June's story among millions of reasons to support Giving Tuesday
By Denis Moriarty, group managing director, Our Community
Most people are quite ready to give to those in need. It's not just that they're unselfish: the evidence is that giving makes you happier and improves your mental health, so even selfish people might want to indulge in a little philanthropy from time to time. And the people who already donate would probably be even happier if they gave a little more.
Giving helps people like June (not her real name, obviously), who lives in country Victoria. She's a disability pensioner, she's suffered family violence for a long time, and she's homeless - more specifically, houseless, living in her car on a small bush block while trying to go back to school and do her VCE. For $60,000, McAuley Community Services for Women can provide her with a small mobile home that she can live in forever.
Homelessness is a big, complicated problem. June's homelessness, on the other hand, is a small, one-off, completely fixable problem. Who wouldn't want to chip in? (If you do, go to https://tinyurl.com/helpjune). The bigger question is this: why don't more Australians chip in more often? And why, over time, are we giving (on the whole) less?
We're good people, but we do need to be prompted. Back in the day, the church collection plate was passed in front of us (and sometimes jiggled) once a week. Or the Project Compassion box was sent home from school or church to collect for the starving kids in Africa. (Not all of it reached Africa because I used to raid it occasionally to buy lollies - yes, my Catholic upbringing was destined to fail even at that early age.) We still need to be reminded and encouraged to give, and we still need social institutions that will nudge our collective elbow. Once a year, for example, many of us buy a poppy out the front of the supermarket for the RSL (or we did, before COVID). That's a visible large-scale nudge. What Australia needs is more and better nudges.
Our Community's Denis Moriarty
That's why we have Giving Tuesday on December 1. It's not easy to kick-start a new social custom, but we're giving it a massive go. Giving Tuesday is a day when many good causes ask for donations simultaneously, all together making a loud enough rallying cry to prompt people to look up from their own problems and turn their minds to, among other things, June's new home.
Giving Tuesday, apart from being a break from the great Australian tradition of naming all the days of the week after famous bushfires, is a reminder that Australian charities and community groups really appreciate your donations and your volunteering work and your interest, and they can do things with them that you wouldn't believe.
On Giving Tuesday last year, for example, the Ballet Theatre of Queensland campaigned for $10,000 for tutus; the Royal Melbourne Hospital Good Friday Appeal sought $100,000 for specialist equipment; Mecwacare looked for funds to bankroll therapeutic baby seal robots for dementia patients; and volunteers from Knitted Knockers Australia got the needles clicking to make knitted prosthetic breasts for cancer survivors. Something for everyone!
Giving Tuesday is a worldwide movement, and last year it raised about $700 million in 60 countries. The Australian operations are run from Our Community, my organisation, but we don't own it (or profit from it).
The money's important, of course, particularly in a year when a lot of people are suffering, but Giving Tuesday is also about getting people involved in giving in other ways, such as donating their time. Volunteering has taken a hit from the lockdowns - can't go out of an evening, can't share a meeting room, can't dance or sing - and we don't yet know whether it's going to come back without assistance. We're doing what we can online, but that's a work in progress. Again, it may need a nudge.
So: here's a nudge. Giving Tuesday. December the first. Give generously. Join up, join in. Put Giving Tuesday in your diary, this year and every year.
Oh, and June says thank you, from the bottom of her heart. Nudge nudge.
What Our Community thinks about other big issues
This commentary also appears as part of a monthly column series that is published in 160 rural and regional titles across Australia, from daily newspapers such as the Bendigo Advertiser and the Illwawarra Mercury, to weekly publications such as the Goulburn Post, the Cootamundra Herald and the Jimboomba Times.
We're proud to take a stand on progressive issues, which we're able to do as a social enterprise that's not tied to the purse strings of any government or corporate organisation.
Here's a taste of some other recent commentaries as they've appeared in some of those publications, as well as our own.