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At the conclusion of National Anti-Poverty Week, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has repeated calls for the Commonwealth Government to convene a national forum on poverty.

Bishop Christopher Saunders, ACSJC Chairman said, “Many of those participating in Anti-Poverty Week experience the impact of poverty in their own communities.  Charities like St Vincent de Paul provide assistance to individuals and families in desperate need on a daily basis.  There have been many inquiries such as the current Senate Inquiry into Poverty and Financial Hardship which is due to report in November.

“More can be done to address the causes and consequences of poverty in a co-ordinated way by including all levels of government and sectors of our society.

“The statistics show the persistence of poverty despite a decade of outstanding economic performance.  Over 80,000 low-income Australians pay more than half their income in rent.  680,000 children live in jobless households.  134,000 Australians are long-term unemployed.  33 of the 37 poorest electorates in Australia are in rural areas.  Indigenous Australians, sole-parent families and people with disabilities remain vulnerable to poverty.
“On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the ACSJC repeats the call of heads of churches and leaders of the Jewish and Islamic faiths for the Government to initiate a national forum to develop a strategy to reduce poverty and eliminate child poverty.

“There are encouraging signs our political leaders are looking to ease the burden of hardship for those who have missed out over the past decade.  Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson last week voiced the National Party’s preference for increased investment from a large Budget surplus to be devoted to regional infrastructure and community services.   The Federal Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, has since signalled commitment to a poverty summit that would set long-term objectives for employment, health, education and community services.

“However, poverty eradication requires a co-ordinated and strategic response.  We urge all political parties and all levels of government to make the eradication of poverty a shared priority.  A national forum on poverty would be an important first step,” Bishop Saunders concluded.