Local heroes fighting on

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Reclink – you know, the local charity that runs the annual music-cum-football match at the Elsternwick Oval, attended last year by 13,500 locals? You know, Father Bob McGuire, Mary Delahunty (the Younger) and Peter Cullen, who devote themselves to assisting Australia’s most disenfranchised people through the provision of sports and arts programs. These programs reconnect the homeless, drug-affected and those experiencing mental illness with the community, and have proven time and again their ability to turn lives around.

An example of Reclink’s great rehabilitative work is Pete Burns. “The program gave me the missing links in the chain to reconnect with the community” Mr Burns said.  Pete Burns now acts as an ambassador for Reclink and continues to support others in the community through coaching disadvantaged young people in the Reclink Football competition.

In last year’s federal budget, the government cut $560,000 from Reclink’s budget, which was used as seed money for activities, resulting in a cancellation of 90 per cent of Reclink’s activities nationwide.

A growing national campaign orchestrated by Reclink founder Peter Cullen and CEO John Ballis has been pressuring Canberra to reverse its decision. Local MP Michael Danby – a long-time supporter of Peter Cullen and Reclink’s rehabilitative effect on the socially dislocated – has gotten on board. He and leading Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese got stuck into the government in a parliamentary debate questioning the heartless effect on the disadvantaged who accessed Reclink. Mr Danby has also made two speeches about Reclink in Parliament. In February, he wrote to and later met the Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison about our local Reclink.

A Senate committee has recommended the government “immediately” reinstate Reclink’s funding.

“We hope for good news in the budget”, said Mr Danby. “Reclink actually saves the government money by getting people off the dole, and keeping others out of prison and mental health facilities. So, more than just being the right thing to do, it makes economic sense for the government to reinstate Reclink’s funding. This is what I told Mr Morrison when I met him. I hope he listened. After all, he’s trying to re-engineer himself as the gentler, softer ‘ScoMo’, a future leader.”

Mr Ballis is also encouraging the government to change its mind. “The Reclink National Program is a unique, cost effective model that mobilises community resources to benefit those with greatest need”, he said. “Annually Reclink engages over 10,000 people in partnership with 460 community organisations to deliver 90,000 sport and recreation participation opportunities. It has tremendous reach and demonstrated outcomes for the funding invested by Government.”

The budget will be handed down on 12 May.

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