Page 649 - Week 02 - Thursday, 16 February 2017

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Community interaction with vendors like Grant—who has grappled with gambling addiction, homelessness and disability—encourages the exchange of stories and experiences and helps challenge the stereotypes which many of us face.

I would like to take this opportunity to share a short excerpt from the profile Grant wrote about his life and experiences selling the Big Issue. Grant said:

I don’t look like I have a disability, but I have a rare syndrome that has left me with a speech and language problem and learning difficulties … I left home when I was 13, because of stuff that happened to me. I won’t go into details because I don’t want my customers to feel sorry for me, but I was angry about it. I was homeless on the streets when I was 15.

I sold the Big Issue in Brisbane for a while, but it was a bit slow for me. Now I’m back in Canberra. I sell the Big Issue four to six hours a day, at Woden, in the city at the post office, and also at Belconnen … In the last year I have been trying to fix up my life. The first thing I had to do was to stop gambling. I used to gamble all the time, and I lost too much money over the years.

I’ve gambled once this year—took the bus to the casino, in Sydney and lost a bit. I wanted to get away from things where I am living. I’m waiting for a place of my own through ACT Housing. One of these days …

I hope to get some sales work for a company, but in general things are going pretty well …I’m a lot happier and less fussed by stuff now, because I’m keeping my gambling under control.

Grant’s story shows clearly that so often it is the domino effect of circumstances—disability, abuse, homelessness and addiction—that creates disadvantage and marginalisation. The Greens are committed to supporting Canberra’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged community members with a suite of social inclusion policies and services investment.

In the parliamentary agreement the ACT Greens secured the following commitments: the establishment of an Office of Mental Health to roll out and oversee mental health services and provide funding, develop a strategy that sets targets for suicide reduction and provide more support for young people; the strengthening of specialist homeless and housing support services to make sure vulnerable groups get the support they need, including people seeking housing who have a lived experience of trauma; a 20 per cent reduction in the number of electronic gaming machines licences in the ACT by 1 July 2020; exploration of further harm reduction measures, including mandatory pre-commitment systems and bet limits for electronic gaming machines; and an increase in the problem gambling assistance fund levy.

But there is still more to do, of course. As a party that puts the community first, the Greens will continue to advocate for the needs of those who are forgotten marginalised and ignored. We will continue to advocate for those who need a roof over their head, those who need supports to lead participatory and meaningful lives and those who are doing it tough.

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