The Melbourne Cup

Across Australia this week we celebrated ‘the race that stops the nation’, the Melbourne Cup.

Congratulations if you picked the winner or were lucky in the thousands of sweeps that occurred around Australia. If you were not so lucky, I hope you did not break your bank balance.

It is pleasing to see so many people come together on Melbourne Cup Day and enjoy themselves. Like any festival or gathering, it is wonderful to see people having fun and joining in the spirit of the day.

I am not against placing a modest bet on a horse race once a year, but I do feel uncomfortable with some of the excess we see at this time of year. The excess relates to the estimated $300 million gambled on the Cup, the lavish parties, the 100,000 people who pre-booked a ticket costing $74 to attend the Cup, the thousands of dollars spent on an outfit that is only worn once, the astronomically priced champagne and the expensive food, much of which is not eaten.

We enjoy a day off from work or school, but do we really need to have a public holiday to celebrate a three-minute horse race?

I feel uncomfortable about all these excesses when about a quarter of the world’s population is experiencing extreme poverty. Millions of others do not have things that we take for granted such as clean water, homes, schools, hospitals and stable, democratically elected governments.

I believe our situation is one of privilege and with that privilege comes a responsibility, meaning each of us can and should make a difference. I would challenge each of you to donate to charity the same amount that you bet or put into a sweep for the Melbourne Cup. Such a modest amount probably won’t make a difference to each of us, but it will make a huge difference to those less fortunate.

Philip Grutzner