Hampton Park Women’s Friendship Cafe

Ms  GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and concerns the Hampton Park Women’s Friendship Café. The action I seek is for the minister to visit the cafe to discuss the many challenges this wonderful organisation faces in its efforts to ease social isolation and bring our community closer together.

I have had the great pleasure of visiting this group on many occasions to see the fine work it does for so many local families and particularly women. Through a partnership with River Gum Primary School and the Chisholm Institute, the Hampton Park Women’s Friendship Café provides playgroup and educational opportunities for children and parents alike. It also provides a much-needed opportunity for women who would otherwise be isolated to socialise, make friends and acquire the confidence, skills and knowledge they need to secure further education and employment.

Many of these women are new to Australia, speak little or no English and have very few opportunities to interact with our local community. Through the friendship cafe they can take English lessons, learn to drive, access counselling, attend information sessions on their legal rights, health or family issues and so much more.

Elaine Smith and her wonderful team have also played an integral role in establishing the Hampton Park Girls Friendship Club. The club provides young women with a safe place to socialise with friends, engage with mentors and take part in activities they may otherwise miss out on. It is a great way to provide often isolated young women with the opportunity to thrive and gain the self-belief and confidence they need to achieve their goals. Will

Unfortunately the friendship cafe is constantly struggling to secure funding and an appropriate venue. Currently it is able to use a small portable room at River Gum Primary School; however, it can do so only once a week. The school and the friendship cafe are currently investigating the possibility of converting an unused indoor swimming pool on school grounds into a playgroup and preschool facility. It is a fantastic initiative and one I wholeheartedly support.

I know the minister and the Andrews Labor government is committed to strengthening our diverse community and supporting organisations just like this one. In the fantastic state budget we provided $13.2 million to enhance community capacity and participation for people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

There is much that needs to be done to ensure that people from culturally diverse backgrounds are given the support they need to thrive. These include women who continue to face adversity that many of us could barely comprehend and young men who feel isolated and disengaged from their families, school and the local community; and older people who struggle to perform the day-to-day activities that many of us take for granted.

Organisations just like the Hampton Park Women’s Friendship Café are out there right now doing the hard yards, providing the support and assistance these people so dearly need. I ask the minister to join me in visiting the Hampton Park Women’s Friendship Café to see the wonderful work it does within the local community.