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The Venny

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Ellen Sandell
State MP for Melbourne
17 September 2015

Ms SANDELL (Melbourne) — I raise a matter for the attention of the Premier. Melbourne has yet again been named the world's most livable city. While for many people Melbourne is a great place to live, for many other residents living in Melbourne can be tough. This is especially true for many of my constituents, who live in public housing.

There are kids growing up in inner Melbourne who face significant challenges such as crowded housing with few places to run around and play and parents who have suffered trauma in getting to Australia. Many kids have suffered abuse or are affected by the drug use of those around them.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms SANDELL — Members of the government are currently saying Melbourne is a wealthy electorate, but I inform them that it has some of the most disadvantaged areas in the state and the highest number of public housing residents in the country.

As we know, kids are strong and resilient, and provided they are given support they can have a bright future. The Venny in Kensington is one of a handful of hubs in inner Melbourne that provide this support. It provides counselling, social workers and a safe space for children to play, learn and grow. Unfortunately its funding was cut by the Abbott government. The City of Melbourne has stepped up to provide some bridging funding, but these hubs need stable funding to keep their doors open.

The Venny and other hubs like it in Prahran, St Kilda and Yarra are calling on the state government to invest in them. They and I feel it is appropriate that the state government step up, because these hubs predominantly support those who live in public housing, which is the responsibility of the state government, and also because it is the state government that will end up paying $176 000 per year for every young person who becomes involved in the juvenile justice system. Through supporting places like the Venny, we can intervene before it reaches that point.

I have had the great honour of visiting the Venny many times and meeting with the staff, parents and children who are involved. To illustrate how successful the Venny and other places like it are, I will read a statement from a young person who used the Venny growing up and is now a staff member. It reads:

As a child I was surrounded by kids and people with beautiful backyards and front yards where I could see them play. Some kids had trampolines, pools, and some kids had pets. I wasn't so lucky. In my backyard I had gang violence, domestic violence, drug dealers and a constant sound of conflict occurring somewhere during the night.

When I was nine years old I was invited by some local kids to the Venny. Instantly I felt connected to something bigger. A place that made me feel normal. A place I could call my backyard. The work staff did providing support and food surprised me to the utmost; I'd never experienced something like this before.

I'm now studying youth work at RMIT. This service for me has saved my life.

This illustrates how important places like the Venny are. I notice that members of the government have now gone quiet, and it is good to hear them respecting this. My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Premier, given that this issue covers a number of portfolios, and the action I seek is that the state government invest in the Venny.

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Ellen Sandell
State MP for Melbourne
17 September 2015
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