Australia

The Government remains resolute

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Kevin Rudd, Australian politician
Kevin Rudd: influential in shaping global events

What did Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Foreign Minister, have to say when he gave a strongly worded speech last week on extreme poverty? Thanks to my mate Luke who forwarded me this link.

I was really pleased to hear the framework through which the Australian Government is operating. Here are a few of the points worth mentioning:

  • Bi-partisan support.
  • A recognition that “the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) hang in the balance”
  • Focus on increasing aid effectiveness.

Policy is the vehicle through which a government can exercise influence on issues like this. It can be crude and slow in delivery at times. Kevin Rudd indicated that the government is looking for ideas in how to always improve and have greater impact- that is a good offer which should be responded to in good faith when the performance of the government appears frustratingly less than what could be achieved.

This is the reason for the 10 City Bridge Run. Governments need the input of people to make a difference. Howls of protest serve a limited purpose, just as does long and unremarkable petitions which lobby for change. The 10 City Bridge Run seeks to create a ‘pictorial petition’ comprising of 24,000 photographs of ‘human bridges’ to be sent to all leaders of the G20 members states. The petition will applaud the resolute spirit of each government to achieve the MDG, and recognise the decisions that will be made at the G20 Summit in Seoul, and importantly appeal for change that ensures together we influence a reduction on child mortality before 2015.

The petition started with an idea. It is emergent and still needs work. It is at this point in time still in design. You can help. Please contribute to the crowdsourcing questions that will be articulated later tonight. Only by acting together will this initiative be able to achieve impact.

Kevin Rudd closed with a noteworthy reminder, leaving aside statistics and policy:

Let us not forget that we are talking about people who are part of our common humanity.

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Benjamin

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Matt with Benjamin

 

This morning I met Benjamin for the first time. He is less than 20 days old and the son of good friends Dave and Janet. Everyone is happy and healthy. Benjamin is a beautiful baby.

Dave is a doctor, and I took some time to ask him about how things in his life have changed since the arrival of Benjamin. We also talked about the distinction between how wonderful medical care is in Australia, compared with what might be expected in what is referred to as a ‘developing country’.

How fortunate we are to experience almost very low child mortality and excellent maternal health. Dave was explaining how easy and cheap it would be to save so many life through simple interventions relating to hydration and hygiene. Simple things we take so much for granted that we don’t even think twice.

During the week a friend related a story where apparently in parts of Sudan the prevalence of child mortality was so high that new born babies are not given names.

I am thankful for Dave and Janet that things are different for Benjamin. How long will it be before child mortality and maternal health become taken for granted by almost everyone on earth?

Goodooga. Postcode 2831

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Goodooga Store. Photo Courtesy of ianjones.com.au

Goodooga, located 200 km from Lightning Ridge in Northern NSW has a population of around 270 people, of which more than 80% are Indigenous. Look it up yourself on googlemaps…it is real.

The town has a strong community spirit and is trying to survive by building grocery and petrol services to be run by a local cooperative.

What has this to do with extreme poverty you might ask?

Much has been written about aid- curse or cure.  A lot has been written about the adoption of enterprise and design initiatives to overcome the effects of poverty (for example, child mortality in so-called “Third World Countries”). Some of the health interventions are in the form of aid, and some are made sustainable through enterprise.

These situations are complex, and not just about the grandeur of a large institution or the macro-economics of how statistics might be improved.

What actually happens among real people matters. There is no silver bullet delivered by any rock star or politician to solve these problems.

Together, we can be part of the difference that makes a difference by making the bridges needed to ‘close the gap’.

Please support the 10 City Bridge Run to highlight small actions which will make a big difference in showing that the impossible can be possible. Please sponsor me with $24 here.

6 good reasons to start in sydney

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A 19th century engraving showing Australian &q...
Bridges Needed for 'Closing the Gap'

Good friends of mine asked why I hadn’t planned to start running in Sydney. Their argument was compelling and so I changed my plans to begin my journey here and then travel to New York. Here are the six main reasons that changed my mind:

  1. It reflects the originating point of the 10 City Bridge Run
  2. Many people have contributed to the birth of this project from Sydney in all sorts of ways, including the Global Launch event the previous week
  3. Australia is an important country from within the G20
  4. Before talking about poverty elsewhere, we should first note what happens in our own backyard
  5. The bridge metaphor is powerful in demonstrating the need to “close the gap”
  6. I can observe the United Nations conference on the Millennium Development Goals (20-22 September) from Sydney and get a sense of what impact, if any, it has for Australia

“Closing the Gap” is a phrase that has been used in relation to the comparative disadvantage between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. For example, average life expectancy differs by 17 years. Why?!

The metaphor of the bridge is a powerful way of communicating that to ‘close this gap’ it takes effort on the part of all of us, not just policy from governments and money from corporate organisations or philanthropic institutions.

Granted, the situation of extreme poverty is different from that of Indigenous disadvantage in Australia. Is it possible to see similarities in the root causes?

The question to address now is: where to run?

24 km Sydney Harbour Run 2009

Sydney provides plenty of choice, and there are two courses which I favour. Let me know which you prefer, or of another if you can think of one:

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge Run, covering 24 km and crossing 7 bridges. A spectacular run along many of the best kept secrets of Sydney. This is the same course as I ran last year for the 9 City Bridge Run.
  • The Spit Bridge to La Perouse, covering a longer distance than 24 km and crossing two prominent bridges. I like this option suggested many months ago by Peter Lain. It is slightly longer, but gives a good voice to the bridge metaphor by finishing in La Perouse where Captain Cook first landed in Sydney

Welcome your feedback! Interested in a creative and challenging run that shows the character of the city, an historical perspective as well as a contemporary context of the issue.

24 hour Crowdsourcing Challenge

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Make Up Your Own Mind

Please help make the 10 City Bridge Run a reality and become a sponsor through pre-purchasing the book “Above the Line” through the Social Alchemy website as part of our 24 hour Crowdfunding Challenge.

10 City Bridge Run: I start running in Newark on 24 September at 10:24 am heading toward Harlem. Can I successfully achieve the impossible with the 24 Hour Crowdfunding Challenge before 10:24 am 14 September in New York (midnight tonight)?

Special thanks to the friends and supporters who have sponsored me to date. Like everything in this creative process of inquiry, the stakes are real- it is not just talk. I take the death of the 24,000 children who die everyday seriously, and I want this to be perceived by everyone else who comes with me on this journey.

What about you: what do you think? Is the seemingly impossible possible?

Commencing tonight in Australia (13 September), and over the next 24 hours, we will find out, at least as it relates to a small matter of raising a few thousand dollars.

Please read the Sponsor page to learn more. Will you take action or leave it up to someone else?