, The World Bank, YouTube
Photo: Jules Sebastian

In the United States, alcohol is required to have a warning label informing pregnant mothers that alcohol consumption can cause birth defects to their unborn children. Even so, children are still born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Globally, FAS is also an issue, especially in areas where there is a lack in education and a strong cultural tie to alcohol consumption.

FAS is caused when a mother drinks alcohol during her pregnancy. The alcohol passes through the umbilical cord, acting as a solvent on the developing child’s brain. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns that “Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.” There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant, nor is there an appropriate time frame to consume alcohol during a pregnancy.

There are several physical and cognitive conditions that a person with FAS can suffer from, including having a hard time with school and learning, poor judgment and reasoning, a lack of empathy, shorter height or lower body weight than average and hyperactivity, to name just a few.

FAS is one of the most prevalent cognitive conditions to affect children, yet it is also the easiest to prevent. Quite simply, a woman should not drink any alcohol if she is pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or not properly preventing pregnancy.

Moreover, FAS has no cure. Once a child is diagnosed, the only treatment is psychological and/or physical therapy to help the person live with the disability.

FAS does not discriminate — children can be born with FAS along every socioeconomic, racial and educational strata. The prevalence of drinking among the poor, usually as a cultural event or tradition, distinguishes FAS as a poverty-related issue.

South Africa is one nation that understands the urgent need for education about FAS. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is the most common birth defect in South Africa, by far more common than Down syndrome and neural-tube defects combined.” While the issue is a national one, rural communities in South Africa have a cultural history of alcohol consumption, especially in the wine-making regions.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have made great strides in trying to eliminate FAS from affecting future generations in South Africa. NGOs such as FASfacts and the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) have created educational training to help those most at risk in their country. This is especially important, since FARR estimates that up to “Twenty percent of the [South African] population [was] affected by alcohol exposure during pregnancy.”

Australia has undertaken a similar effort to help their aboriginal communities. Those involved in the movement remind readers that, “as in many disadvantaged communities around the world, alcohol abuse was common half a decade ago. The high consumption of alcohol resulted in high numbers of alcohol-related deaths and suicides, and widespread violence and crime” (WHO).

Alcohol abuse resulted in many children being born with FAS in the aboriginal communities. These children are at risk to continue with the same choices their parents made, with the greater disadvantage of having the lower judgment skills associated with FAS.

The Lililwan Project has been created to help the aboriginal community treat people with FAS and provide educational information regarding alcohol consumption.

In short, FAS does not have to be a chronic generational disorder. Thanks to various educational programs around the globe, more and more people are understanding the dangerous implications that are associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Future generations do not need to be affected by a cognitive disorder that is completely preventable.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: CDC, FARR, FASfacts, WHO 1, WHO 2
Photo: Ruth Shafer Photography

asylum seekers in australia
A group of 157 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka have been held at sea for over a month by Australian officials. After a long detention and questionable treatment, Australia’s immigration minister Scott Morrison has announced that the group will be brought to the mainland.

Nevertheless, the future of the asylum seekers in Australia remains unknown, as they will be brought to shore to be detained a second time until a decision is made regarding whether or not they will be sent back to Sri Lanka.

Officials have not released any information about where the group will be taken.

The group includes Tamils—a group that still faces repression and violent attacks in Sri Lanka even though the civil war ended five years ago. The civil war took place between the majority Sinhalese Sri Lankan military and the Tamil separatists.

While the Australian government claims its policies are aimed at saving lives by preventing people from boarding dangerous boats and enduring a rough journey, the conditions of Australia’s detention camps have received harsh criticism both from human rights advocates and the United Nations.

UNHCR, a department from the U.N. who specializes in refugees, has spoken up, questioning whether or not on-water screening of asylum claims is at all fair.

The Australian government has been known to enforce tough policies aimed at ending the arrival of asylum seekers on boats. Just last month Australia detained a separate boat populated by Sri Lankan asylum seekers, and returned them to their country after “screening” their claims.

Reports have also come to light noting that Australian officials have been towing boats back to Indonesia, the most common area where refugees originate.

Activists have filed a legal challenge with the goal of preventing this current group of asylum seekers from being treated the same way. Under international law, Australia cannot return refugee seekers who may face maltreatment upon returning back to their homeland.

According to Graeme McGregor, the group’s refugee campaign coordinator, asylum seekers should be given the rights to undergo a “full, fair and rigorous assessment for refugee status” regardless.

Amnesty International has voiced their opinion, which aligns with McGregor’s concerns stating, “Stranding a boatload of people in the middle of the sea, in an effort to ‘stop the boats’ has achieved nothing.”

Indian officials from the Indian High Commission will be given full access to determine the identities of the asylum seekers to see if there is a potential for any of the refugees to be returned to India.

Morrison maintains that regardless of how the rest of the claims are addressed, no members of the group will be allowed to settle in Australia. Next month, the High Court will hear the asylum seekers case.

Until then, 157 men, women and children remain in limbo—awaiting their fate.

-Caroline Logan

Sources: BBC News, ABC News
Photo: News First

AIDS conference
The 20th International Aids Conference took place July 20 -25 and was held in Melbourne, Australia.  The aim of the conference was to create a forum where people could address the problematic impact of AIDS on a global scale.

Speakers at the conference included founder and former U.S. president Bill Clinton, U.S. Global Aids Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Brix, USNG’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Michel Kazatchkine, among others.

The Melbourne declaration for the International Aids Conference states that in regards to HIV/AIDS, it is vital that everyone, “…call for the immediate and unified opposition to discriminatory and stigmatizing practices and urge all parties to take a more equitable and equitable approach through the following actions.”

The declaration then lists actions such as insisting that “governments must repeal repressive laws and end policies that reinforce discriminatory and stigmatizing practices and increase vulnerability to HIV, while also passing laws that actively promote equality,” that “all healthcare providers must demonstrate the implementation of non-discriminatory policies as a prerequisite for future HIV program funding” and that “restrictions on funding, such as the anti-prostitution pledge and ban on purchasing needles and syringes, must be removed as they actively impede the struggle to combat HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and hepatitis C among sex workers and people who inject drugs.”

The 2014 AIDS conference had 12,000 attendees from over 200 countries across the globe and was sponsored by the International AIDS Society (IAS).  In addition to raising awareness, the conference also acted as a forum where researchers could present new findings for how to address and hopefully end this epidemic.  The conference included information about other projects like the Global Village and hosted satellite meetings in order to serve as a networking platform to combat HIV/AIDS.

– Jordyn Horowitz


Sources: AIDS 2014, IA Society, USA Today
Photo: USA Today