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Monday, 20 June 2011
Page: 6543

Mr MARLES (CorioParliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs) (16:20): Each year, as winter arrives, we are reminded that many people find life a daily struggle to make ends meet. Appeals like last week's CEO Sleepout help focus the national spotlight on the homeless and the vulnerable. These appeals also demonstrate the preparedness of the community to help out in times of need. We do not like to see people going hungry or unable to provide their children the comforts that others enjoy.

In Geelong, a grassroots campaign—the Feed Geelong campaign—run by our local newspaper, the Geelong Advertiser, and food charity FairShare has focused our local attention on this issue. In particular, it highlights the tremendous amount of good food that goes to waste. There are some fantastic agencies that help distribute this surplus food to local charities, which in turn provide meals and food parcels to people in need. But it all costs money, especially when there are fridges, freezers and food transport vehicles needed for the safe storage of fresh food. In a few short weeks, the Feed Geelong campaign has raised close to $12,000 from donations. A charity auction this Thursday night supported by a Yarra Street business, the Groove Train, will no doubt see the tally climb further. I am told most donations have been from individuals, not corporations or businesses, which shows the incredible willingness of people in our community to look after one another.

In the context of the Feed Geelong campaign, I am very proud to highlight the efforts of the Gillard government in addressing the needs of some of Geelong's most vulnerable, including the provision of emergency food relief. The new financial year's round of funding, to commence from 1 July, of the Emergency Relief and Commonwealth Financial Counselling Services will see nearly $1.9 million over three years provided to four of our local organisations: the Salvation Army, Uniting Care, Barwon Health and Diversitat. It is a significant amount of money because we recognise that many people right now are doing it tough. UnitingCare have been allocated nearly $850,000 for three years. They say that 2011 has been a particularly tough year with more people finding it hard to pay rent, gas and electricity bills and that many more families who are working but are on a limited income are having trouble making ends meet. Last financial year, with support provided by our government, UnitingCare was able to help 12,500 people with food, clothing, budgeting advice and small loans. That is 6,500 local families, 1,000 of which have never accessed UnitingCare emergency relief before.

The Salvos will receive nearly $243,000 a year to provide food and emergency relief to people in Geelong. Again, the need is great. Last year the Salvos distributed more than 7,000 food and emergency relief vouchers in addition to nearly 8,000 parcels of non-perishable food and a constant and ever-changing supply of fresh food which is available for free from their Bellarine Street premises.

Importantly, both the Salvos and UnitingCare also focus on helping families improve their financial management in the long term. Their work along with the Feed Geelong campaign are wonderful examples of community spirit in action. I also congratulate the Geelong Advertiser for their initiative and thank all those who have supported this campaign.