Speakers at a pair of Anti-Poverty Week events in Wollongong yesterday urged government funding reforms on both a local and national level.
Dr John Falzon, national CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society, delivered a speech at Wollongong Library titled The Language of the Unheard. In a passionate lecture, Dr Falzon spoke of the widening gap between the rich and poor in Australia, and how Australian governments must move to address the deepening social inequality.
‘‘Too many in this prosperous nation are pushed into housing stress and poverty, which is more than material deprivation but also spiritual deprivation,’’ he said.
Yesterday marked the launch of Vinnies’ Two Australias report into poverty, which advocates further wealth redistribution from the richest to the poorest through reformation of income tax, superannuation and capital gains tax.
‘‘It sounds like a radical agenda and maybe it is,’’ Dr Falzon said.
‘‘It’s about removing the perks given to the high end of town. It’s not handouts, but social investment to redistribute not only income, but redistribute hope in the face of despair.’’
At the same time, Warrawong Community Centre revealed they may be forced to axe their popular Community Kitchen program.
Funded through the NSW government’s Family and Community Services department, the Kitchen – which provides lunch for up to 70 disadvantaged and poor people each day – will not be supported past June next year.
‘‘This is a disadvantaged area and there are a lot of vulnerable people out there living in poverty,’’ said Maxyne Graham from the Warrawong Residents Forum.
‘‘By coming here people are eating healthier and we are keeping people out of jail as we refer them to services if they have substance or health issues.’’
Ms Graham reported FACS said there was ‘‘zero chance’’ of further government funding, and said they should look for private or corporate funding for the program, which costs $80,000 per year.
‘‘But we are getting new people in all the time now, people who have never accessed the service before,’’ she said.
‘‘I think we are going to get an increase as more people lose their jobs.’’
Chef struggles to cook healthy servings on squeezed budget
As Dr Falzon spoke in Wollongong, a free community lunch was being served up across town by an unlikely trio – Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, gourmet chef Lorenzo Pagnam, and staff from Warrawong Community Centre.
Aiming to draw attention to the problems faced by those living in poverty, Mr Pagnam – of Lorenzo’s Diner in Wollongong – was challenged to cook a healthy, nutritious meal for just $2per person. The chef, renowned as one of the finest in town, said even he struggled to keep to the task.
‘‘When they asked me, I thought it was almost impossible,’’ he said.
Cooking up a baked pasta dish for those attending yesterday’s lunch, the idea was to highlight how difficult it is to prepare food on a tight budget; and especially, how difficult and important a job the centre’s Community Kitchen does providing for those in need.
‘‘You certainly can’t have the big-ticket items when cooking to this budget,’’ Mr Pagnam said.
‘‘I admire these cooks. It’s one thing to cook for a table of people, but when you’re cooking for 60 it’s a different strategy when you need to keep it cheap and nutritious too.’’