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Anti-Poverty Week and Pens Against Poverty, Government House


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal People, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Welcome, everyone, to Government House.

It is day three of Anglicare’s national Anti-Poverty Week 2019 and shortly we’ll be having afternoon tea together. Afternoon tea, of course, is beyond the reach of someone living in poverty. What money they have is likely to be spent on necessities.

But that doesn’t mean — and I want to emphasise this point — that we can’t host you at Yarralumla to say thank you for what you do and to announce the winners of Anglicare’s ‘Pens Against Poverty’ competition.

This competition is about engaging young people on the issue of poverty, and through their empathy and their writing to move the issue forward.

Linda and I are delighted to acknowledge your work. In particular, I congratulate Kate Halcrow for designing and championing ‘Pens Against Poverty’. Kate, your leadership has — and continues to be — crucial.

Young people have a unique voice and they want to be heard.

If you’ve seen my videos on social media, you’ll know the importance I attach to language. Written or spoken, it is how we communicate with one another; how we convey a message. It is through language that we become better informed, and a better informed society is a more inclusive and unified one.

Writing an essay or a poem is a powerful way for young people to think about and express their support for people who experience poverty in Australia or overseas. And the figures on poverty in Australia are alarming.

There are currently three million people — including 739,000 children — living below the poverty line.

Let me repeat that: right now, in Australia, there are 739,000 children living below the poverty line.

As your key message for Anti-Poverty Week says: ‘Poverty exists. Poverty hurts us all. We can all do something about it.’ It is important that we do.

I hope that today’s event helps to shine a light on this critical issue. I commend Anglicare for its advocacy in this space, but note it has also received tremendous support locally from:

  • ACT Council of Social Service, Marymead, the Red Cross
  • Uniting, St Vincent de Paul, Woden Community Services
  • Barnados , the YWCA, and renowned author Jackie French who did the judging.

And, finally, to our wonderful young writers — you are fabulous Australians; Linda and I reckon you’re just terrific.

I understand the theme this year is ‘Courage in kindness.’

There are two aspects to that — being kind and, perhaps more importantly, having the courage to be kind and making your voice heard. That’s how you can change things for the better.

We look forward to reading some of the entries.

But for now there is the more pressing matter of presenting you with your certificates.

Thank you all for coming today; and thank you for helping to improve the lives of your fellow Australians.