Page 1030 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

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Walk Against Want

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.38): Mr Speaker, members would be aware that last Sunday was the Oxfam Community Aid Abroad Walk Against Want event. It was my privilege to be present at that to represent the Chief Minister and officially commence the walk. Along with my Assembly colleagues Mr Gentleman, Mr Pratt, Mr Smyth and Dr Foskey, I joined hundreds of fellow Canberrans in helping to raise much needed funds for projects throughout Asia, the Pacific and Central America, as well as for indigenous Australians.

This year is the 39th year of the Walk Against Want and symbolises the daily walk of many women from developing nations around the world to collect fresh water. As the former CEO of Volunteering ACT, I am well aware that, in addition to the dedicated paid staff at Oxfam, there is also the involvement of a large number of volunteers who worked so enthusiastically in the lead up to the Walk Against Want and who also came along on the day to make sure it ran smoothly. In addition, there were many performers who volunteered their time to entertain walkers after the walk.

Without the support of all those volunteers, activities such as Sunday’s walk would not be possible. A not-for-profit organisation such as Oxfam would not have the resources to employ sufficient paid staff to organise and conduct such events. Were it not for the dedicated work of these volunteers, considerably more than the current 10c in each dollar raised would have to be spent on administration and logistics. As a consequence, much less would be left to spend on the important projects that this money is designed to fund.

It is also important to recognise those who volunteer their time to come out to walk and, prior to that, work to sign up sponsors to support their efforts. Many of the walkers on Sunday were from our multicultural community, and it was fitting that we all participated, representing the diverse community that is Canberra. In addition, the public sector got right behind this event. Many government agencies were represented with teams participating as part of a workplace challenge. I am sure many of you would have seen the great photo in yesterday’s Canberra Times of staff of the National Archives walking with their red setters.

Canberra has the highest level of volunteer involvement in any capital city in Australia and I believe that this level of involvement contributes significantly towards making Canberra such a great place to live. Canberrans were significantly overrepresented on Sunday’s walk across Australia. It is estimated that some 10,000 Australians walked in over 100 different locations. In Canberra, there were close to 1,000 participants, which, as you can see, was significantly above the proportional representation.

Since the commencement of the Oxfam Community Aid Abroad Walk Against Want 39 years ago, it has raised over $10 million. The funds raised help provide school buildings, pay teachers’ wages, feed disadvantaged families and work for real solutions to poverty and social injustice. Some of the communities that Oxfam assisted have been recipients of their help for many years, and they rely heavily on the support provided. In many cases, these same communities also have been severely affected by the distressing events of the Boxing Day tsunami, and that makes this year’s effort even more important.

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