On a bright sunny Saturday morning in Perth, cheered on by a crowd of Make Poverty History supporters, Matt Napier Kicked off on his epic 4 400km journey across Australia bouncing an Aussie Rules footy.
Matts aim is to raise awareness of global poverty and encourage both major political parties to keep their commitment to the world’s poor.
I walked with Matt with on the first day in temperatures in the mid thirties and was ready to call it a day after the first 7km. Matt on the other hand had another 30 km to go that day and the next and the next after that for half a year, wearing out 9 balls footballs with 5 million bounces.
This is not the first time Matt has crossed the continent for the poverty cause. Last year Matt cycled across Australia to peddle the Make Poverty History message. Unfortunately 2012 was not a good year for political commitments with both parties wavering on their promise to give 05% in Gross National Income in foreign aid by 2015 (50 cents in every $100).
The Labor government pushed the period of when they will meet this promise from 2015 to 2016 and also started syphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for foreign aid for other purposes such as asylum seeker accommodation. In response the Liberal opposition say they will not make a commitment on when they will achieve the 0.5% Gross National Income target until after the budget in May this year.
Meanwhile many other countries including the UK are sticking to their game plan and increasing aid to the United Nations recommendation of 0.7% Gross National Income by 2015 (70cents in every $100). This is twice what Australia currently give. Currently Australia should have no excuses for not achieving the much lower figure of 0.5% rather than handballing the problem on to the next generation.
This is going to be a big year for Make Poverty History and we will do our best to keep up the pressure and kick a few more goals against poverty.
Paddy Cullen is the Western Australia community campaign coordinator for Oxfam Australia