Southlakes Incorporated

11th November 2021

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (18:11): I acknowledge, and not for the first time, the wonderful work being done by Southlakes Incorporated, led by the incredible Christine Mastello. Southlakes Incorporated has helped more than 650,000 people in crisis by finding emergency and long-term housing for the homeless; running a food bank and delivering emergency food hampers; helping domestic violence victims to leave a dangerous home; providing free children's clothing, cots and furniture for people under extreme financial stress; and providing 147,000 free haircuts through its Community Hair Project. The amazing team of volunteers have touched thousands of lives, and in some cases saved them. I could go on and on about the outstanding services that Southlakes Incorporated offers, but I will focus on its latest acquisition and what it will mean for the wider community.

Recently I became aware of the group's need for a van to use to increase the number of emergency food deliveries that volunteers make to people in desperate need not just in the Lake Macquarie electorate but across the Central Coast and wider Hunter region. Until now, volunteers have been loading their personal vehicles with emergency hampers and delivering them. Due to space limitations in their cars, volunteers were forced to make return journeys and multiple trips across the region just to make sure that none of their clients missed out. Christine has worn out the suspension of four of her own cars making these seemingly never-ending journeys. I am pleased to say that I was able to organise funding to purchase a 2021 LDV V80 van.

The van will make life so much easier for the volunteers, as 60 emergency hampers can fit inside its cargo hold at any one time. The hampers will be distributed every Tuesday and Thursday to families in crisis across Lake Macquarie, the Hunter and the Central Coast. Each hamper contains a bag of food, a bag of frozen food, two loaves of bread, and a bag of fruit and veggies. Without these deliveries, families would be left with empty bellies. The sad reality is that every week far too many families are left in severe financial distress and face the very real choice of either paying the rent or buying food. TheFoodbank Hunger Report2021 found that more than half of those who are severely affected by food insecurity go a whole day every week without eating.

The team at Southlakes Incorporated are engaged in genuinely life-saving work. Christine has named the van "Greggles". While I am not sure how I feel about the name, I was simply delighted to help Christine and her amazing team of volunteers to secure a vehicle. I must acknowledge the generous contribution made by ADRA Op Shop at Morisset and 8 at Trinity that, alongside me, were more than happy to contribute for the new van. I also thank the team at Glendale LDV for their generosity and assistance.

In the four weeks since Southlakes Incorporated took ownership of the beautifully wrapped Greggles, Christine has been able to deliver food to an additional 150 families each week. Greggles has also made trips to Maitland, Maroubra and Gosford, delivering essential items to the homeless, such as shelter bags, which the member for Terrigal knows about with the fabulous Terrigal Rotary Club, sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries, towels, food packs and even hotplates run by small butane gas bottles so people can prepare a basic hot meal. Each of the trips provides aid to around 150 homeless and rough sleepers, and without the van, the journeys would be unable to take place.

There are big moves ahead for Greggles the Van, with Southlakes already planning to expand its services, with emergency deliveries organised for Port Macquarie, Broken Hill, Coffs Harbour, Murrin Bridge and even Canberra; my namesake is going to be busy. It is no exaggeration to say that this van will enable volunteers to help hundreds of thousands more people in its time. The team at Southlakes really does the most wonderful work with the leanest of budgets. I was pleased to learn that only last month, after two years of slogging through red tape, this incredible organisation has finally been granted charity status.

The Southlake volunteers see people at their very lowest point and in true crisis, and yet they never give up or lose hope trying to help their clients and make a true difference. Every time I see Christine she is smiling, laughing and energetic. It takes a special sort of soul to be able to keep positive when faced with so much devastation. I am excited to see what the Southlakes Incorporated team does next with their new asset. While I again acknowledge their efforts, I also thank everybody concerned for the vital support they provide to the local community.

Mr ADAM CROUCH (Terrigal) (18:16): I congratulate the member for Lake Macquarie on his fantastic private member's statement and the deployment of Greggles to so many areas across New South Wales. I am very proud that the Terrigal Rotary Club was able to provide support with regard to the shelter bags being provided to Christine and the team at Southlakes, which is great to see is now incorporated. It is organisations like Southlakes that take the support to so many vulnerable people, not just in the member's electorate but also across the Central Coast, Greater Sydney and other areas. I acknowledge the great work being done by Christine and her team of people at Southlakes. The charity spans so many areas. As an honorary member of the Terrigal Rotary Club, I am very proud that it was able to provide shelter bags to Southlakes. I know those bags provide excellent protection for people who are sleeping rough. I know Greggles is going to cover a lot of kilometres and it is great that it will be on the road to help out so many people.

Website: Read the Parliamentary Hansard here

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