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Let's not leave anyone behind this Christmas

Dec 21, 2016, 14:04 PM by Beth Doherty

Upper Mt GravattFor the last couple of years Anglicare Australia has been using the theme of not leaving anyone behind

It is rumoured this theme came from a proud Anzac tradition but in truth it probably started long before and is at the heart of compassionate and practical notions of society.

As a theme, it is a useful, clear and understandable standard against which to judge policy. 

Anglicare Australia is always non-partisan. We comment on policies, ideas and the effect they have when they are bundled in particular ways or by particular idealism.  So it serves us well to have such a visual and powerful measuring stick.

It is also one of the questions we ask ourselves as we form our opinions on things: Will this leave anyone behind? Who will it leave behind? Who is disadvantaged by this action, and can they afford to be?

2016 was an interesting year. Unexpected political outcomes in international politics have been attributed to the resentment and protest of those that have been left behind in some way or other. 

What was almost more interesting than the results was the reaction of those who didn’t see them coming.

It can be hard for the winners to see the losers: it is hard for the dominant race to see the omnipresent racism; no matter how progressive a man is he cannot see the full effects of sexism; in our own sector it is hard for the large organisation to see things through the eyes of a small one. 

How many of us in one group have friends or colleagues in another?  It is easier and easier to not encounter people of different wealth, class, race or privilege.

I would also suggest that access to secure housing, secure work and adequate income brings the security of a subconscious knowledge that you belong to one of the groups of society that is forging out in front.

This then makes it hard to see those being left further and further behind. Or indeed the distance that these privileges are moving you beyond the centre of the bell curve.

When you’re looking ahead, when opportunity, wealth or plain genetics has graced your path it is easy not to look back. 

However for those left behind the backs of those forging ahead are often too clearly visible.

Leaving people behind implies a broadening gap in the society.  It is usually used to denote the gap in wealth, in opportunity and it is clear that those being left behind need the help of those out in front.

This of course can develop resentment in those in the lead, who may feel they have trained for that race while others haven’t, who may feel entitled to their place because of their opinion, their hard work at school, university or long working hours.

This is not always only in the race for prosperity.  If the distance put between groups in society becomes too big then how do we maintain the shared language to productively and gracefully discuss different opinions, to see things through the eyes of the other? How do we maintain shared goals for our society and our environment?

The other way to see the widening gap isn’t as a linear race along one continuum, a political spectrum conveniently described as left or right (allowing only a binary black and white division of policies).

It is as a divergence away from the core where, when any of us stray (or allow others to stray) too far, we find it harder to hear the voices of the others.  When we have less in common with the lifestyles and experiences of others empathy for those others becomes harder for us.

When this goes too far the gravitational forces holding us (or them) to that core snap and we see political results that are only unexpected because we weren’t listening.

Those that got left out in front , the ones that maybe ran too far ahead of the pack, or didn’t realise the need to take the pack with them, or didn’t even see that there were people being left behind may have been surprised. 

Some seem now to be feeling hurt and even resentful that the wonderful new world they have built is not appreciated by those who in truth are often unable to fully access it. 

We have a situation where neither those in front nor those behind are feeling listened to.

Maybe we could designate 2017 the year of listening, of reaching across the gaps before they become so big we no longer have a common language.

Maybe these political shocks could be the wake-up call that there is a different way that is better for all, and incidentally for the planet which we inhabit.

It is with these thoughts that I would like to pay special tribute to our members who are always looking out for those who have been left behind.

This year, once again, our Anglicare members have gone above and beyond the call of duty in providing services that each, in their own way, contribute to creating a more just society.

At the end of the year, and leading up to Christmas, our members often come up with creative and innovative ways to make the festive season a real time for celebration.

For many of the clients that we serve, this time of year can bring enormous pressure, and here in our final edition of Aspect for the year, we wanted to feature some of the ways in which Anglicare members have tried to lessen the burden and bring the true spirit of Christmas to families in need.

