Public talk tackles global poverty

Sanctuary Northern Rivers president Dr Michael Douglas has spent more than 20 years working in Papua New Guinea and South East Asia on public health projects and is organising a community discussion on tackling global poverty.

The forum provides an opportunity to hear the insights of the people, policy makers and practitioners that have been at the core of international aid programs in recent decades as well as providing an opportunity for the community to put forward ideas.

“This is an issue that is very close to my heart,” Dr Douglas said. “If you look back at the last 30 years of international aid, we are not seeing the improvements we have aspired to. There have been some wins, if you look at children’s health things have improved substantially, but in other areas such as maternal health, there have been declines.”

He said giving money directly to foreign governments or setting big projects in place just doesn’t work.

“The lessons we have learnt are the closer you can get to the community, the better. So grassroots organisations and non-government organisations working at the community level, then the improvements you will see are likely to be more substantial. We still need to work at those high government levels and we still need to have functional health systems, but the lessons have been resounding on this that we need to work at the grassroots level.”

Dr Douglas said the Australian public were sceptical of aid projects, particularly in parts of Africa, and in some cases their concerns were well founded.

“The goodwill and mighty efforts of church and non-government organisations, of government agencies and philanthropic programs must be harnessed for the greatest good. It is unacceptable that our efforts do not yield the benefits that are beckoning,” he said. “The community who often donate willingly need to ask questions; is the money being used effectively?

“There have undoubtedly been some bright lights on the path to progress, but sadly, the situation today for many throughout the world, is that their livelihoods remain on the margins, their hopes dare not look too far ahead, for survival remains an elusive commodity.”

The discussion will be led by renowned author and pioneer of the world localisation movement, Dr Helena Norberg-Hodge, regional manager of Australian Red Cross, Dr Vahideh Hosseini, Professor Lesley Barclay, head of the University Department of Rural Health, and Adeyemi Johnson, formerly of Sierra Leone.

“Here in our own community we have an amazing well of wisdom and experience,” Dr Douglas said. “The evening provides the chance to partake in an enlightening discussion and probe the minds of some very special people.”

The forum will be held at the Lismore Workers Club next Tuesday, March 30, from 6-7.30pm.

An interactive exhibition on the Millennium Development Goals is also open to the public at the Lismore Workers Club until next Wednesday, March 31.

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