House debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024


Wills Electorate

7:35 pm

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no greater honour, really, as a member of parliament than supporting people in my community in the electorate of Wills with the challenges they face. I want to share some of the local stories that make up such a diverse and vibrant electorate of Wills in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

I recently visited Esftathia 'Effie' Spiropoulos, a proud Greek Australian in my community. That's not remarkable because there are a lot of great Greek Australians, but Effie turned 104 last month on 10 June, and my office organised a letter from King Charles and also from the Prime Minister to mark this very special and auspicious occasion. It's a special year for Effie because she also celebrated 60 years of living in the electorate of Wills and 44 years in the same home in the suburb of Fawkner.

She had seven children, all born in Greece, along with 22 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren. Along with all seven children, she and her husband uprooted their entire family in 1964 to travel down under to the lucky country, and she adores Australia. She often refers to it as 'paradise on earth'. Effie and her family described what it was like to settle in Melbourne in multicultural Fawkner in the sixties and seventies. They had Anglo Australian neighbours on one side, who helped them polish up their English skills. They had an Italian family on the other side with whom they'd exchange over the fence homemade salami and veggies that they grew in their veggie patch, and they spoke in broken English about their homelands.

It was a real honour to meet with Effie and her family, her generous, happy and wonderful family—Stavroula, Georgina and Tassos, and there were a few of the kids there at the time—who welcomed me with open arms into the home that they grew up in. They baked a birthday cake, to top it off, and I felt very spoiled.

Effie and all older Australians deserve our respect in their senior years, and they deserve a government that recognises their decades of contribution to our society and country by us looking after them in the right way. That means helping them access high quality health and aged care services and taking steps to ease cost-of-living pressures and improve their quality of life as older Australians. That's why this government has been working so hard to support older Australians by putting nurses back into nursing homes, providing residents with more time with carers, lifting wages in the sector and improving transparency and accountability. The latest budget supports pensioners by providing a $300 energy rebate, a tax cut for all Australians, a 10 per cent increase in the Commonwealth rent assistance scheme and a five-year freeze on the maximum cost of a PBS prescription for pensioners. This is all support for those older Australians who have given so much to this country.

We've also continued the 12-month freeze on social security deeming rates to ensure pension payments don't reduce. There are an extra 24,000 homecare packages to reduce waiting lists and support older Australians who want to age at home along with free vaccinations for aged care residents, $190 million to assist older Australians recover from a hospital stay with short-term care through the extended transition care program and investments in better dementia care. We are also building a new Aged Care Act to place the rights and needs of older Australians at the heart of our aged care system.

I also want to highlight some very deeply personal stories that give you a glimpse of what it's like when we show compassion as part of being members of parliament and part of being a government when it comes to our immigration system. Dilpreet Kaur is a single mother in my electorate of Wills who faced significant challenges as victim of domestic violence. Her relationship breakdown meant that she no longer had access to her spousal visa pathway, putting her on a short-term visa with no study rights and making it hard for her to secure a job. She wasn't eligible for financial assistance. She had no family to lean on or to speak of. She lost her father at a young age and her brother to COVID more recently.

Despite her young son being an Australian citizen, she outlined her fears of being returned to India, given her circumstances. She said that it would have been life-threatening for her to return in those circumstances. My office and I assisted her in pleading her case. I took that case up with the minister, as many of us do in this place, because of the ministerial intervention power.

There was great news just a few weeks ago. Ms Kaur got her permanent residency granted, which was such a relief—a burden off her shoulders. It was so pleasing that the Albanese Labor government is delivering support for victim-survivors of family and domestic violence, people who need that assistance. People who are fleeing that kind of persecution and violence are vulnerable and they need our support. That is what this government does and that is why it is an honour to represent those community members in my electorate and to help them every single day.