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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22022

Address to the Rosies Youth Fundraising Dinner Exhibtion and Convention Centre, Brisbane

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/11/2005

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22022

Thank you very much for those warm words of welcome. Father Pat, General Peter Cosgrove and Mrs Lyn Cosgrove, Peter Dutton, my Minister for Workforce Participation, Senator Santo Santoro, Mr Bob Quinn, the Leader of the State Parliamentary Liberal Party, other distinguished guests, former governor Leneen Ford of Queensland, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to, by my presence here tonight, express my profound respect, not only for the volunteers of Rosies, but also the hundreds of thousands of volunteers in so many organisations around Australia who for no reward, for no notoriety, for nothing other than the satisfaction of trying to bring some light into darkened lives for the contribution that they make to relieving misery and relieving suffering in our community. We are, as the late Donald Horne famously said, the lucky country. And Australia, by all sorts of measures, is a very strong, prosperous, successful country. But no matter how strong or successful or prosperous any country or any society is, there will always be some, for whatever combination of circumstances, who fall between the cracks. Some through their own neglect and carelessness and indifference and lack of personal responsibility, others through no fault of their own, born into tragic circumstances and condemned from the time of their birth to live a very unhappy and very troubled life. And what is so wonderful about an organisation such as Rosies is that it is non-judgemental. We all have our views, we all have our values, we all quite properly require of different people in the community that they not only enjoy the privileges of living in Australia but also accept the responsibilities. But that ought never to blind us to the need to extend a helping hand in a non-judgemental fashion to people who through no fault of their own have for a combination of reasons got into very difficult and self-defeating circumstances.

And can I relate very much to something that Father Pat said in talking about how often the sense of alienation and loneliness and separation brings about people taking their own lives. In all the experiences I've had as a Member of Federal Parliament and all the experiences I've had as a Minister, as a Prime Minister, in a personal sense, none in a way is more difficult than listening to parents who have lost their children through suicide, of listening to people trying understandably to say to me, as they would to anybody, that if only they could have done something that was different, if only they had behaved differently, if only they have reacted differently, perhaps their son or their daughter might be with them. And it is the ultimate price that is paid, it is the ultimate human cost and I think what Father said about the outreach of Rosies and what he said about the welcoming arms of this organisation to people in all sorts of different circumstances, and as a nation that really is amongst the top flight of nations that believes in and practices private home ownership, homelessness put against that reality is something that we should all in different ways do what we can to relieve and never totally remove but certainly to mitigate in our community.

I want to pay tribute to this wonderful organisation. Many of my Brisbane and Queensland friends have told me what a great organisation it is. I have the opportunity, as Father Pat reminded me a short while ago, of meeting him briefly in East Timor several years ago. And the spiritual dimension that he brings to his work, the reminder that what does underpin everything that this wonderful organisation does is a deep commitment to Christian charity. If I can use an expression that I think we all understand, some draw back from using it these days through fear of sounding too politically incorrect, but I don't because I think the spiritual dimension behind this wonderful organisation is what keeps it together, and part of that spiritual dimension is to bring a sense of compassion and charity to people who need assistance, based on respect for their individuality and their right to speak for themselves and to ask for things with a sense of dignity and a proper sense of entitlement as part of our modern community.

So can I simply say how very pleased I am to be here. Part of the life of the Prime Minister is to try and convey to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that keep our nation going and keep the country together because volunteers really comprise part of the great national cement of Australia. I was delighted to hear Father Pat talk about the cooperative effort between this organisation, the Government and the business community.

I have spoken, in the years that I've been Prime Minister, of the desirability of building a social coalition in this country. Governments can never do what organisations like Rosies do. Governments can never assemble that very strong commitment which is evident amongst the 400 volunteers here in Queensland that do the good work of an organisation like Rosies. Governments can provide resources, governments can provide a lot of assistance, they can encourage and they can extol people to do things. But nothing replaces the coalface compassion of volunteers who really care about what they're doing for individuals. And if only we can bring together the resources of the Government, the personal commitment of the volunteers and the individuals, the generosity of so many people in the business community and the public spirit of individual Australians, there really is no problem in this country that can't be overcome. And we are making progress, we are becoming a more generous society. There were many people who said at the beginning of the year, after the extraordinary response to the tsunami appeal which showed the depth of generosity of this country, there were many people who said that we would suffer from donation fatigue. The truth I think has been somewhat different.

And I'm very pleased to note that the value of individual giving in this country has grown by 88 per cent since 1997 and that the number of hours donated by volunteers has risen 16 per cent since 2000, with 41 per cent of Australians in different ways volunteering, I know it sounds very statistical but it's an arresting statistic, 836 million hours of their own time. Now I say this because there are occasions when all of us in different ways, some more than others might lapse into saying because we are an affluent country we're becoming more selfish and we're becoming more indifferent to the less fortunate in our community. There's a lot of evidence, and a great deal is assembled here tonight, to suggest the opposite is the case.

May I say to all of you thank you for what you are doing in different ways to help people who need help. I congratulate Father Pat and his wonderful army of volunteers for the tremendous work that they do to help people in different situations, without judgement, caring only to provide them with a shoulder to cry on and some kind of encouragement and a sense of hope, a sense of purpose and a greater sense of self-esteem. At the end of the day there is no feeling that is more important than self-esteem and homeless people are almost by definition desperately short of self-esteem. To the extent that an organisation like this provides that - I congratulate it and I thank it. And I wish the appeal well, I wish tonight's fundraising efforts well and I'm very pleased to say that the Commonwealth Government will contribute some $30,000 to the proceeds of this evening's fundraising appeal.

Thank you very much for having me and good luck to you all.


Transcript 22022