‘Education is the most important thing we can give to children,’ the ACT’s new Save the Children patron told FREYLA FERGUSON.
ABC news anchor and journalist Virginia Haussegger says she was born with a passion for social justice.
A strong advocate for children and women’s rights and a board member for UN Women, Virginia has now taken on a new role, as the patron for Save the Children’s ACT branch, an organisation that aims to improve the protection, education and health of disadvantaged children around the world.
“When Alan [Scandrett, ACT council chairman] approached me I was very honoured and very touched,” Virginia said.
“If lending my voice and profile can raise the profile of the organisation, then that’s the least I can do.”
This year, Virginia reached her 25th year in journalism – a job that has seen her travel across the globe to some of the most dangerous and disadvantaged countries in the world.
It was these travels, that fed her drive for women and children’s rights.
“The media work that I’ve done over many, many years helped me connect with people. And I’ve been very grateful,” she said.
“I was born with a strong feminism gene and that’s not because of my mother – it was just the way I am.
“Issues of inequality have always been at the forefront of my vision – I don’t know why; I just have a strong sense of social justice, it’s embedded in me.”
A journalism assignment saw Virginia travel to Iraq just after the end of the first Gulf War.
“Iraq was a real eye-opener for me,” she said. “Children are completely innocent and are swept up in conflict.
“A whole generation of children missed out on education.
“It happens all over the world – boys and girls in the hundreds of millions are missing out on an education.
“Education is the most important thing we can give to children.”
In 2009, Virginia travelled to Afghanistan as a civilian, to research gender issues and see first-hand how women and children in live in the war-torn country.
In Afghanistan, she spent time with refugee turned Australian citizen Mahboba Rawi OAM – who founded non-profit aid organisation Mahboba’s Promise, that works with widows and children in Afghanistan to improve education, vocational training and establish them as self sufficient.
“What I learnt, that struck me, was the incredible power of an NGO’s work when it is well targeted,” she said.
“That comes back to why I like Save the Children… Save the Children projects are so well targeted.”
Virginia copped criticism in 2002, for writing about her own experiences with childlessness but says there’s no link to her own childlessness and her passion for children.
“I haven’t gone looking for an organisation that focuses on children – that’s not a driver for me,” she said.
“I wrote about childlessness at a time when it was a big issue for me.
“That was my issue then, not now. There is no correlation at all.”
Virginia said she plans to throw herself head first into her patronage for Save the Children.
“When I see a good opportunity to get involved in an organisation that has the same sort of values and objectives I share, I throw myself into it,” she said.
“I am very proud to take [the patronage] on.”
And the feeling is mutual. ACT council chairman Alan Scandrett is delighted that Virginia has agreed to be the patron.
“She is a caring and intelligent person, who is well aware of the important issues affecting children around the world,” he said.
“Virginia is well known and well respected in the ACT. Her patronage will assist us to raise the profile of our charity, and this in turn will assist us with our programs.
“Save the Children delivers immediate and lasting improvements to children’s lives here in Australia and worldwide. We believe that the welfare of children isn’t a privilege, it is a right.”
Save the Children is one of the world’s most significant and longest-serving organisations supporting the welfare of children.