Opening up a world of opportunities in Central NSW

18 Mar 2015   |   Media release   |   Australia   |   Project Compassion   |   Long-term Developme

Karen cooking with family

In Central NSW, the Centacare Wilcannia-Forbes Manage Your Income, Manage Your Life Program, supported by Caritas Australia, is opening up a world of opportunities for individuals and families, to take control of their finances and learn a new range of life skills.

The Caritas Australia-supported program is being highlighted nationally during Project Compassion, one of Australia’s largest humanitarian fundraisers. Last year the appeal raised nearly $11 million to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold the dignity of people across Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Pacific and Australia.

This year Project Compassion’s theme is “Food for Life,” and focuses on the ways in which Caritas Australia is working with partners around the world to empower vulnerable people to establish sustainable food sources and develop income streams for life.

Australia is known as a land of plenty. There is no realistic danger of food shortage, supermarkets compete fiercely for our consumer dollar and we have access to an array of healthy produce at affordable prices. 

But Lynda Edwards, Manager of Manage Your Income, Manage Your Life Program said the story can be starkly different for First Australians living in rural communities, where low incomes, limited access to nutritious, affordable food, and poor food choices are severely compromising the health and well-being of families.

“So Manage your income, Manage your life is an Aboriginal financial literacy program. What we do is we work with communities to find out what is the financial issue in that community and then we cater a workshop around that issue,” Ms Edwards said. “The program is also often coupled with the Centacare Food Support Activity, known as Bintha Murri Murri which is part of the Foodbank Australia initiative. This allows many on low incomes to access nutritious food by paying a fee for being a member of the activity”.

“Diabetes and high cholesterol are some of the chronic illnesses among Aboriginal communities, and Aboriginal people certainly need to understand what foods are in what items, so they can make the best choices for their families.”

In Central NSW, sole mother-of-six Karen was experiencing difficulties making ends meet and didn’t have the awareness or the money to provide a nutritious diet for her family.

“I was in a lot of debt and wasn’t handling my money properly,” says Karen, 45. “Feeding the kids was about what was easiest, not what is healthy.”

Karen’s situation is similar to many families in central and far west NSW, where there are limited places to buy food and groceries and families do not have the appropriate tools or experience to budget for necessities. Unsurprisingly, prices at remote community shops are high due to freighting costs and lack of local competition. Many of these communities are without a car or regular transport to large town centres where prices are more reasonable.

Karen was struggling to make her Centrelink payments stretch to pay for all the essentials including food and rent because she was not really aware of what she was spending her money on.  Like many, Karen became trapped in a cycle of borrowing and debt that impacted her family’s daily diet.

Through a series of budgeting workshops, combined with nutrition workshops and cooking activities, Karen gained tools to take control of her money and budget so she could provide regular, healthy meals for her family.

“Now my kids eat healthy and they’re willing to try new foods,” Karen says. “I want them to be healthy and strong.”

Through programs like the Manage your income, Manage your life, Caritas Australia is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led solutions to ongoing inequalities in health, education and employment. These inequalities are highlighted annually during National Close the Gap Day, which will be held on 19 March.

Please donate to Project Compassion 2015 and support First Australians in remote communities to develop financial skills that enable healthier food choices, building a better future for their families.

Lynda Edwards is available for interviews. 
Media contact: Nicole Clements - 0408 869 833/(02) 8306 3490 or media@caritas.org.au.


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