I rise to support the motion by shadow parliamentary secretary the member for Melbourne Ports, because Reclink has been doing incredibly valuable work across the country for 25 years. And that work is under threat due to these funding cuts. I have been aware of the work of Reclink for many years because Peter Cullen, who is with us today, the founder of this wonderful organisation, is a Werribee person—a person whose work I have admired for decades. He is a great Australian who has a compelling sense of community, of fairness and of service.He saw need. He saw desolation in people's lives, and he took action to reverse it. His work, as mentioned by the member for Melbourne Ports, began in Melbourne in 1998 as street outreach work, using sport to connect and engage people. Peter established the model in Victoria and then, through his extensive lobbying, grew the service into a national one.
In 1990 the entity was formally founded as Reclink, and has grown exponentially since. In 1997 it set up work in New South Wales and South Australia and today has services across the country. It works with over 450 community organisations and provides over 100,000 participation opportunities, in sport and the arts across the country, to the most disenfranchised, disadvantaged and forgotten Australians. In 2013 it partnered with the Victorian government, and in 2007 it partnered with the federal government.
Reclink targets some of the community's most vulnerable and isolated people—at-risk youth, those who experience mental illness, people with a disability, the homeless, people tackling alcohol and other drug issues and people facing social and economic hardship. As part of their unique hub-and-spoke network model, Reclink Australia has facilitated cooperative partnerships with a membership of over 450 community, government and private organisations.
I came face to face with the work of Reclink in the lead-up to the 2013 election. I visited a training session of the Wynbay Power footie team based in Werribee and saw the program in action. This football team supports vulnerable young people—people that I know. I found there young men—men whom I have known for several years—training and playing football. I had my own personal concerns for the lives of those young men after they left school. They came from backgrounds with very little support. To see them there in a group, collectively working with responsible adults and continuing to be connected to their community, was absolutely fantastic. And it reinforced for me how important organisations like Reclink are. I dread to think where those young lives would be without Peter and the work that he does. These former students were saddled with hardships no parent would wish upon their child, and through the services of Reclink they are still playing sport and are still connected.
The sporting options offered are huge, from the well-known football program to bike riding, blind soccer, bushwalking, sailing, surfing and tenpin bowling, to name just a few. The service also expanded from sporting activities to the arts, including the Choir of Hard Knocks—and who could forget the power of the Choir of Hard Knocks and how it has grown into small choirs across the country. There are training and education programs, work-ready programs, mentor programs and drug and alcohol programs.
Peter Cullen outlines the motivation behind Reclink in his own words:
In 1989 while doing street outreach work in St Kilda, I spoke to many people who indicated that their personal issues made access to sport and arts programs difficult.
I could see that the impact of busy minds and bodies helped people to find meaning and direction in their lives. The lack of opportunities at that time was a challenge for these people, who often experienced trauma, boredom, loneliness, anger, depression, feelings of suicide and other personal and sometimes complex issues.
To me, it was important to establish an organisation that brought like minded agencies together as a group, to provide these types of opportunities to their communities and clients and provide valuable advocacy at the same time. Establishing Reclink provided the vehicle for this vision.
This is an organisation that has runs on the board. It is a not-for-profit that only seeks to support our most vulnerable; it has incredible community support. I call on the government to reinstate the funding to ensure Reclink can continue its work across our country.