Vinnies CEO Sleepout

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (13:45): Tonight, like every night, thousands of Australians will sleep on the street or in a park or in their car. And tonight 1,657 other Australians will also experience a bit of what that’s like, because tonight is Vinnies CEO Sleepout. It’s not the same thing as sleeping rough. I remember, the first time I did it, a bloke who had been sleeping rough for many years told me the worst part isn’t the cold or the rain; it’s the fear that you have when you close your eyes—that feeling of vulnerability that you might get robbed or bashed or worse. Tonight’s not like that. We won’t feel that fear. In the morning we’ll go home, back to our families, back to our warm beds. But tonight is important because it will help to raise about $8 million for Vinnies to help Australians who desperately need our help.

It’s also important because it will help to shine a light on Australians who are too often forgotten: the 10,000 mums and kids trying to flee domestic violence last year who were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed, and the one in 10 people sleeping rough who are veterans—the people we train, send off to war and, despite everything we say on Anzac Day, are forgotten. It’s a night to think about everyone left out in the cold. Nights like tonight also force us to ask some hard questions of ourselves. How is it that, in a country so wealthy, today there are more Australians who are homeless than ever before?