- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 31 May 2012 00:08, Updated 31 May 2012 15:56
Last week BRW celebrated the big personalities, dreams and stories of Australia’s 200 wealthiest people. And it was a celebration. These entrepreneurs, investors and builders (in every sense of the word) create wealth not only for themselves but for the nation. They also inspire those who aspire to similar heights of success. But sitting uneasily alongside this great wealth is great poverty.
The St Vincent de Paul Society will remind us of this sorry paradox when it holds its annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout on June 21. In capital cities around the nation, chief executives from business, government and the community will “experience what it is like to be homeless for one night in winter”. The aim is to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise money to help the charity’s work with the homeless.
St Vincent de Paul is to be saluted for its vital work in the community but I have deep reservations about this event. It is crass and condescending. Last year, 1000 chief executives “with only a sleeping bag, beanie and piece of cardboard” pretended to be homeless for one night, raising $4.2 million. Big deal. If my calculator serves me correct, that’s an average of $4200 each.
Participants could easily sign a cheque for such a trifling amount without their much-publicised “sacrifice”. For many of the business leaders who take part in this patronising gesture, the money raised is mere pocket money. And when they emerge from their doubtless uncomfortable night, many will hop into their chauffeur-driven cars, luxury automobiles or family four-wheel-drives to be taken to the comfort and warmth of their homes. For, unlike the 105,000 homeless Australians, these self-satisfied campers have a home to go to.
It would be far more illuminating to hear from our leading chief executives what they are doing to stamp out the scourge of homelessness. What programs do the companies represented have in place to rehabilitate, employ and skill the marginalised? Tell us about that – and some enlightened companies do have such stories to tell – and spare us the hollow claims of “sleeping rough”. We need to hear how wealthy executives and entrepreneurs are sharing their acumen and good fortune to improve society. So, to our business leaders, this entreaty: forget the camping. Just tell us how you are building a better, fairer society and you might inspire others to follow your lead.