CARBINES (Ivanhoe) (10:00): Neighbourhood houses are the heart and soul of local communities—the go-to people connecting residents to services and support. My thanks to Evelyn and the Buchan Neighbourhood House team, plus Nico and the staff at Bruthen and District Neighbourhood House for meeting the Speaker and me last week so we could better understand their work in response to bushfire-affected communities in Gippsland and the support they are providing. A key takeaway, which I have flagged with the Premier and responsible ministers, is the need to better coordinate and help generous community service organisations and the general public focus their generosity where it is needed most and on priority items. Community halls in Gippsland are packed to the gunwales with more cans of chickpeas than they really need and a pallet of anchovies even—perhaps not meeting real community needs! Local businesses perhaps cannot sell items because everyone in town has got about 30 toothbrushes, and that affects local economies and local businesses.
What we need to be making sure of is how to develop community shopping lists so we can direct community generosity and prioritise where people want it to be driven. We need to manage the challenge of the public service and that generosity that people desire to provide communities in bushfire-affected areas. There will be other disasters, and what we also want to make sure of is, as winter approaches, how we deal with the increasing demand that is going to come in those communities in the coming months. Better coordination of Victoria’s generosity is about harnessing positive energy in the future for the public good. I commend them for their work and support.