Tim Costello has used his last day with World Vision Australia to call out middle-class Australians and their ‘huge sense of victimhood’.
Speaking to The New Daily, Mr Costello said Australians had lost ‘perspective’ of what’s important.
“Middle-class people think they’re doing it tough – the sense of victimhood is huge. We’ve got a whining middle-class culture.
“We are blessed, we’re the third-richest country per capita in the world. When you lose that perspective, you lose that generosity.”
Stepping down on Friday after 13 years as chief advocate of the charity group, Mr Costello said the nation suffers from ‘compassion fatigue’ and felt overwhelmed by world events.
“My diagnosis is that the global ill-winds turn us inwards. We think, ‘We are just going to look after ourselves, we’re doing it tough, we don’t need to be responsible’. You start to get an evaporation of empathy.”
The numbers back up Mr Costello’s remarks, with the proportion of Australians donating to charity steadily dropping since 2015.
Recent research from Roy Morgan shows the proportion of Australians donating to charity has fallen from 61.8 per cent in 2014, to 60 per cent last year.
While the average size of donations has grown to $486 in that time, it hasn’t kept pace in real-terms with the $460 recorded in 2014
But Mr Costello was quick to note Australians’ recent efforts to tighten their purse strings isn’t confined to the middle-class, and that same miserly spirit has come to haunt Parliament, repeatedly breaking promises to help the world’s poorest people.
“The government has been mean. We made a promise of 0.7 per cent of gross national income going in aid, all rich countries did. Ours is down to 0.21 – that’s 21 cents in $100.
“Britain, Scandinavia, Netherlands, all donate 0.7 per cent, they have greater debt in many cases but they’ve kept their promise to the world’s poor.
“We’ve given ourselves a leave pass. It’s not who Australians are – we share; we know we are blessed. It’s the greatest shame to me just as an Australian.”
The New Daily contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment on foreign aid donation totals, but the department didn’t respond by deadline.
Foreign aid has become a regular loser in the federal budget. Across five financial years from 2014-15 to 2018-19, the aid budget was cut twice in nominal terms, with an expected decrease of an extra 11 per cent predicted in the next few years.
This year’s budget revealed that foreign aid expenditure is expected to increase in real terms by 6.6 per cent this financial year (2019-20) before decreasing by 11 per cent by 2022-23.
Ian Wishart, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation, admitted that over the past few years the development organisation had struggled to find new donors – despite existing donors’ continued generosity.
“While we aren’t growing as quickly as we have in the past, we have experienced increased donations each year for the past five years,” he told The New Daily.
“What we have found is that existing donors continue to give very generously, but it is becoming harder to find new donors when there are so many worthwhile causes.”
While many Australians may feel they can’t financially contribute, support could be as simple as sharing a post on social media, Mr Wishart said.
“If people can’t afford to donate they can certainly help spread the word about the charities they support [via social media],” he said.