Bishop McKenna and Deacon Josh with Sisters Alice and Mary at the blessing of our new office in Bathurst, NSW.

Dignity for all – The commitments we make together for social justice, peace, and the planet

We mark the 30th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty this year on 17 October. The umbrella theme for this year is Dignity for all in practice.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrined the importance of dignity: ‘Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.’

Dignity cannot be given or taken away, but poverty can make a person feel powerless. One of the core project principles of Mary MacKillop Today is dignity through self-determination. Self-determination is key to maintaining a sense of one’s own dignity. People must have the opportunity to become architects of their own futures: they need to feel they have a voice.

Having financial independence is crucial for people to feel they have control of their lives. But sadly, in Australia, there are many people facing enormous financial barriers that prevent them from having the life choices they hope for. Families who are just trying to survive each day at a time become trapped in an agonising cycle of debt. And to make matters worse, people in these situations often cannot access the financial services they need, such as a loan at an affordable price. They’re shut out because their income is too low, they don’t own assets, or they have no credit rating.

Many people have nowhere to turn, except a loan provider with enormous fees and impossible repayment terms. This might relieve the financial difficulties in the short-term, but the long-term costs are horribly detrimental to a family trying to get ahead and can easily lead down a path towards poverty.

Financial inclusion is about making sure everyone has access to basic financial services at a reasonable cost — instead of pushing people facing hardship even further to the margins. Financial inclusion is dignity for all in practice.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph in Perthville, New South Wales, recognised this vital need for financial inclusion more than 24 years ago. Following in Mary MacKillop’s footsteps to “never see a need without doing something about it” the Sisters responded by setting up the No Interest Loans Scheme after consulting with the local community and Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services. Sr Therese, who was there at the beginnings of the scheme, recently shared her insights:

We, as the Perthville Sisters of St Joseph, got together to ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ We wanted to empower people to overcome disadvantage with an opportunity to better their lives and make their own decisions…

I’ll never forget the mother who was able to borrow money to purchase proper reading glasses for her children. People were so grateful and the impact on their self-esteem was incredible.

Mary MacKillop Today proudly continues this work. Our Financial Inclusion Program, delivered in partnership with Good Shepherd Australia, is supporting people in regional NSW and beyond to build a holistic approach to help break the cycle of poverty.

Mary MacKillop Today is fully committed to continuing the legacy of Sisters, actively working towards the eradication of poverty by helping people achieve financial stability and meaningful economic participation. This commitment includes following the Sisters’ example of going where the need is greatest.

Recently our Financial Inclusion program expanded to provide our vital services in Condobolin, Mudgee, Kandos, Western Sydney (Penrith, the Blue Mountains and surrounding areas) as well as communities in the Hawkesbury.

Being able to actively participate in decisions is profoundly important for a person’s dignity, healing, motivation, and their ability to gain equal access to possibilities in life, and to break out of a cycle of poverty. Mary MacKillop Today and our partners will continue to work towards the eradication of poverty here in Australia and in the countries in which we work.

You can find more information about how our Financial Inclusion Program is helping people gain fair and equal access to financial services here: