House debates

Monday, 15 June 2020

Constituency Statements

Watson Electorate: COVID-19

10:30 am

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to acknowledge the extraordinary work that has been done by a series of community organisations in my electorate during the period of lockdown. There have been a big range of people needing assistance. Obviously, like every electorate, people who are elderly, who were asked to stay at home, have been the subject of food parcels. But it's also the case that in an electorate in a part of Sydney, like mine, there are a large number of people on temporary visas, including students, who were in a situation where they couldn't return home and were ineligible for any form of assistance. The charity work done by local community organisations was, largely, the only way for them to be fed.

Probably the most high profile of the organisations in my electorate would be the Exodus Foundation. Also, like in all electorates, there is the work of Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army. But a series of other groups did significant work here, including Charity for Life; Branding Bangladesh; Muslim Women Australia; the Lebanese Muslim Association, which was a very big donor during the bushfires; the Australian Chinese Services Society; the Greek Orthodox community; Lakemba Uniting Church; Maronites on a Mission; Melkite Catholic Welfare; the 4CS, which is the Canterbury City Community Centre; the Punchbowl and Riverwood community centres; and the Greenacre Area Community Centre. All of them are doing extraordinary work, as are local businesses like the Culinary School—and some of you would have seen Bash Krayem from the Culinary School on television. They own the franchise for the local Rashays and became the first restaurant in Australia to have all the staff trained in Auslan. He expanded to having the Culinary School and purchasing the downstairs cafe the moment that all the lockdowns occurred. At what must have been an extraordinarily difficult time financially, they used the opportunity to provide charitable work from those kitchens, feeding people throughout the whole period.

On a daily basis, a variety of local community groups prepared food packs to help people struggling during the time, and that work is all ongoing. Groups like Lighthouse Community Support, Human Appeal Australia and the Lebanese Muslim Association led those efforts to ensure that vulnerable members of the community were supported. At various times I was there with a number of those groups helping to pack food parcels and helping with their work. This is the work of countless volunteers throughout the area, making sure that that most basic of needs that people have, food, was something that was available to them during this most difficult period.