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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 727

Mr IRONS (9:49 PM) —On a brighter note: Christmas lunch in 2009 was an experience for me and many others in Perth that I will raise today and I will never forget. In our second week back in parliament, I hope that all our colleagues are refreshed from the summer recess and are looking forward to another hectic and busy year. The summer recess allows us as members to spend time in our electorates and also with our families. There are three major days on our calendar—Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and, of course, Australia Day. I spent my Christmas Day in Wellington Square in East Perth. It was pulsing with over 1,200 guests attending this Mission Australia event.

Mission Australia’s annual Christmas Lunch in the Park, also known as CLIP, is held on Christmas Day and brings some Christmas cheer to Perth locals seeking a place to celebrate the festive season. As we all know, in the fun and excitement of Christmas it is very easy to forget the true meaning of the season. This lunch is held for Western Australians who are less fortunate—homeless, isolated or lonely. Christmas can be a day of uncertainty and struggle. Mission Australia’s annual Christmas Lunch in the Park ensures a Christmas Day full of fun, food and friendship for 1,500 Perth locals, including volunteers. On Christmas Day, Mission Australia, along with the help of over 400 volunteers, delivered their 34th annual Christmas Lunch in the Park, and each guest received a traditional Christmas lunch, a gift from Santa, entertainment and great company.

Despite temperatures of up to 35 degrees, guests had a fantastic time, thanks to the generous efforts of those 400 men and women who volunteered their time on the day and in the months leading up to the big event. I was fortunate enough to be given the privilege of hosting the lunch and, along with Perth sports presenter Adrian Barich, we launched the lunch and event with gusto. Adrian, as a former West Coast Eagle, got the crowd going with some good old home town football rivalry by asking the crowd to declare their support for the Eagles or the Dockers. On balance I would say the Eagles just won.

There was plenty of entertainment on the day provided by the Perth Christian Choir and Perth opera singing duo Katherine and Justin Freind. Their singing and range of songs were just an added bonus for the day and they sang many songs that we all knew and could sing along with. They finished the day off with a version of Time to say Goodbye, which bought a tear to many an eye.

Perth has been booming, with new people settling from interstate and overseas, many of whom do not have established networks or family to celebrate Christmas Day with. One young family attended the lunch for the first time, as they had no extended family in Australia after moving here from the UK. In the true spirit of the day, the family found their friendly table hosts were also from the UK and made plans to catch up again.

CLIP is now one of Perth’s major annual community events and a true demonstration of social inclusion. Guests ranged from single people to couples and families, some who had recently arrived in the country, and others who may have been lonely, struggling financially or homeless.

I take this opportunity to congratulate all the staff and organisers of the day from Mission Australia. It is a massive project to organise and the event ran like a well oiled machine. The 400 men and women who volunteered their time on the day as table hosts must also be applauded. The people of Perth are very generous when it comes to this event and there is never any doubt the 400 host and volunteer positions will be filled. The cut-off date for the volunteer positions is usually in October, so eager and generous are the people of Perth.

At the end of the day I rose to close the event and I quoted a line from the movie The Bucket List that was asked of Jack Nicholson’s character. It was: ‘Have you bought joy to anyone’s life today?’ I then told the organisers and volunteers that they had indeed done that on this Perth Christmas Day Lunch in the Park. Mission Australia, I applaud you for your efforts and commitment to the people and families of Perth. This ongoing event is a great example of our community working together with a commitment to those who are more in need than others in our society.