Homelessness discussed at forum

April 20, 2018

State Member for Northern Victoria Luke O'Sullivan at the student homelessness forum.

Homelessness was the central theme of a forum hosted in Shepparton on Wednesday.

Stakeholders from across the region converged on the Murray Primary Health Network’s High St offices to discuss strategies ahead of November’s state election.

Seeking the best ways to capture the attention of politicians in election mode, the forum brought in an expert, former political advisor turned State Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan.

Mr O’Sullivan provided the forum with an insider’s view of how politicians and their offices operate and how to use that knowledge to lobby them.

‘‘I got an invitation to come along and explain to the group some of the techniques that can be used to communicate with members of parliament and give them ideas of how to get a better outcome for their advocacy and use an MP as a tool,’’ Mr O’Sullivan said.

‘‘I guess I was giving them some of the behind-the-scene ideas as to what they can do to get a better outcome.’’

The appearance was largely apolitical, but putting on his politician’s hat under questioning, Mr O’Sullivan agreed there was a role for government to play in helping to facilitate affordable housing.

‘‘There’s no doubt that more social housing is always a problem. It’s a problem in Melbourne because all the housing is very expensive. Out in the regions it’s complicated because a lot of the houses are three or four bedrooms, (and) if it’s an individual person looking to obtain housing, there’s not many one-bedroom type units or housing around,’’ he said.

There are just six one-bedroom units in the Greater Shepparton region affordable to someone living on Newstart or Youth Allowance, according to the Council to Homeless Persons.

The council’s policy and communications manager Kate Colvin said the situation was dire and the forum would help attendees formulate strategies to lobby the major political parties to put in place lasting solutions.

‘‘We recognise that it’s really important that political parties bring great platforms on housing and homelessness to the state election, so we’re out talking to homeless organisation across Victoria about what they think the local priorities are and we’ll put that into a statewide picture ... we’ll be presenting that to parties around July/August.’’

Shepparton was selected to host the forum due to its central location.

‘‘It’s convenient for homeless services across Victoria to get to Shepparton,’’ Ms Colvin said.

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