Australia's responsibility in helping a safer world for all
Jane Edge, Chief Executive Officer of CBM Australia and a member of the Board of the Australian Council for International Development, discusses Australian Aid
Many of us are watching world events with a sense of sorrow and helplessness as images of war, disasters and famine fill our news. We see the impact of unimaginable events on so many who are already pushed to the margins.
People with disabilities living in poverty are clinging to the very ends of those margins in communities around the world. Of the one billion people globally living with disability, 800 million live in developing countries and are being left even further behind. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The sustained reduction in the central budget allocation for disability
The Australian aid program, which helps our neighbours in need, has had a small and welcome funding boost in this year’s federal budget. And yet what has previously been foundational – the inclusion of people with disabilities – is diminished by the sustained reduction in the central allocation for disability. This is at a time when throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a catastrophic failure to protect the lives, health and rights of people with disabilities.
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people with disabilities represent more than 50 per cent of all COVID-19 related deaths
In this Lenten season, as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, we’re called to act with love and mercy, and to walk in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are trapped in the cycle of poverty and disability. Australians are known for our compassion, determination and generosity and we have demonstrated all of these qualities in the last couple of years as we too have grappled with the effects of the pandemic. We recognise the opportunity and moral responsibility to hear the voices of the disadvantaged and respond in these times of crisis.
In Australia the cost of living has gone up, leaving many in financial hardship. While many are doing it tough, our neighbours faced even greater difficulty. We know people with disabilities represent more than 50 per cent of all COVID-19 related deaths. People with disabilities reported losses of income at rates higher than the general populations, and in many cases were not eligible for economic support or social protection. For example, in 2020, more than 85 per cent of people with disabilities affected by COVID-19 lockdowns did not receive timely financial assistance.
Safer World For All
Australia has the means to be compassionate and generous both locally and beyond our borders. If we support people in neighbouring countries, we are all able to thrive and build a more secure, inclusive and prosperous region.
Disability leaders have shared with me their fears and their hopes. They see daily the extraordinary challenges faced by those with disabilities in their communities, watching them slip even further into poverty.
….advocacy at the very heart of the Christian faith
In Papua New Guinea, a local advocate for change who has a disability is dedicated to seeing his country thrive and recover from COVID. He told me that “what we need is for all people with disabilities to be able to access healthcare, education and jobs and be included in all aspects of community life. We want to work closely with our neighbours to build a more inclusive Papua New Guinea.”
As CEO of CBM Australia, I have seen Australian Christians give generously to meet the needs of the poor and raise their voices on issues of injustice. This is why CBM Australia will join Micah – a coalition of churches and Christian organisations – in a new campaign, Safer World For All, to encourage our government to increase humanitarian aid and pursue a world free from poverty.
Jesus is described as the Word which puts advocacy at the very heart of the Christian faith. Influencing government decisions is a critical part of achieving the world we want to live in and helping the most vulnerable. We have an opportunity to focus our efforts to undo some of the damage caused by the pandemic. We hope you will join us.
Jane Edge is Chief Executive Officer of CBM Australia and a member of the Board of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).
CBM Australia is a Christian international development agency, committed to improving the quality of life of people with disability in the poorest places in the world.