I take lunch for granted.
Mostly, I pack my lunch for work, a salad with a little protein on the side, egg, perhaps some cold meat from the night before. Occasionally, if I can't be bothered making lunch, or just because I can and I enjoy it, I'll go to a local cafe. Every now and then I even "do" lunch.
Shockingly however, over three-quarters of a million Australian children and their families cannot take lunch for granted, nor any other meal for that matter.
This is the result of child poverty.
A recent survey found the top three things children, young people and families said they need to feel safe are: help with housing, mental health services, and basic needs, like food, clothing, transport and school supplies.
As I sat at my desk to write this article, I removes my fresh healthy salad from my briefcase. I opened it and viewed it with a new appreciation.
Today I do not take It for granted. I need to eat, and at my age I need to eat healthy food, so it is not guilt that I am feeling. The feeling that I am experiencing is moral injury.
It's right that I have a good lunch. It is not right that 760,000 children do not.
Moral injury is not a new concept. The term itself emerges from the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Psychiatrist Jonathan Shay argues that "moral injury is present when there has been a betrayal of "what's right" either by a person in legitimate authority or by oneself "in a high stakes situation".
I would add the betrayal of the vulnerable by the society in which we participate.
Moral injury is the curse of consciousness, but it can be turned into a blessing by allowing the discomfort it causes to compel us into action. To action that rights the wrongs we have participated in perpetuating simply by being members of a society.
Many Australians experienced moral injury due to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, many also through our lack of adequate response to global heating and Indigenous issues.
The moral waters of these issues are often muddied by different political ideologies but surely there is no partisan perspective that could validly argue that a society that allows children to go hungry can at its foundation be defined as good.
The welfare of its children is the most fundamental responsibility of any society.
The fact that so many children live with food insecurity in a society as affluent as ours is truly morally indictable.
Child poverty in Australia isn't inevitable - we made great strides following the famous quote by former prime minister Bob Hawke, who said: "By 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty," and his government committed to end child poverty.
Child poverty wasn't eliminated but it was reduced by 30 per cent.
We can do it again, but we will not achieve this until, like Bob Hawke, we are courageous enough to bare the discomfort and to name the issue for what it is.
It seems now that it is almost impossible to get a politician to utter the words, but unless we name it, we cannot deal with it.
Anti-Poverty Week runs from October 16-22 with the theme "Together we can halve child poverty by 2030".
We, as a society can take action by sending a message to government that we support an increase in JobSeeker and related payments.
We need to show that we support an increase in available social housing and an increase in rent assistance.
We know we can do this because during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Australia halved poverty and significantly reduced income inequality, thanks to a raft of Commonwealth government crisis support payments introduced to help people survive the first lockdown.
The child support system is not working and the taxation system needs to be engaged in the recovery of debts owed to children, an amount conservatively estimated to be at least $2 billion in 2022 alone.
We, as a society can take action by supporting not only tax reform, but the reform of our taxation culture from one of "what can I get" to one of "what can I provide".
The stage three tax cuts must be abandoned as they can only be paid for, in a moral sense, with funds stolen from the poor and in particular from children living in poverty.
We experience the disease of moral injury in the case of child poverty not only because we contribute to a society the contributes to child poverty but because we as a society are diminished by child poverty.
How was your lunch today?
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