THE message was simple and sincere during former Prime Minister and former Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd’s Brisbane launch of the 2012 Caritas Project Compassion Appeal – when it comes to helping those living in extreme poverty “the more we do the more lives we save”.
Mr Rudd launched the Brisbane appeal in the Queen Street Mall on February 17, when he was then Foreign Affairs Minister before his resignation to challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the leadership.
Mr Rudd said 22,000 children died worldwide each day from starvation, malnutrition or from diseases that arose from such conditions.
He said those deaths however did not make the Australian news headlines.
“(Through) Caritas we can do something about this in a very practical way,” he said.
“The more we do, the more lives we save, not just saving lives but the more people are able to live life to the fullest.”
Mr Rudd told the crowd of school students and mid-day shoppers that Australia was one of the top 10 donor countries in the world in “supporting lifting people out of the degradation of poverty”.
“And that’s what this work is about. Thirty-five million dollars from Australian Caritas, $1.2 billion from Caritas across the world, and your Australian Government each year now spends close to $5 billion around the world.”
Primary and secondary school students from a number of Catholic schools and colleges were present and Mr Rudd paid tribute to them, reminding the audience that “good kids” like them made such work possible.
Mr Rudd said that, following the Australian Government’s foreign aid review, it would have a more active partnership with non-government organisations (NGOs) such as Caritas – “because we want to be more active partners on the ground right across the world”.
“You will note that we have made a greater allocation of funds to work with Australian NGOs than there has been in the past,” he said.
“They have a fantastic record and we’ll be partners in the future.”
Caritas Australia’s chief executive officer Jack de Groot, who also attended the Brisbane launch, said the organisation was committed to the long-term welfare of people and communities.
“For us it is not just about the immediate response; it’s about the long-term development challenges in over 35 countries and our agility to respond wherever a humanitarian crisis emerges whether that be the result of conflict, climate change or all of the impacts of debilitating poverty that affect people’s humanity and dignity,” Mr de Groot said.
He said the 2012 appeal aimed to raise $10 million during the six weeks on Lent which started on Wednesday.
Caritas Australia’s Brisbane archdiocesan director Patricia Ryan said she was hoping Queenslanders would follow up on last year’s effort and again top $1 million in donations.
The official launch also included a presentation by Mercy Sister Joan Doyle who has spent many years working with the poor in Peru.
Brigidine College student Tess David also shared her story of last year’s Brisbane floods and how her school had still rallied to support Project Compassion.
Ms Ryan said the “aim was to have a launch of substance not ‘show’ and even though it was a public event and a public event in which the media were interested for a variety of reasons I believe it had a great deal of substance”.
She said she believed everyone who attended went away with a great sense of what Project Compassion was about.
The theme of the 2012 appeal is “If You Want Peace, Work for Justice”.