Thank you very much Deputy speaker. A couple of weeks ago I met a bloke named Kevin. He lives in Campbelltown in Western Sydney and he told me his story.
Kevin was an ice addict and his addiction to that drug cost him his kids and cost him his job. His kids were taken away from him and looked after by his parents. For a long time he was living in a car sleeping in a car with his wife until one day a bloke who ran a community organisation in Campbelltown helping homeless people got in contact with him. Provided him with shelter. Got him in touch with services that could help turn his life around.
He’s now got a job. He’s a manager of a business in Campbelltown. He’s got his kids back. He’s a volunteer at the same organisation that helped get him out of that car and he’s now on the board of that organisation. It’s a fantastic story of how one small organisation can help one Australian turn their life around.
Last week I went on the night walk that Father Chris Riley’s Youth off the Streets does in the streets of Sydney. Looking out for young people that are sleeping rough or need a helping hand or just need a hot meal in the depths of winter. I met a young woman who had been homeless since she was 14. She’s not homeless anymore thanks to Danny the bloke who runs that night walk and the work he did to help get her off the street get her into a home and get her an apprenticeship as a chef at one of the biggest restaurants in Sydney. She’s now been doing that for six months and I got to meet her and see the life that she’s living now and that change is made from great organisations like father Chris’.
He also told me the story this is a hard one to tell and I’m sure my colleagues opposite have got experience in law enforcement will have heard these stories before. About a 13 year old girl who was injected with heroin for the first time by her mum, and what that did to her life and how it spiralled out of control. That young woman was found by Danny and the team and Father Chris. They gave her an education. She finished high school through Father Chris’ organisation. She’s 30 now and she’s now a school teacher teaching in our public education system.
If we talk about heroes you can’t go past two friends of mine Hilton and Joyce Harmer OAM. You know Hilton? Well you know if there’s a god up there then then Hilton and Joyce are gifts from him or her. I’d like to let the Parliament know that it’s Hilton’s 80th birthday today. So if you’re watching mate happy birthday.
Hilton and Joyce have been helping homeless people and disadvantaged people for almost 60 years. When they retired from the Salvos they went out and collected food from Oz harvest and distributed it to different refuges and boarding houses in my local area in Sydney. Hilton got really crook a couple of years ago and couldn’t do that anymore so instead they open their own home and encouraged people who were struggling to come to their house every Wednesday where they distribute food. You know everything from toasters to fridges to mattresses. Anything people need they would find it and get it to people.
Despite all of that good work from all of those organisations though, the challenge that we face in this area is just getting harder and harder because in spite of all that good work there’s more people that are going to be homeless tonight than ever before. Almost half of them are mums and kids.
You know I heard the story last week about a mum who’s got six kids sleeping in a car just on the outskirts of Werribee. She’s been doing it for six months. One in ten homeless people are veterans. You know people who wore our uniform and protected our country. The biggest, the area where this is rising fastest is not young kids or old blokes it’s women aged 65 to 74.
In my own area in Western Sydney homelessness has increased by almost 200% in the last few years. This is a massive problem. I don’t think it’s melodramatic to say it’s a crisis. It’s not just people that are sleeping rough – that’s the tip of the iceberg. Only 7% of homeless people are sleeping rough. It’s people that are sleeping in cars sleeping on couches staying on the train just to keep warm. Or people that are in boarding houses fed and helped by people like Hilton.
It’s Homelessness Week in just over a week’s time so can I use this opportunity to encourage my colleagues to get out and visit refuges. Listen to people, some of the quietest Australians in this country. If you’re watching this please be inspired by these stories to go out and volunteer for these organisations. Can I encourage the government to not talk about the spin on the positiveness of homeless but do something real like these great Australians and help the most disadvantaged people in our community.