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Up close and personal

A Ballarat Advocate’s view of a SEEING IS BELIEVING TOUR

Before Wednesday I had shut out much of what I now know about the city I’ve grown up in.

I live in a world where a day without my phone is a struggle, I like to call this middle class thinking – but what the Seeing is Believing Tour showed us was that there are so many people in our community worse off.  Living right under our noses are people who need more attention and help than any of our phone issues.  Did you know that just a small amount of time spent helping a child get to school could potentially change their future?

I didn’t.

As many people will have done before me, I have taken schooling very much for granted.  I never thought about those students who never attend because their parents had no food in the cupboard for breakfast – but Centacare has thought about this.

And that’s where we started the tour.

There, Family Relationship Center Manager Jacinta Cook really opened our eyes to the importance of strong interpersonal relationships.  Just hearing about programs such as Drumbeat and the Victims Assistance and Counselling Program and what they’re doing to help make a difference in people’s lives is truly inspiring.

Stop number two was at UnitingCare on Dana Street where these words really stuck:

“We don’t ask a lot of questions, we feed first.” – Barb Cole.

“There are a lot of hidden homeless … it takes a lot for someone to ask for help.” – Warrick Davidson.

We walked into the entrance of UnitingCare where baskets of bread lay waiting to be handed out, and the first thoughts that ran through my head was that we have a generous community willing to help out those in need.  It’s the little things like a warm meal that really could mean the world to someone who is without.

Speaking of without, I didn’t realise how many people spend the night in this community without a roof over their head.  Warrick spoke of some alarming statistics – there are 15-25 drop-ins daily who are in housing distress – with a growing waiting list.   He used the word struggle to describe how easy it is to find them all accommodation, which really summed up his job of helping these people find a place to stay – hard.

“Ballarat runs well on tourist dollars, so no one on the Centrelink payment can afford a motel,” he said.

And if we are to go off Maslow’s Hierachy of needs, the concerning thing is that if these people can’t find a roof then how can they meet their other needs.

Which leads into our next visit to Reid’s Guest House.

This 1886 building houses 55 people, that’s 55 people with a roof over their head.  The place may need a lot of maintenance, but to these guests it’s home.  But there is one thing that really stuck from that visit, and it’s these words from Peter “If we judge people we’re just part of the problem.”  And that’s exactly it; we weren’t here on this tour judging anyone, we were being educated on what Ballarat is faced with in the hope that we too can make a difference.  The men who we crossed paths with in Reid’s Guest House really looked happy, which was just a lovely thing to see.

Yuille park P-8 Community College was stop number four and what a great place this is.

With 90 per cent unemployment rates in Wendouree West, and a ranking of second lowest social economic area in Victoria, the team at Yuille Park P-8 Community College are really helping change this.  You just have to take a second to look at the relationships the teachers have built with each individual student to truly understand the difference this is making.  These children have the chance to perform at their best with a learning system that works for them.  It’s great to see that, no matter what their circumstances, these students aren’t missing out during  the most important years of their life.

We also popped by Karinya accommodation for young mothers. For young mothers, this place means the difference between being left to fend for themsleves and receiving a helping hand into the next stage of their life.  Those mothers are definitely in great hands.

And the final stop for today was CAFS where we spoke with Bob Maika who has the difficult job of speaking with domestic violence victims and perpetrators.

What was alarming about our chat with Bob was the high number of domestic violence cases in Ballarat alone, image what Bob could do with more funds and a bigger team to help lower these rates.  But even with what he has, at the end of the day what Bob is doing is chipping away at a huge issue one man at a time and making a difference.

Lynne from CAFS is also making a difference, one child at a time.  When most of us started school we knew about 5200 words, when someone from a low social economic area begins, they only know 800 – if this doesn’t shout “help” to you, I’m not sure what will.  Whether it’s showing a child how to hold a pen, or count to 20, again these small things are making a huge difference in their lives and we have thanks to Lynne and the team at CAFS for this.

All these people we met during the tour are making a difference, no matter how big or small, it all counts.

But the big thing I took from the day was that Ballarat has a coordinated response to all of these issues and we are working to fix it together, which in my eyes is the best possible way.




United Way Ballarat is working to advance the common good of our community by focusing on Education, Income and Health.  These are the building blocks for a good life—a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health.  United Way Ballarat asks all the citizens of Ballarat and surrounding areas to do three things: GIVE – money and goods; ADVOCATE – on behalf of those who cannot; and VOLUNTEER – to invest time in our community More about United Way Ballarat


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