Words by Caity Hall

The City of Melbourne is a foodie’s dream. No matter what your taste buds are craving, you will find it. You will not, however, find it cheaply.  You can be damn sure it’s going to cost you. A lot. In a city like ours, good and wholesome food comes at a price. But how would Melburnians cope with eating and drinking on just $2 a day? How would they handle living with the hardship that is a daily reality for 1.2 billion people around the world?

Oaktree and its Live Below the Line campaign are back for another year to push the question, and will be hitting the city of Melbourne this week to urge people to find the answer.

The Live Below the Line campaign will take place this year from 5-9 May and will challenge participants to live on $2 of food and drink a day for five days—the Australian equivalent of the extreme poverty line. Live Below the Line Events Manager Katie Morris says the campaign has two main outcomes. “Participants gain a small insight into what its like to live in poverty,” Morris explains. “And they’ll have an experience they’ll talk to their friends about, so they’re actually raising a lot of awareness [for extreme poverty] in the community… and fundraising at the same time”.

With the campaign looming near, the Oaktree team are hoping to make an impact this week with numerous events happening in Melbourne and throughout Australia.

Today, the Melbourne University Oaktree Club will be hosting an event on North Court that will feature a jumping castle. And not just any old jumping castle, but a jumping castle designed to reflect the logo of the Live Below the Line campaign; a giant rice bowl. “It will be a fun opportunity to engage with people and chat about the campaign,” Morris explains.

The rice bowl jumping castle will also be appearing at Federation Square tomorrow for Oaktree’s next event, ‘Lunch Below the Line’. While the focal event will be hosted in Federation Square, this publicity stunt will be running in all capital cities and many smaller communities throughout Australia. The aim of the event is to invite large numbers of Australians to lunch together for under $2. “It will spark thousands of conversations about the issue of extreme poverty around the country,” campaign director and Oaktree CEO Viv Benjamin says.

Oaktree hopes these events will encourage more Australians to participate in this years Live Below the Line campaign. Money raised will go towards projects focusing on education in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste. With a work force compromised entirely of volunteers under the age of 26, Oaktree boasts the ability to put the large majority of 90.1 per cent of public donations towards both its international projects abroad, and its Australia-based educational projects. A further 3.1 per cent and 6.7 per cent goes towards fundraising, and basic administration and accountability costs respectively.

While those figures may be pleasing to the ears of donors and sponsors, they may be surprised to hear that none of that 90.1 per cent goes towards combating the poverty experienced here in our own country. Morris defended Oaktree’s decision to focus primarily on international projects; “We are working on overseas development because we’re working in partnership [with international-based NGOs]”. “Because [Oaktree] is a volunteer organisation and we’re not all completely qualified, that’s probably where we can have the most impact and where the money we raise can go the furthest in helping people”.

Students from the University of Melbourne can sign up to do Live Below the Line at www.livebelowtheline.com.au. The campaign runs from 5-9 May.