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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 12 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 3912..

DR FOSKEY (continuing):

Whilst these programs are important and ACT government funding and commitment to them are excellent, we must reflect on the ACT portion of those 160,000 young people who are not at school and leaving school and who cannot enter the last two programs. The only one they could enter would seem to be YARDS. So, whilst I look forward to the ACT government tabling its report in December, I also hope that as part of this discussion we can consider the methods by which to tackle youth unemployment and participation rates in a manner that addresses their multiple needs.

Mrs Stasia Dabrowski


MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (6.07): Today, I would like to talk about an upstanding citizen of our community, Polish immigrant Mrs Stasia Dabrowski. Most women of 80 years of age, one would think, would be happy to be retired and taking life at a leisurely, easygoing pace. However, Mrs Dabrowski is defying the trends of her peers and is still providing a service that she has been providing since 1976; that is, serving soup and bread from her mobile soup kitchen to Canberra's hungry and homeless.

In order to carry out her work, she must rely on the generosity of financial sponsors. However, the Canberra Times reported recently that her major financial sponsor had withdrawn its support after an unsubstantiated allegation that she had tampered with food that she had been serving. To demonstrate the truly magnanimous nature of this woman, she said in the Canberra Times that rumours were spread by one of the people she used to feed, whom she described as a poor soul who is unwell, and she held no grudges against this person. However, with the withdrawal of the financial sponsorship, she was left in a difficult situation.

This financial void needed to be filled in order for her to carry out her important work to the most vulnerable in our community. Last week, this void was filled by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. I would like to commend the CFMEU, which has donated $20,000 to Mrs Dabrowski so that she can continue her invaluable service to the Canberra community.

The altruism of people such as Mrs Dabrowski and of community organisations is being relied upon more and more. Unfortunately, the gap between the rich and poor in Australia is widening. Over the past 10 years, the Howard government has steadily cut back funding to welfare and curtailed the rights and conditions of workers, placing more strain on those vulnerable people in our community who struggle to make ends meet.

Compared with other OECD countries, Australia has a relatively high poverty rate. The key factors influencing our high rates of poverty are high levels of unemployment and joblessness, low social security payments and a high number of sole-parent families. The Australian Council of Social Service has estimated that two million people live in poverty today; that is, one in 10 Australians. Many Australians struggle to grapple with what it means to live in poverty in a relatively wealthy nation such as ours and it is easy to ignore the increasing number of people who simply do not have the means to live at the standards experienced by most Australians.

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