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It's time to walk the walk for a national homeless strategy

It's time to walk the walk for a national homeless strategy

It's time to walk the walk for a national homeless strategy

8 September 2017

Brendan Nottle begins his 700 km Walk the Walk today to campaign for a bipartisan Federal homelessness prevention strategy. Photo courtesy of Tony Gough and the Herald Sun.

By Jessica Morris

It’s not every day you see an MP, a police chief and AFL greats strolling together up the Hume Highway for a good cause, but Major Brendan Nottle’s “Walk the Walk” campaign is uniting some of the nation’s most influential movers and shakers.
 
The Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, will accompany the well-known Salvation Army officer for various stages of his 700km walk from Melbourne to the steps of Parliament House in Canberra. Major Nottle plans to take 40 days to reach the nation’s capital, where he will petition the Federal Government for a bipartisan federal homeless prevention strategy.

Mr Shorten will be joined by the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, in attending a “Walk the Walk” breakfast at The Salvation Army’s Project 614 in Bourke St before Major Nottle officially commences his journey on 8 September.

Major Nottle and a slew of supporters will meet with regional communities along the way to better understand how to implement a national strategy that caters to the needs of rural and remote areas.

“The purpose of the walk is to meet with politicians and say, ‘We need a national plan’,” Major Nottle said. “We don’t want to be more prescriptive than that, but we’re really keen on a bipartisan long-term strategic plan that’s well resourced.

“It needs to look at the macro issues like housing affordability and suitable housing that comes with the supports that people need to get back on their feet, but we also want to look at the micro issues, and what are we are doing to support frontline workers.”
 
Committing to walking different parts of the journey with Major Nottle, Mr Shorten will be joined by the Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police, Graham Ashton, Collingwood Football Club’s Nathan Buckley and Eddie McGuire, and clients and volunteers from The Salvation Army’s 614 Corps.

Major Sandra Nottle will also join her husband during parts of the walk, along with their three daughters.

Even though the walk is inherently political (Major Nottle mentions that no politicians said a word about the homelessness crisis in the 2016 election), Majors Brendan and Sandra say they are also inspired by the people who they come across in their work at 614 Corps.

In particular, Major Nottle recalls an encounter he had with the parents of a client in his late 20s from Mount Gambier, South Australia, who struggled with homelessness and eventually took his own life.

“His mum said that, ‘If we had the services in place in Mount Gambier that would have supported my son, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and I think my son would still be alive,’ and it was a really profound reminder to that people often make an assumption that people’s homelessness commences in cities, but it very rarely does,” explains Major Nottle.

“People’s homelessness often starts in suburbs or regional and rural areas many years earlier. And if we’re going to resolve homelessness in the city of Melbourne or in other cities, then we actually need to be addressing the issues that cause people’s homelessness that often occurs in regional and rural areas.”

The premise of Walk the Walk is to practically change the narrative of homelessness in Australia – or, as Major Nottle says, to end the “lip service and finger pointing” that surrounds the crisis. While this must happen on a national level, the campaign also gives people the opportunity to commit themselves to the cause locally.

The 2011 census stated that 105,273 Australians are homeless, and people are encouraged to donate to the walk or participate virtually, in an effort to raise $200,000 to expand The Salvation Army Melbourne Project 614’s “Magpie Nest” program and its invaluable work in the Melbourne CBD.

“Walk the Walk is about making sure that if we’re going to be engaged in helping people who are homeless, we actually think through in a strategic way what we’re doing and actually spend time honestly assessing whether it helps or harms,” Major Nottle said.

Major Nottle is also encouraging Salvationists to support Walk the Walk by signing the petition he will personally deliver to Parliament House, which demands a national and non-partisan strategy to end homelessness in Australia. The goal is to have 105,273 signatures by 15 August – one for every person living rough.

By virtually participating in the walk, donating and/or signing the petition, Salvos are able to take the first step in understanding and ending homelessness. Which, considering that Major Nottle is taking 922,573 steps to deliver the proposal and petition, is not much effort at all for the rest of us.

“Walk the Walk is about taking time to understand the stories of people who are homeless,” says Major Nottle. “When you take time to listen to people’s stories and go a step further and walk in their shoes for a little bit, you start develop a sense of admiration, almost bordering on awe that people who have been through such terrible circumstances often through no fault of their own, have demonstrated such incredible resilience.”

The proposal and petition will be delivered to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, as well as party leaders and independent MPs including Richard Di Natale, Nick Xenophon, Derryn Hinch, Andrew Wilkie, Pauline Hanson, Cory Bernardi, David Leyonhjelm and Bob Katter.

You can follow the walk’s progress using the hashtags #walkforthehomeless and #brendanswalk. To register, fundraise and sign the petition, visit walkthewalk.org.au.

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