House of Representatives Speech- Isaacs Electorate: Joey’s Van 2010

I rise today to speak about the services provided by a group of volunteers operating a food van in Dandenong. Joey’s Van provides healthy, nutritious meals to needy people in our local community. Joey’s Van is an outreach ministry of St Joseph’s Parish, Springvale. The service was founded by Father John Magri in April 1999, with the original food van being kindly donated by a parishioner. The service operated in Springvale before moving to Dandenong. Every Monday and Friday night, volunteers set up Joey’s Van in Palm Plaza in central Dandenong to provide food, necessities, assistance and companionship to those who are doing it tough in Greater Dandenong. There is a rotating roster of around 100 volunteers who take turns serving food, cooking the meals and putting together care packages for those in need.

I rise today to speak about the services provided by a group of volunteers operating a food van in Dandenong. Joey’s Van provides healthy, nutritious meals to needy people in our local community. Joey’s Van is an outreach ministry of St Joseph’s Parish, Springvale. The service was founded by Father John Magri in April 1999, with the original food van being kindly donated by a parishioner. The service operated in Springvale before moving to Dandenong. Every Monday and Friday night, volunteers set up Joey’s Van in Palm Plaza in central Dandenong to provide food, necessities, assistance and companionship to those who are doing it tough in Greater Dandenong. There is a rotating roster of around 100 volunteers who take turns serving food, cooking the meals and putting together care packages for those in need.

On Monday, May 17, I went to see the great work that the team who organise Joey’s Van do and it was a sobering experience. Some of the people assisted are homeless, some are out of work and find it difficult making ends meet and some have gambling problems or addictions of other kinds. The night that I was at Joey’s Van, a variety of items were available, including pasta, soup and rice. Basic care packages were handed out, with items including toothpaste, a toothbrush and soap. The service does not discriminate and is available to all men and women regardless of age, religion or ethnic background. The volunteers have contact details for local services that might be able to assist people with certain needs and it is understood that confidentiality is an important part of the process. This has helped build mutual respect between the volunteers and those who use the service.

I thank the coordinator of Joey’s Van, Margaret Miller, for the invitation to see the great work her group of volunteers are doing to help people who face trying times. Ms Miller has been working with Joey’s Van since its creation and took over the lead role of the organisation in February this year from the long-serving Rosanna Rinnovasi, who still has a role assisting Ms Miller with her duties. I also acknowledge the City of Greater Dandenong, which assists Joey’s Van with the site in Palm Plaza, providing power and lighting, funding and a scheme that encourages council employees to regularly donate to seven local charity organisations, Joey’s Van being one of the recipients.

I am proud of the work that the Rudd government is undertaking in trying to help the most needy in our society. It is distressing that, in our generally prosperous community, there are Australians who are still in need of assistance to meet the most basic of needs. In December 2008, the Rudd government published a white paper setting out a plan to halve homelessness by 2020, focusing on the prevention of homelessness, improving and expanding services to help more homeless people and breaking the cycle of homelessness by providing long-term housing and support. Last year the Rudd government’s Nation Building for Recovery plan included an investment of $6.4 billion to build 20,000 new social housing units and repair around 45,000 units of social housing. This is the single largest investment in social housing ever undertaken in Australia. Some of the government’s record investment is being made in Noble Park and Dandenong, which will help alleviate social problems such as homelessness in the Greater Dandenong community.

Having seen the effects of homelessness for myself, I am disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition has not joined the Prime Minister in the effort to try to halve homelessness by 2020. Unlike his predecessor, the member for Wentworth, the present opposition leader has decided that a bipartisan approach to one of our largest national problems is not required and, seemingly, does not think such an effort is worth while. As the work that is being done by Joey’s Van and by the myriad other community organisations in my electorate shows, there is a lot of work that remains to be done to help those who are facing difficult times. The opposition should recognise this and get behind this government’s attempt to reach a target as significant as the target for homelessness in this vital area of social justice.