Sydney Morning Herald

You can be the person who ‘started all that’

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An oak twig with acorns
From little acorns, mighty oaks grow.

From acorns, mighty oaks grow. From one drop, a waterfall. The power to direct and change culture is in all of our hands.” So writes Marcus Padley who is a stockbroker with a column on financial advice in the Sydney Morning Herald from back in July 2010.

He leads us through a story set in London where his co-worker, Sid ‘Nobby” Stiles, made a habit of picking up rubbish and changing the face of London. Padley argues that what we do really does matter. We face decisions all of the time whether to preserve the status quo or change culture for the better:

It takes guts to change culture; it isn’t easy. It’s difficult to stand up against accepted practice, but it’s not impossible.

Is reducing child mortality about changing culture? No, but collaboration and opening conversations where this wasn’t a topic of conversation might be. Those that benefit are those most vulnerable on earth living under the spectre of child mortality. It requires a change of how we understand civil society, charity, philanthropy and what our actions might really achieve. This is the domain of the 10 City Bridge Run. It is about creating a cultural shift by asking people to build human bridges. Not just one or two human bridges, but many thousands. Will it work? There is only one way to find out. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Padley makes a comment fresh in the wake of the resignation of Mark McInnes from the CEO of David Jones following allegations of inappropriate conduct towards staff. Padley wirtes: “The board of David Jones, for instance, recently accepted the resignation of its very profitable CEO for inappropriate conduct towards staff. Very public. Very shocking. That’s how you change a culture.

That section about David Jones is sage advice for those wanting to change a culture. For the culture to be changed, it has to be changed! Has this in fact occurred in David Jones? Was just someone removed from his post, and the problem dealt with in the courts rather than a necessary shift within the company? Human bridges that are built to address child mortality must be more than a new form of rubber wristband, or mega-band ‘Africa Aid’. Real change, not a band aid.


We failed them

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Aboriginal Rock Art, Anbangbang Rock Shelter, ...

Is this what we will be saying in 2015 about the millions of children under the age of five who continue to die of preventable disease in situations of extreme poverty?

This week the (Australian) Northern Territory’s Minister for Children and Families admitted he will have to tear down the system for protecting Aboriginal children from abuse and neglect and start again. He described it this way in a Sydney Morning Herald report:

“The department has been demoralised … we are now going to rebuild from scratch and we have to leave the old ideologies [of child protection] at the door.”

His was a startling admission of failure. In the three years since the biggest federal intervention in 50 years of government in the territory, agencies are struggling to come to terms with endemic mistreatment of children.

Can we as a global community really reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 from a 1990 level? Is the seemingly impossible possible?

If not – if we can’t achieve this – it represents yet another “great moral challenge of our time” which we are impotent to act to change. Failure is not an option.