With a small bowl of homemade Moroccan soup, a slice of bread and a cup of water, local MLAs were given a taste of what a meal looks like for thousands of disadvantaged Canberrans.
Community Services #1 invited 40 guests, including Members of the Legislative Assembly, to a lunch of 66 cent meals. CEO Amanda Tobler said it was an opportunity for their guests “to live in the shoes” of Canberra’s disadvantaged.
“It is Anti-Poverty week and we wanted to do something that raises awareness about just how tough it is for some people in our community, to shine a light on inequality and highlight the harsh realities of poverty,” Mr Tobler shared with Region Media.
“When you are living in poverty, your choices are limited, sacrifices have to be made every day and you are faced with difficult challenges. We wanted to provide a journey for our guests to really appreciate and understand what it really means for a lot of people in Canberra.”
Along with giving the guests an appetite of the lives of those below the poverty line, Ms Tobler said the lunch was aimed to raise awareness and create conversation.
“Unfortunately, one of the things we do really well in Canberra is that we hide our disadvantaged,” she said. “We are a high-socioeconomic community, we are a high-educated community and, unfortunately, people in poverty are silent.
“They are invisible in our community. People don’t realise it is their neighbours, it is their family members. There are 26,000 people in the ACT who are living below the poverty line. There are 1,500 people each night who are homeless in the ACT.
“This is why weeks like Anti-Poverty Week are really important for us as communities to raise how tough people are really doing it.”
Ms Tobler believes the average Canberran is not aware of the daily decisions that Canberra’s poor make every single day.
“We work with vulnerable families and members of the community every day and we see clients who make decisions to not eat or put the heater on because they need to pay their rent bill and feed their kids,” she said.
“There are no luxury items, which for some people is a cup of tea. There is no dessert. There is no salt and pepper.”
As well as walking away from the table a little hungry, Ms Tobler hopes the meal leaves a fire in the belly of the MLAs to help Canberra’s most disadvantaged.
“The Federal Government needs to increase the Newstart allowance, which is just a given,” she said. “But we also know what a lot of the problems are so now we need to start to figure out how we can make things different and better in our community.”