ANGLICARE NSW SOUTH, NSW WEST AND ACT 

Anglicare NSW South, NSW West and ACT encouraged people to give the gift of hope this Christmas. They had a giving tree which allowed people to make donations to those doing it tough around the region.

On their website, they tell the story of Melanie, a 23-year-old mother of two who speaks of Anglicare being like a family. She said:  “I just want my kids to be secure and safe because I didn’t feel like that growing up. I have hope for their future now. We can stay together – it feels like a fresh start and new beginning. I don’t feel alone. I know Anglicare is there, like family. They will always support us any way they can. To read more stories like Melanie’s, click here.

BENETAS

Benetas
 is an Aged Care provider in Victoria, and a member of Anglicare Australia. Like many of our members, Benetas also had a Giving Tree, with the aim of providing Christmas gifts for residents or clients who are financially disadvantaged or without family. It is particularly distressing for residents of aged-care facilities to be without family and friends, and we commend Benetas for the wonderful care and support they give.

ANGLICARE NORTH COAST

When Anglicare North Coast asked the Clarence Valley Anglican School (CVAS) to help out with a toys and food  collection we had no idea that 933 items would be donated to help those in need on the North Coast of NSW.

“The appeal was made during Anti-poverty week in October – so in the space of just six weeks the students of the school from pre-kindergarten to year 12 really pulled together and have made it possible for another child they do not even know to have a much happier Christmas”, said Anglicare North Coast Emergency Relief Manager, Lesley Grant.

That means on average each student would have donated over two items each.

This was community engagement at its best and page 6 of the Grafton Examiner was achieved. The food tech teacher at the school now wants to work with us on potentially running mini-social enterprises to teach students more about social justice!

The North Coast of NSW is paradise on earth, however, it does suffer with high rates of underemployment and unemployment. Compound this with infrastructure being built and demand on rental properties from fly in fly out workers, affordable rental properties for low income families is a major problem which is identified each year in the rental affordability snapshot.

SAMARITANS

Peter Gardiner, CEO of Samaritans encouraged us to think of others this Christmas, particularly those who have little to celebrate. In his blog post for Christmas, he wrote:

“What do you think Christmas looks like for locals living in disadvantage? No tree, no gifts, no feast. No Christmas cheer, either. How can you feel cheery when you’ve had to choose paying the electricity bill over buying the children presents? At Samaritans, we see a significant increase in demand for our services as people in our community struggle to make ends meet- not being able to put a Christmas meal on the table, to pay electricity bills or to purchase a gift for their children.” To read the whole article, follow this link. You can still order Christmas cards from Samaritans by following this link too.

EPIC ASSIST

This year EPIC Assist’s offices took part in a Christmas Tree decorating competition, with the completed tree’s being then donated to Meals on Wheels.

Further to this, offices across their footprint embarked on a number of activities to spread the Christmas cheer. These included: food drives, Christmas card making workshops, donating hampers to participants in need and a number of participant Christmas parties and BBQs.

THE BROTHERHOOD OF ST LAURENCE

The Brotherhood of St Laurence this year put together an impressive array of handmade clothing, bags, jewellery, potted plants, gift-wrapped beauty products and a super sausage sizzle for their Coolibah Christmas fete.

The fete, which took place at the beginning of December in the rear gardens under the sails at our Fitzroy head office, raised $1,345, providing key funds for the Coolibah centre’s activities program.


ANGLICARE SYDNEY

Anglicare Sydney
 has just completed another year of the Toys ‘n’ tucker program which encouraged people to donate new toys and non-perishable food, with the aim of providing food and gifts for those who would otherwise go without this Christmas. Anglicare took the donated food and gifts to their warehouse at Villawood and a team of volunteers sorted and packed the Christmas hampers and gift parcels. Anglicare distributes these to thousands of families in the community who have sought assistance throughout the year. For information on this program, visit http://toysntucker.org.au/.

