The Origins of Oxfam Australia

Oxfam Australia is another of my Charity Partners. I chose Oxfam because they have a strong focus on community consultation and involvement, ensuring that people are able to influence decisions that affect their lives, enjoy their rights, and assume their responsibilities – a world in which everyone is valued, and everyone is treated equally. They were also great supporters of my previous two journeys The Ride to Stop the Poverty Cycle (2012) and The Global Poverty Walk (2013).

The story of how Oxfam started is quite different from what I had original expected so I’ve put together a brief summary so you can get to know their origins, what they stand for and why.

Early Days of Oxfam International

Oxfam as we know it today actually started in England in 1942 under the name Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.

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First Minute Book of Oxford Famine Relief Committee, Oct 1943

In May 1942, in response to reports of severe hardship in Nazi-occupied Europe, particularly in Greece where people were dying from hunger, a national Famine Relief Committee was set up in England. Their aim was to lobby for the relaxation of the allied naval blockade of Europe to allow food and medical relief through. Support groups were then formed throughout the country including in Oxford.

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief was formed later that year by a group of concerned citizens in Oxford UK with the founding members including a Canon of the University Church, a former Professor of Greek at Oxford, a prominent local Quaker and a London business man.

Blog9_Oxfam_Early Days_image 2__First Oxfam ShopOver the course of the 1940s, the Oxford Committee continued to campaign for support to other countries, including Belgium and Germany. At the conclusion of the war, when many relief organisations were winding down their efforts, the Oxford Committee fought on, boldly pledging to relieve “suffering arising as a result of wars or other causes in any part of the world”.

In the 1950s the committee’s work went global, responding to disasters and emergencies in developing nations across Africa and South America and famine in India. By the end of the 1950s, the committee also began advocacy work for the many Europeans still living as refugees after WWII.

The 1960s brought great changes. Concern for the world’s poor grew among the general public and the charity’s income trebled over the course of the decade. The Beatles participated in Oxfam’s Hunger campaign in 1963 and the name Oxfam was formally adopted in 1965.

As it grew, Oxfam worked to present a different picture of poor people in the Third World: one in which they were portrayed as human beings with dignity, not as passive victims. Innovative education and information materials explained the root causes of poverty and suffering, the connections between developed and developing countries, and the role of people in developed countries in creating, and potentially solving, poverty in the developing world. Oxfam’s overseas operations changed too. The major focus of work, managed by a growing network of Oxfam Field Directors, became support for self-help schemes whereby communities improved their own water supplies, farming practices, and health provision.

As Oxfam continued to expand its work through the 1970s, many new ideas and theories were put forward about development and poverty, including the decision to employ local people to run and work on projects. The same principles of community involvement and control are still behind Oxfam’s work today and are one of the main reasons they were selected as a Charity Partner for Walk to a Better World.

Oxfam Australia

Oxfam Australia was formed in 1992 through the merger of two leading Australian international development agencies — Community Aid Abroad and the Australian Freedom from Hunger Campaign.

Community Aid Abroad had begun in Melbourne’s suburbs in 1953 as a church-affiliated group called Food for Peace Campaign.  The group sent weekly donations to a small health project in India, and eventually, Food for Peace Campaign groups were established throughout Victoria and ultimately Australia.

The Australian Freedom from Hunger Campaign was launched in 1961 following the launch of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation’s five-year campaign, Freedom from Hunger.  This community-based campaign was aimed at raising global awareness about poverty issues around the world and provided opportunities for people to directly support anti-poverty
programs in developing countries.

Oxfam Australia is committed to working with partners and communities to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive. In 2014-2015, Oxfam Australia directly reached more than 5 million people — 2.3 million people through their 106 long-term development and advocacy projects with the help of 525 partner organisations; and, in partnership with Oxfam affiliates, almost 3 million people who were affected by disaster or conflict.

$50 can cover the cost of providing food and immunisation for a goat in South Africa for one month

$50 can cover the cost of providing food and immunisation for a goat in South Africa for one month

$200 can build a “water trap” to save rain water which 10 households can use during the dry season in rural Indonesia

$200 can build a “water trap” to save rain water which 10 households can use during the dry season in rural Indonesia

$360 can train 30 people in water, sanitation and hygiene, to reduce the spread of diseases caused by dirty water

$360 can train 30 people in water, sanitation and hygiene, to reduce the spread of diseases caused by dirty water

To find out more about Oxfam Australia, have a look at the Fact Sheet on our website and/or visit their website

Pledge text onlyIf you would like to support the great work that Oxfam Australia does then why not take the pledge to donate 1% of your annual income through monthly donations and help them continue to support long-term development around the world.


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