Let’s Get Political for Overseas Aid!

Campaigning for change article written on the 01 Aug 2013

By Melissa Ho – Oxfam Australia Volunteer

I used to hate politics. Yet somehow this year I became a political activist… gosh it must have been something I ate. From dressing up as a giant corn for Oxfam’s GROW campaign, I now found myself helping to organise an electoral forum.

On Tuesday evening, a joint Make Poverty History and Micah forum was held at the beautiful and stately St Hilarys Church, in the electorate of Kooyong, to discuss foreign aid.

Locals, Kooyong’s MP and political candidates were invited to talk about the successes in aid so far and most importantly to remind our “pollies” to keep our promise to increase overseas aid to 0.7% of the Gross National Income by 2015. If you didn’t already know, Australia, along with other UN countries made this commitment in 2000 to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

About 160 like-minded people came to show their support and sign the petition.

Once introductions and formalities were out of the way, we quickly got into the crux of the evening. Josh Frydenberg MP (ALNP), John Kennedy (ALP), Helen McLeod (GRNS) and Viv Benjamin (CEO, Oaktree Foundation) formed the panel with Penny Mulvey (Co-Director, Positive Media) as MC. All were well-prepared and showed knowledge and interest in the topic of aid.

One thing I took away from it was Penny’s suggestion that we talk with our friends, family and community about the topic to raise awareness – the more people who know about it the better.

Afterwards, our enthusiastic volunteers’ team encouraged people to sign the petition, handed out free stickers and shared ways we can help tackle extreme poverty (See Oxfam’s 3 Things and GROW Campaign). World Vision’s vibrant VGen youth movement were also on board and it was great to see NGO’s working together.

Personally, I got a lot out of the event. We are so lucky to be part of a democracy where we can actually talk to our political representatives about what matters to us.

Although the Government hasn’t made a commitment to increase the aid budget by 2015, I believe we were successful in putting aid on the agenda and making a public show of support for keeping our promise to those in poverty.