ANGLICARE WA

Anglicare WA had a genius idea this year, to erect a Wishing Wall in which people could be encouraged to think of others and express their sentiment by writing on a wall in the Perth CBD. The Wishing Wall was an interactive and community participation initiative, and called on West Australians to ask the question:

“What Christmas wish could you grant someone in need?”

People walking past were asked to put themselves in the shoes of those enduring hardship at Christmas by writing on a wall erected at the corner of William St and Hay St (outside Wesley Church) from 5pm on Friday December 16. Click here to check out a YouTube clip of this initiative.

ANGLICARESA

AnglicareSA 
held a Christmas Appeal which was an opportunity to help disadvantaged families who experience additional hardship during the festive season.

“Christmas should be a magical and memorable time for children, young people and families. But for some families and individuals in our community, Christmas is a time of upheaval, fear, loneliness and anxiety especially when struggling with personal and financial problems”, they wrote on their website.

On December 20 and 21 approximately 1000 AnglicareSA Christmas Hampers were distributed to less fortunate individuals and families from across Adelaide. This included 500 hampers to people in the CBD, 250 to people in Adelaide’s northern suburbs and a further 250 across the southern suburbs.

Items in the hampers included food and toys, which had been donated to AnglicareSA by staff, members of the community, schools, parishes and local businesses. AnglicareSA was also fortunate to receive 500 Christmas puddings to be included in the hampers which were donated by South Australian bakery, Kytons. The hamper appeal was part of AnglicareSA’s Christmas appeal, which also included financial donations from members of the public and the sale of Christmas cards and other merchandise.

ANGLICARE VICTORIA

Anglicare Victoria have held their annual Toy and Food Appeal, and the donations they received from Parishes, Schools and Businesses ensure that every child in their care get a gift this Christmas and every family they work with enjoy a nutritious meal together.

Anglicare Victoria also sold approximately 40,000 Christmas Cards. The purchase of the Christmas Cards from Anglicare Victoria goes towards supporting vulnerable young children, young people and families.

ANGLICARE SOUTHERN QUEENSLAND

Anglicare Southern Queensland
 has told some beautiful stories on their website to raise awareness for their Christmas appeal. One of those stories is about Rwandese refugee Mercy.

Mercy was just a toddler when she fled Rwanda for the relative safety of Kenya. Her father had been killed during the bloody conflict, along with millions of others. With her mother, siblings, cousins and grandmother, Mercy eventually made her home among the ghettos in a Kenyan village.

For the next 12 years, she would struggle alongside other refugees to survive. It would be a long wait for Mercy’s family to receive asylum in Australia, but when it came, the dream of a new life was as intoxicating, as it was scary.

Life in this strange new country of Australia would become even more frightening for the then 17 year old Mercy. Just nine days after arriving in Brisbane, Mercy discovered she was expecting a child.

After her son Mosi* was born, Mercy and her little one moved into Anglicare’s supported accommodation in the community. Later, Anglicare would help Mercy and Mosi find independent accommodation.

Today, the 17 year old Mercy would not recognise herself. Now a confident woman in her early twenties, Mercy is the doting mother with a toddler, living in a place of her own, and studying a double degree. Her son is close to the age she was when she fled Rwanda. “I could not have managed without Anglicare, and I am so grateful. If my story can move even one person to donate money this Christmas, I will be proud.”

Telstra continues to partner with Anglicare Australia on various initiatives, including sponsoring our national awards. We are very grateful to them and this enables us to keep doing our work year in and year out. This year, they are getting into the spirit of Christmas by making phone calls free over the Christmas period.

Telstra will make local, national and mobile calls from their public payphones free from 24th to 28th December. This is intended to assist people to connect with loved ones at this time of year. Some more information is here: Telstra Free Calls

From all at Anglicare Australia we wish you a happy, blessed and peaceful Christmas.

Thank you to everyone that has worked with us, directly or indirectly, over the year.

Anglicare Australia will be closed from 5pm on 23rd December until 9.00am on 3rdJanuary.  For anything urgent over this time please call Kasy’s mobile.