Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The politics of hope

By John Falzon - posted Friday, 22 December 2006

Today, thousands of volunteers are delivering Christmas hampers around Australia.

They are climbing the stairs to lonely bed-sits or stumbling along broken paths to overcrowded houses. The families they visit are living on the edge - a metaphor I hear often.

Why “the edge”, one might ask? The families provide the answer: “Because you feel like you’re out of sight and out of mind. It’s where you feel like you’re going to fall through or fall off. It’s like there’s nothing firm beneath you. It’s like hanging for dear life to the side of a mountain, with the rocks crumbling beneath your feet.”


Life on the edge is as hard as the edge itself is soft. You’ve just been evicted because your rent has increased and now gobbles up over 40 per cent of your disposable income. You’ve just been told that your job no longer exists but that you can go on a contract. It’s 40 degrees, and the fridge has just died - you have no money, but you do have two hungry children. You’ve just been breached by Centrelink. These are the stories of the forgotten people, the blamed people. Over and over, though, we are told: “They have brought it on themselves.”

It’s time to move away from the politics of blame. It’s time for a politics of hope.

The spirit of hope is central to the Christmas story. A family is at risk of the ground giving way beneath them. With the young woman, Mary, pregnant, they must go to a strange city, and can find only humble housing on the edge of the city. The newborn child of this vulnerable family is incredibly revered as the Anointed One. Shepherds, a despised and reviled class of people in that society, are among the first to recognise him.

The Christmas story is a whisper from the edge that another kind of world is possible; a world where everything is turned upside-down.

For the Vinnies members delivering Christmas hampers, this revolution in the order of things would mean something very concrete. The people on the edge would come first, rather than last. Their housing would be a matter of priority, not a matter of luck. Their household income, whether it came from paid work, the social security system, or a combination of both, would be adequate and would not be tied to the strings of punishment and coercion. The doors would be opened to education and training. Healthcare would be a right rather than a commodity.

Most importantly, they would not be reviled and demonised. They would not be blamed for having been pushed to the edge.


The Christmas story moves the edge into the centre. It turns people on the margins into people at the heart. “He has filled the starving with good things; sent the rich away empty” sings Mary, the courageous young mother in this story.

The stories the Vinnies members hear are filled with the sadness, the courage and the hope that are the marks of our humanity.

“You’re wonderful. You’re beautiful,” a young woman sings, clapping her hands as she is given a Christmas hamper. Her sense of gratitude shows: “I thought maybe you could sell these things in your shop”, she explains as she hands one of our volunteers a bag of odds and ends that she has painstakingly put together from her meagre belongings.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

17 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr John Falzon is Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Australia St Vincent de Paul Society.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by John Falzon

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 17 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy