Local charities have seen a surge in the number of families and individuals reaching out for support over recent months as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.
Member for Casey, Aaron Violi MP has been raising the rising cost of living as a major issue in Federal Parliament. This week, Mr Violi invited Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities, Senator Dean Smith to come to the Yarra Ranges and meet with local charitable organisations about the work they are doing to support our community.
On Wednesday 28 June, Mr Violi and Senator Smith visited The Mustard Tree in Lilydale, social enterprise TastyAz in Mount Evelyn, Discovery Community Care, Holy Fools and also held a roundtable discussion with representatives from Anchor Inc, HICCI and Cire Services.
Mr Violi said the visits really highlighted the devastation of the cost-of-living crisis.
“We heard from The Mustard Tree that the month of May this year was their busiest month on record, with more people than ever reaching out for help,” Mr Violi said.
“This sentiment was echoed at our visit to Discovery Community Care – with some families on double incomes also finding themselves in need of support,” he said.
The Mustard Tree runs an opportunity shop and café, with funds used to provide for its emergency food relief program, blankets, clothing, as well as showers for those in need. They provide enough food for around 3,000 meals each month, but this has dramatically increased over recent months.
“It was incredible to see the work of The Mustard Tree and all the volunteers who make the place a warm, welcoming and safe place for those in need of support,” Mr Violi said.
The Mustard Tree Op Shop and Café Operations Manager, Lisa Vincent said while June figures aren’t in yet, the month is tracking to be another record level of clients needing help.
“In May we saw 142 clients and those clients could be families of up to twelve, and we provide between 4-5 days of food for each of those clients so that’s an enormous amount of food that’s gone out,” Lisa said.
Lisa said it was great to have Mr Violi and Senator Smith come and see the work they do firsthand.
“It’s really great to have their presence in the shop and to get some recognition, and also to see that our politicians are interested. They’re giving with their time to come and see us and what we do,” Lisa said.
Mr Violi said one thing that stood out was the interconnectedness between local charities, with both The Mustard Tree and TastyAz providing funds or food to help Holy Fools run it’s ‘Street Angels’ each Wednesday in Lilydale.
“It was incredible to see how all our local organisations work together to ensure no one goes without,” he said.
The pair enjoyed learning about the work of Outer East Food Share in linking Foodbank Victoria, OzHarvest, and food businesses with emergency relief agencies in the Yarra Ranges.
“The cost-of-living crisis doesn’t discriminate and disadvantage doesn’t fit into one box. There are people from all walks of life doing it tough at the moment, and I think one positive out of this all is that we have incredible local organisations and volunteers who are ready and willing to help however they can,” Mr Violi said.
“Our support agencies and charities need our help more than ever, so if you can spare a few pantry items, blankets, clothes or even just add something extra to your supermarket trolley to donate, it will go a long way and make a real difference to people in our community who are doing it tough,” he said.
Mr Violi encourages anyone in a position to donate or assist to get in touch with local charities directly and has vowed to continue advocating for cost of living relief.