Federation Chamber - CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS - Batman Electorate: Bell Primary School, Homelessness

16 August 2018

On Monday, a school in my electorate celebrated a very special birthday. Bell Primary turned 90. Bell opened its doors to students for the very first time in 1928. Some things have changed. A beautiful photo from the 1930s shows 43 kids in the class, and now over 500 gorgeous young learners attend the school. In 1928, the school chose its symbol to be a bell with the words 'ring true' as its motto. The school is steered by its values of creativity, respect, resilience, curiosity and collaboration. We in this place could all take heed of those words. Bell Primary has educated countless wonderful students, including two Melbourne legends: the former Victorian Labor Premier John Cain and member of the Fitzroy Team of the Century Garry Wilson.

Bell Primary received funding from the Dan Andrews government for urgent repairs to the main building, which is also 90 years old, but they still require funding for an undercover outdoor area and more permanent classrooms, as 70 per cent of its students are housed in relocatables. Principals and teachers all tell me about similar challenges: the need for building works to provide safe, functional spaces for their kids; the value of true needs based funding to ensure that kids who are struggling are given the support they need; and the dire need for speech pathologists. These principals and teachers are simply wonderful, and I would like to thank every one of them for their work. All across my electorate, from the ring-road to the river, education is the No. 1 issue raised with me. Everyone knows it's the key, and I am proud that Labor has committed to an extra $17 billion for our schools and kids. I congratulate Bell Primary on a wonderful 90 years and wish them all the best for the next.

Last week was homelessness week, and I reflected on both my anger and frustration at knowing that more Australians than ever before are experiencing homelessness. I show my deep gratitude for the incredible work organisations in my electorate do. The deliberate destruction of the award safety net, wage suppression and the rising cost of housing and rents has changed what it means to live in Australia. On any given night, 116,000 people experience homelessness in prosperous Australia. The government's appalling cuts to the SRSS for asylum seekers will deepen this crisis. Workers at one organisation in my electorate—Haven; Home, Safe—told me that they will see no further funding despite the increased need for their services. This government's passion for privatisation means that places like Haven; Home, Safe must rely on the generosity of donors.

Having a home should not be a matter of charity; it is a basic right. Haven; Home, Safe, along with other organisations like Merri Outreach Support Service and Launch Housing, provide important services and so much more. They provide kindness and solidarity. The concept of solidarity allows these organisations to view the world differently, to work collaboratively and to ensure self-determination and innovation are at the forefront of their work. I thank the incredible organisations in my electorate for the work that they do.