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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8794

Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (19:30): I want to take the opportunity tonight to speak about a rather unique organisation in my electorate. It is known as Operation Food for Life and it is based in Cherrybrook. I was privileged recently to receive an updating on its activities from its founder, Dennis Perry. How Dennis Perry and his friend David Woolley came to found Operation Food for Life is quite a remarkable story. Dennis at the time was working in international sales and marketing. He was travelling to Tonga on business. It was the first time he had ever encountered abject poverty. There was a community of adults and children who were living off the proceeds of a rubbish dump a few miles from the capital. Dennis said:

I think the thing that really shocked me is that they were competing for food with the pigs.

From there he went into the dump and he started to talking to the people, and their needs were simple—food and water. He went down to the local supermarket and he bought enough food and water to feed them for a month. He stayed on site, preparing the food, providing plates and utensils and doing what he could do to help.

He has now retired and he has taken that experience and focuses his efforts on the charity that he co-founded with a work colleague, David Woolley, called Operation Food for Life. It is really an inspired effort. They are, with volunteers, taking time to give something to the most unfortunate people in the world on our doorstep.

Operation Food for Life focuses on meeting the needs of the less fortunate in Papua New Guinea. They are doing it around Port Moresby. They are now a registered Australian charity, entirely made up of volunteers. Their motto is 'Our passion is compassion', and that is witnessed by their actions. They are lucky enough to have His Excellency Sir Michael Ogio, the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, as their patron in Papua New Guinea. Twelve years ago Dennis first needed to feed and clothe hundreds of families and individuals who lived in rubbish dumps at Baruni on the outskirts of Port Moresby, where families live and die, eking out a living on what others throw away.

It is very important to acknowledge that with a dedicated band of volunteers they are providing the basics of food and clothing and friendship to people in need. They also provide food and resources for a school that caters for children near the dump. St Peters Literacy School has grown from 35 to over 120 students in the last few years, providing basic education to children in need. They also help other schools in and around Port Moresby, offering children from impov­erished backgrounds a chance to better themselves and to improve their education. They are hopeful of breaking the cycle of poverty. It is all done with minimal money and resources. They do the best they can to make a difference to the lives of these children.

But Food for Life's work is not limited to helping those living in and around rubbish dumps. They visit the sick in hospitals and care institutions, ensuring they receive proper food—patients like those dying of HIV/AIDS in Port Moresby General Hospital. The hospital cannot afford to feed them, and their families have to pay—many cannot, and many will not because of the stigma attached to their relative's condition. They also help residents in the Cheshire Home for the Disabled, which is totally reliant on the support of charities like Operation Food for Life. Recently they partnered with the World Health Organisation and the Pacific Adventist University to address maternal, child and neo-natal health as well as providing immunisations—again focusing on the longer term to improve the health of children over the course of their lifetimes.

One of their current needs is for wheelchairs, crutches and walking frames. In an isolated village of Papua New Guinea to be disabled is very confining. People who have had a sporting injury or a deceased relative are finding those items in the back of their garages. I recently put out an appeal to my electors about this, asking them to bring in their old mobility aids, and I was heartened by the response. They have filled an entire shipping container, which was recently despatched to Papua New Guinea. They are now bringing together donations to fill another.

This is an organisation unknown Australia-wide, but one of which people will hear a great deal more. It has been a pleasure for my own part to accept becoming patron of this organisation. I will amend my pecuniary interest statement accordingly in the next few days.