News People Tim Costello on COVID-19: A wake-up call for fathers, a reprieve for gamblers
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Tim Costello on COVID-19: A wake-up call for fathers, a reprieve for gamblers

Reverend Tim Costello was surprised to read that Nick Cave, despite his absence of faith, is a strong advocate for prayer. Photo: supplied
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In the ongoing search for a silver lining in the age of COVID-19, The New Daily sat down this week with the Reverend Tim Costello, social justice campaigner and National Living Treasure.

In a wide-ranging interview for The Covid Conversation podcast, he said that “gambling has been one of the silver linings”, with $1.5 billion saved from going down the throat of poker machines in the six-week lockdown. (Half a billion dollars more has been saved at the casinos, he said.)

Reverend Costello has had pokies addicts tell him how they have “gone cold turkey”, unable to access machines because the pubs and clubs have closed.

Having broken the dark spell upon them, they have told him “they’ll never go back”.

And he has hopes that the break in gambling industry’s revenue flow  might open up a serious conversation about reform.

One of Reverend Costello’s many crusades is with The Fathering Project, which aims to “inspire and equip fathers and father-figures to positively engage with the children in their lives”.

In very personal conversation,Reverend Costello said the shake-up of the state of fatherhood was another COVID-19 silver lining.

“I think a lot of fathers have had a wake-up call as to how much domestic chores and parenting, emotional sustenance and care-giving their wives do,” he said.

He added that many men had woken up to the fact that they’d long used their bread-winning status as an excuse to say, about the running of the house and caring for their children, “not my responsibility”.

He lamented having been such a father himself, noting: “Whether God or evolution got it wrong, why is it that we’re hitting our straps in terms of our careers, when it comes at the time that our kids need us around the most?”

The former head of World Vision Australia, and now its chief advocate, Reverend Costello talked about his concerns that Australia’s already low spending on foreign aid will be further slashed, if not as a specific austerity measure in Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19, then just as likely as a matter of course.

He made the point, though, that it was in the interest of wealthier countries to help poorer countries improve their healthy systems.

“With COVID-19, I believe to cut aid again would be disastrous,” he said.

“None of us are safe while anyone in the world still has the virus … Infection anywhere is a threat to others everywhere. Australian aid that helps other poor nations with fragile health systems through this crisis is our responsibility. And I am very fearful that it’s going to be cut from its record low base.”

Last week, The New Daily ran a story about a study that found people who attended religious services were much less likely to suffer deaths of despair.

There’s a lot of research that suggests when people go in search of God, or something like God, their wellbeing and resilience is in better shape.

“What we all share is that existential angst, having not chosen to be born, and knowing that we will die, what is the point?” Reverend Costello said. “I think … the most profound human longing is to work out the point.

“So does my life matter? Is there some purpose? Where do I find meaning from? I think (asking these questions) is incredibly important for depression-proofing, and drug-proofing and crisis-proofing yourself.”

As part of a discussion of this idea, Reverend Costello mentioned a piece he’d read written by Nick Cave, who talked about the importance of prayer, regardless whether or not people believe in God.

To hear more about that, and other issues, make sure you listen to Episode 7 of The Covid Conversation.