GK Australia’s Chair, Andrew Chalk, spoke at the plenary session at the GK Global Summit held in Toronto, Canada, and told the gathered audience about his own experiences of GK and its relevance to the developed as well as the developing world. He spoke of the similarities between Canada and Australia, including their natural resources and common law legal system. He said Australia was further behind Canada in how the relationship between the original owners of the lands had evolved and developed. He said: “Our High Court has described our history as a legacy of unutterable shame.  While in Australia we are a very wealthy country, there are pockets which would not be very different to BagongSilang (the original squatter settlement to which Tito Tony took his band of young followers)”.

Mr Chalk pointed out that Aboriginal people make up 1-2 percent of NSW’s population, but they made up 70 percent of the inmates of some juvenile jails. He also said that the life expectancy for Aboriginal people was 20 years less than for the rest of the population. He then asked what these statistics had to do with Gawad Kalinga.

“Everything - because most people conceive of poverty as a lack of material resources - GK was one of the first to recognise poverty is much deeper than that, it’s not a lack of resources, [it’s a lack] of spiritual well-being, of how we relate to one another as brothers and sisters. We have so many people who live in car bodies, children don’t finish school, our suicide rates are amongst the highest in the world”.

He said that GK was much more than a brand, and that the Philippines should be known for more than a place that produced great hamburgers or boxers [a reference to an earlier presentation on the cultural cringe amongst some Filipino expatriates]. He said that what drives GK is an intelligent heart that looked at the whole picture. He gave as an example the house building that GK is renowned for –he said it was not about using the cheapest materials or building the biggest house, rather it was about choosing materials that required teamwork. He said the basis of support that was engendered by the teamwork involved in building homes lived on in the community once the building was finished.

He said that governments use policy and resources to try to solve problems but it has no foundation in love: “It’s not through the work of a paid consultant that you can bring about that change or show that love, it is when you do something on your own time and not because you are paid to do it but because you believe in the people, that it brings about a qualitative change in the way people relate to you and to each other. Volunteerism is an expression of that love.”


Related Links

Youth suicide rate getting worse, NT News, 30 January 2012


Stolen lives: Why are indigenous Australians killing themselves? Crikey, Tuesday 14 February, 2012