With the ACT possessing the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia, Anti-Poverty Week, organised by the ANU St. Vincent De Paul’s Committee (ANU Vinnies), aimed to raise awareness and money for this, with a variety of activities throughout the week culminating in a Community Sleep-Out on the night of Friday 16th October.
ANU Vinnies Executive Officer, Jennifer McRae, stated that the Sleep-Out was a “more practical way of seeing how homelessness could affect you.”
The Vinnies Sleep-Out initiative was started in Sydney, at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), with last year being the first year ANU had held the event. More than just raising awareness, ANU Vinnies Vice-President Gabriele Naktinyte expressed that their goal was “to establish a better foundation of these issues on campus”
“We want to promote wider participation in tackling these issues of homelessness and poverty – not only through raising awareness but increasing engagement in addressing these issues, especially on campus.”
Vinnies National Policy Advisor, Rik Sutherland, was a speaker on the night, and discussed the issues in defining poverty that proved a barrier in approaching homelessness within Australia.
“Our government has not defined a poverty line, unlike many around the world. However, the general standard in interpreting poverty is living on below 40% of the median income”, he commented.
“This means 13% of Australians live in poverty, including 600,000 children and families, with 105,000 homeless every night.”
Describing one of the obstacles in facing issues of homelessness as “not stigmatising the people we’re trying to assist, who sometimes see themselves as failures if they ask for help.”
ANU student Joseph Frawley, who is hoping to raise $13,000 in 13 weeks for charity by sleeping rough in his car, was also a guest on the night, stating that ANU students were ‘empathetic people’, and that this issue was something that was “easy to get motivated about.”
“Everyone understands the importance of having a home.”
“It’s not the floorboards of 4 walls, but the feeling of having a home is so central to what it means to be a full human being.”
The event also featured performances from The Gypsy Scholars, as well as members of the cast of Interhall Production’s Miss Saigon.
Performer Teya Duncan expressed that she had wanted to perform at the event as sometimes “we get so caught up in university and our social lives that we can lose sight of issues external to that.”
“This is helping to bring people back to reality. It’s telling a story, getting it out there and making a change.”