Challenged to see and hear

The annual Anti-Poverty Week Ecumenical Service was this year hosted by the Uniting Church WA at Uniting Church in the City, Wesley Perth, on Tuesday 17 October. Opening with a free soup lunch provided by UnitingCare West’s Food Rescue program and members of Forest Lakes Uniting Church, the service brought together people of different faiths and Christian denominations to pray and reflect on the issue of poverty in Australia.

The service is an event of the Ecumenical Social Justice Roundtable, including The Salvation Army, Quakers Australia, the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, the Anglican Social Responsibilities Diocese of Perth, the Council of Churches WA, UnitingCare West and the Uniting Church WA Social Justice Commission. It is held each year during Anti-Poverty Week.

Mitchell Garlett, candidate for ministry with the Uniting Church WA and member of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), delivered the welcome to country.

“I’d like to recognise God for trusting my people to look after the land for all these years,” he said. “My heart is happy that we are gathered here today in this place.”

Amanda Hunt, CEO of UnitingCare West shared the keynote address, highlighting the struggle many people in Australia face as they live under the poverty line on Newstart or Youth Allowance payments.

“The current rate for Newstart is significantly below the ACOSS poverty line and we know things need to change,” she said.

Amanda said there needs to be significant reform in the Australian tax system so that people living in poverty can be supported.

She said that we also need to change the stereotypes we have of people living in poverty, as an unexpected life turn can lead people into spiraling debts, adding that many people living in poverty are clever problem solvers who may not have the resources they need to make ends meet.

“Jesus challenges us to see and hear the needs of those who happen to be our neighbour and to learn to discern when and how to respond. We need to develop eyes that see and ears that hear and hearts ready to love our neighbours as ourselves. We all need to do God’s work,” she said.

“We are not powerless; I encourage you all to reach out to people in hardship.

“Together we can all do some really simple things: shift our attitude about people who are disadvantaged in community from paternalistic to possibility; understand that we need early intervention and support children to be educated; create a strong system of collaboration and partnership; and be a good neighbour. This, I believe, will help end the cycle of poverty in Western Australia.”

Désiré Mallet shared one of his own poems which he had written in a time of despair.

Everything I think or do not think
Everything I understand or do not understand
Everything I write or do not write
Will be used against me

A collection was held for UnitingCare West’s Tranby Day Centre.

Click here to read more about surviving on Newstart.

Photo credit: Désiré Mallet

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