ADDRESS TO THE AUSTRALIAN FOOD AND GROCERY COUNCIL INDUSTRY LEADERS FORUM

Thank you Enzo for your kind words and thank you for the work you are doing as Chair of Foodbank Australia.

  • Terry O’Brien, Chairman of the Australian Food and Grocery Council;
  • Gary Dawson, Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council;
  • Jason Hincks, Chief Executive of Foodbank Australia;
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a great pleasure to be here tonight at this the Australian Food and Grocery Council Industry Leaders Forum Dinner and, importantly, the Annual Foodbank Awards.

Tonight is an occasion to celebrate the collaboration between civil society and particularly the social services sector, and the food and grocery industry; a collaboration that, at its core, is about helping those in our society who are most in need. A collaboration whose innovation centres on making existing resources go that bit further.

I have had a long personal involvement with civil society orgnisations and it’s this grassroots experience that formed my views about the critical role of the agencies and organisations that arise organically from the community in response to human need.

It’s a perspective that has been reinforced by my experiences and observations as a Parliamentarian and Minister over the past two decades.

It’s these cumulative observations and experiences that have forged my views about both the role of government and its proper limits. And I’ve generally concluded that while certain core functions of government are indispensible, we should strive to minimise the institutional footprint of the state wherever and whenever possible.

I am a strong believer that, properly empowered, civil society is uniquely placed to respond to the challenges some in our community face.

Foodbank is an organisation that is woven deep into the fabric of our community; a beacon in civil society that embodies qualities that we as Australians hold dear; lending a hand; helping others; and doing our bit for the community.

The best practice model that Foodbank operates for utilising surplus is at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to long-term challenges. Without this model, the surplus that currently makes up the 40 million meals that Foodbank provides would be wasted.

Foodbank’s reach – its impact – is truly impressive; in 2014 alone, Foodbank Australia provided enough food for 40 million meals.

But, this impact would not be possible without the food and grocery industry.

And Foodbank is a comparatively young not-for-profit, has a rich history. Established some 22 years ago, Foodbank is an organisation that is now both well-established and well-regarded. Its reach is projected not only by its professional staff but, most critically, by its army of some 3,000 dedicated volunteers who contribute their time, their efforts, in the service of others.

Australia has a strong history when it comes to volunteering. We see volunteerism come to the fore both routinely and particularly in times of crisis. A community that gives freely of its time and financial resources is one with strong cohesion and social capital.

And this is the kind of activity that governments should be promoting. The partnership between the food and grocery industry and Foodbank is a shining example.

In concluding my brief remarks this evening can I pay tribute to Foodbank, its staff and its volunteers for their selflessness and their service – and can I pay tribute to the food and grocery industry. Without the industry, Foodbank would not be in a position to do so much and help so many.