Coming together

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By Valentina Diaz

On the chilly eve of the 17th of June, the local community of St Kilda came together to remember those who have died whilst homeless at the 15th annual Homeless Memorial, Peanut Farm Reserve, St Kilda.

The event is a partnership program between Inner-South Community Health Service and Port Phillip Community Group. Both agencies work with people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and provide support for them to access a range of services. Both these groups are largely unacknowledged forerunners within our state’s social service providers.

The event organisers include a collective of people who have experienced homelessness, and are actively involved in the decision-making of how the event is run. It is also a collaboration of many socially aware agencies that provide financial and in kind support on the night.

The community gathering began with a traditional smoking ceremony conducted by Marbee Williams and Judda, who kindly played the didgeridoo. We were all invited to take part and walk through the cleansing smoke signifying new beginnings, respect and acknowledgement of the past.

We then went into the marquee, which was ornately and warmly decorated with beautiful, colourful artworks by Camille Monet.

Aunty Judith Jackson did the Acknowledgement to Country and the gorgeous Myf Powell carried us through the night as the charismatic Master of Ceremonies.

Van Apthorpe and Bianca Hatfield, who met in hard times and now make music together, offered inspiring and moving performances. We then revelled in community spirit by singing along with the colourful and wonderfully diverse “Voices from the Community” crew.

Guest speakers include Uncle Les Stanley, who painted “Shelter For All” which was used to promote the night, and Jem Buckley and Maria Barrios, who shared their colourful and sombre thoughts, insights and at times tragic experiences and views of homelessness in Victoria.

Everyone was invited to light a candle and share some reflections on those who did or may have passed, as the reality of homelessness is transience. Memorial candles warmed the atmosphere and demonstrated a sense of hope in acknowledging.

The hard working volunteers from Avalon Moving wardrobe helped to hand out heaps of free warm winter woollies knitted by KoGo.

HomeGround, Salvation Army volunteers and the St Kilda Youth Services “Heat” Catering Program served-up soup, food, hot drinks, and refreshments for all in attendance throughout the night.

It was a moving ceremony that saw community members and social workers from all over Melbourne and all walks of life pay their respects.

The Homeless Memorial held at the Peanut Farm was a sombre, moving and community-connecting time where we all left our egos aside and came together to remember the casualties of one of the sad and important issues our communities face every day, which we usually pretend don’t exist – that are for the most part – hidden.

For more information visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/The-Annual-Homeless-Memorial and the Port Phillip Community Group website: http://ppcg.org.au

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