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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13518

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (20:34): Sacred Heart Mission in my electorate in Grey Street was formed in 1982 when Father Ernie Smith—who I caught up with again just the other day—opened his door and shared a meal with a man who was homeless. It was a part of the world, that section of St Kilda, which, to use a biblical expression, the dispossessed of the earth inhabited. A small group of staff and parishioners from Ernie Smith's church helped prepare meals, and within a year they had 70 people arriving each day for lunch. This was the beginning of the Sacred Heart Mission's dining hall coming to life. It now provides breakfast and lunch every day to people in need. It is known right across Melbourne. It represents the very best of our community. Indeed, the day after Christmas Day I think between 600 and 700 people get a nutritious lunch. It is a remarkable combination of people—people from the local Catholic community, people who are on correctional orders, people from the Victorian government, and often, in the past at least, young teenage women from Presentation College.

Last Friday, I attended the farewell of Sacred Heart Mission's CEO, Michael Perusco, at the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda. Michael had been the CEO of Sacred Heart since 2003 when he gave up a corporate salary to tackle the issues of homelessness and social justice. I want to thank him for his service to the community and his dedication to the cause, and I wish him well in his future endeavours, which include working here in Canberra in the Prime Minister's department on the issue of social inclusion. With his street experience, there could not be a better person to do that.

Homelessness is an increasing problem, and the Gillard government, as we all know, has invested in providing a home for those without one, investing $45 million in the City of Port Phillip to deliver 224 new homes, repairs and maintenance for 581 existing homes, and a $5.1 million social housing development in St Kilda providing at least 34 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with a roof over their heads.

I must say that working with the Sacred Heart Mission has been one of the abiding pleasures of being the member for Melbourne Ports, including giving them some assistance with a former conservative government and the then minister, Bronwyn Bishop. She was surprised when I approached her when she was sitting on the front bench—her colleagues were even more surprised—about one of the institutions of the Sacred Heart Mission which was opening up two months early. It was an institution caring for indigent men who had alcohol problems. Opening two months early meant they did not have their budget, and I am very pleased to say that Mrs Bishop provided some hundreds of thousands of dollars to see that, for those two months, the mission was able to provide that care.

Sacred Heart Mission has played a significant role for those without a home, not only providing a roof over their heads but assisting them by letting them know that they are not alone—that someone cares and is willing to help get them back on their feet. A facility that has helped do this is one the people have generated themselves: their op shops. I started getting some very nice ties from my wife; she had bought them at a Sacred Heart op shop. Then I discovered that she was buying them all around the whole of Melbourne Ports, because the Sacred Heart Mission had opened six op shops. The op shops started off generating $300,000 but now generate over $3 million. I pay tribute to Martin Healey, the man who provides so much wherewithal for people like Michael Perusco and all of the worthwhile people at the Sacred Heart Mission. They do exceptional work in raising funds and supporting people in need. Without the op shops and the dedicated volunteers who assist each day in the dining hall, those in need would not feel like they belong. Sacred Heart Mission gives these people not only a roof, clothing and food, but hope—hope that the day after tomorrow will be better than today. These acts of kindness cannot be measured. As Robert Kennedy once said, 'Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a ripple of hope.' (Time expired)