I was listening to ABC radio this morning… I know, I know I used to be such a triple j girl…. and there was an incredibly disturbing program about the latest ACOSS ( Australian Council of Social Services) report on poverty in Australia.
One in eight adults and one in six children are currently living in poverty in this country – one of the richest countries in the world. I know that a first world view of poverty is distinctly different and far less life threatening than a third world one but it still makes me incredibly sad to think that 1 in 6 children often goes without meals, is under threat of or is actually homeless and is generally missing out on opportunities they deserve.
Some of the most striking things about poverty is the lack of access to healthy nourishing food, good health care and safe housing. When so many of us, myself included, are so incredibly fortunate to feel secure and supported it seems wrong that as a society we are allowing some of our most vulnerable suffer like this. How can we accept that one child come to school after a safe and comfortable nights sleep with a lunchbox full of food and another arrives hungry, tired and homeless ?
During the show someone mentioned that they wished that they had the option to direct their compulsary superannuation funds to more worthwhile and community minded areas than the stock exchange. He suggested a pooling of funds for community housing, childcare and education. Huzzah I say. What a great idea and where do I sign ???
I guess what I am trying to say is that I think we need a shift. Why is McDonald’s a more financially viable meal than a fresh home cooked meal ? Why do we think it’s ok to fill our children with highly processed, health destroying foods and then expect them to function well ? Why do we import foods from thousands of miles away and have so few community gardens? Why can you go to a medical centre and receive often poor health care and a script for drugs and yet not be able to see another type of health professional who is interested and willing to help you learn about health and disease prevention at a more functional and practical level ?
While I was listening to the program I was watching a council worker planting more annuals into garden beds. Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers and think they provide a little heart warming and bee food wherever they are, but if we area going to plant water hungry plants in public spaces can we not at least make them edible? How about a glorious bed of silvery beautiful artichokes, parsley borders and carrots for kids to pull up and eat after they finish on the swings.
I know some people say this is all a bit pie in the sky but I say it is fundamental to our health and happiness. Many years ago my mother, a psychiatric nurse, told me that we are all just a few choices or mishaps away from the gutter and she was right. Meeting those clients of hers – from all walks of life and society – and seeing them all in the same struggles taught me to never take what we have for granted.
Gratitude and compassion – these things will take us all a long way.