Transcript by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Remarks at the opening of Sydney Homeless Connect, Sydney Town Hall

Location: Sydney Town Hall

Thank you very much Andrew. It’s good to be here at this very important event. Can I firstly thank Michael and acknowledge also the traditional owners of the land on which we live and pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

I formally acknowledge and thank Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who has shown leadership on this issue. And can I thank in particular those who have organised this event for three years in a row – Andrew and Peter – and the many others that have been involved in what is of course a very challenging issue confronting this nation.

When elected in 2007 the Labor Government committed itself to halving homelessness by 2020. It is not acceptable in this country, in this wealthy country, that we have 100,000 Australians homeless. That is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that a widowed pensioner can’t find a bed. It is unacceptable that a teenager must sleep rough. It is unacceptable that a mother and her children must sleep in a car instead of having a home.

These things in this country are unacceptable and it is events like this that provide solutions to the problems we have, so we can move forward and ensure that there are fewer Australians that are at risk of being homeless.

I was advised earlier that some of the people today that are wearing the orange T-shirts were being provided some assistance last year. What a fantastic example that is about this very successful initiative. Can I say on behalf of the Federal Government we will continue to dedicate resources required to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens in this country are given every opportunity so that they will not be without a home, so they will not be without a bed.

That’s my pledge to you today on behalf of the Gillard Government. We’ll continue to do that. I also want to say in relation to this event – Homelessness Connect – this is a great example of corporate leadership working in partnership with government agencies, with not-for-profit organisations to ensure that we reduce homelessness in this country.

So I want to thank Sydney, I want to thank the Sydney City Council, I want to thank those people involved today. In particular I want to thank the volunteers who’ve given up their time to be here to ensure that together we do the right thing for Australians who deserve a chance and deserve a helping hand.

So I’m very happy to be here. I thank you very much on behalf of the Gillard Government and I look forward to seeing the results, the good results arising from this magnificent effort today. Good luck, thank you very much.