Celebrating a child's fifth birthday is not an unusual event in Australia. However, a birthday cake with five candles and lots of cards is not what you normally expect at a political debate.
For many in the developing world surviving till your 5th birthday can be a special achievement. On average 25,000 children die each day from preventable diseases.
One of the Make Poverty History Electoral Forums drew a crowd of 280 in Melbourne's Goldstein House of Representatives seat on Friday night 28 May 2010. Over 550 birthday cards were handed to the local parliamentarian to take to Canberra instead of the customary petition. They urged all political parties to increase our Overseas Aid to the UN Millennium Development target of 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2015.
The Speakers included three candidates for this year's Federal election: Andrew Robb MP (Current Member, Liberal Party of Australia) Nick Eden (Australian Labor Party) and Neil Pilling (Australian Greens). Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia - co-sponsors of the event, also addressed the meeting.
It was an unusual political event for other reasons apart from the presence of many locals well below the voting age. It was held in the Ormond Anglican church with sponsorship from Non Government Organisations (NGOs) including those with religious ties. The audience reflected that. Mention was made in the introdcution of a health project by TEAR Australia that styles itself as 'Engaging Christians in God's work of justice and compassion'.
The focus was Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5: reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. Issues raised included the effectiveness of aid money and programs, economic and budgetary constraints, use of consultants and technical assistance, corruption, and government funding of NGOs. An audience question about 'climate change refugee visas' raised the political heat several degrees.
It was well attended for a political forum even though few of the parties' faithful seemed to be in attendance. I'm an Australian Labor Party member and recognised only one other apart from our candidate.
The video is in two parts.
First, the non-politicos: Host Jennifer Lumsden of the Micah Challenge, junior local Barbara, Tim Costello from World Vision and Chair of Make Poverty History, plus the 5th birthday presentation:
Next come the candidates of the 3 main political parties: