Thursday, March 15, 2012

People in Glass Houses

This year in my quest to do it all, I was on the hunt for volunteer or internship work at an NGO. Not only am I really quite obsessed with human rights and equality, but I also study International Relations and Social Policy, so this kind of work would certainly complement my studies.

In my search I came across a position to do communications on a locally run campaign by the international development organisation, Oxfam. The position was to work on 'Close the Gap', an initiative which aims to close the life expectancy gap, of almost 20 years, between Indigenous Australians and the wider community in one generation. It also aims to close the gap in mortality rates of Indigenous children under five years old, who die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies.

These are staggering figures when we consider that we live in a democratic, first world nation with health and welfare benefits. One would expect these figures in a developing country but in Australia... surely not?

I have always been a huge advocate of international aid and development and fully thrown my support behind refugee rights, women's empowerment and grassroots development of the earth's poorest nations. Admittedly, I never looked in my own backyard. If I had, I would have seen the violation of numerous human rights, from land ownership to health.

I had always naively assumed that in a country full of people so quick to judge and condemn other countries on questionable actions toward their citizens that we should be pretty free from human rights violations ourselves.

How wrong I had been.

I now look around the world at all the first world countries who pride themselves on having achieved a 'civilised' democratic state and see the ways in which they deny or ignore Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Also on how they condemn other nations on the very rights they also violate. 

What is an example, you ask?

I will state the most hypocritical and most obvious due to the countries position in the international arena. In Article 3 of the Declaration it states "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person," I do believe this loosely translate as DON'T KILL PEOPLE! Now let's think who breaks this... oh yeah the United States. I should clarify here I'm talking about the death penalty still legal in many states, not the humanitarian/military intervention in the Middle East, although that arguably breaks a whole other set of international laws.

That is just one example, although there are hundreds, indeed reading through the first ten articles one can immediately jump to numerous examples of how many times the US has violated these rights since 9/11 in 2001 using 'freedom' as their motive.

 However, that is a whole other blog post.

So I did get the gig at Oxfam and have now been working on the campaign for a few weeks. In these few weeks I have really understood the power of beginning any kind of aid work in our own backyard. It provides context and nuance in understanding that people of any minority, in any country are quite possibly struggling an uphill battle of equal rights to basic living provisions.

It is important to recognise that because we believe ourselves to be in a better situation than many other nations around the world, this may not be the case for all of our citizens.

To find out more about Close the Gap click on the image link below -

Sign the pledge to show the Australian government that health equality still needs to be on the forefront of the national adgenda if we are to really call ourselves a civilised nation.

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