Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (21:35): I would like to pay tribute to work being done in the Chifley electorate by two prominent community groups. The first one is Graceades Community Cottage, which I visited last week. They are doing a lot of work and have been since 1982 in our area from their location in Bidwill. They have been providing services and resources across Mt Druitt, including compiling and assisting with the local Bidwill newsletter. What they have pre-eminently been doing is focusing on education, leisure and recreation. But, importantly, they have been providing a safe youth space for study, training and learning. They do a variety of things. For example, they have a ceramics group, a gym, a recreation space, a study and they offer employment assistance. It is all carried out from some renovated townhouses in Bidwill. On a recent visit to the centre I had the pleasure of catching up again with Lee Healey, from CatholicCare Social Services, who has developed a unique, successful and valued Aboriginal after-school tutoring program in partnership with Graceades Community Cottage. The centre also works in partnership with other NGOs to facilitate programs. For example, it works with Mission Australia and the federally funded project Communities for Children, focusing on early education. Many people realise that that is where young people get their best start, if the resources and the attention are there during early education. For many, the centre has become a space of solitude and time out and has helped forge friendships while they actively study or look for work, in an environment that is much like a second home. During my recent visit there I was able to see the latest in IT and multimedia facilities that have been installed as part of the Mount Druitt IT and social access project. The project gives young people a chance to get IT skills in a much more informal environment. The project has teamed up with TAFE as well.
A community-building partnerships grant from the New South Wales government, which was made possible by my colleague and friend the state member for Mount Druitt, Richard Amery, assisted in getting this project off the ground. It was a pleasure to meet their hardworking and dedicated manager, Patricia Formosa. I also want to pay tribute to the passionate staff, with a special mention for Ivanka Pelikan and Peter Cvetkovski, who run the youth programs from the centre. Graceades will be celebrating their 30 years in operation with a festival in Bidwill later this year. I congratulate them on reaching this tremendous milestone, but I also want to thank them for doing something else: the people who work there go above and beyond what is expected. In particular, I heard that when kids are thrown out of school the people who work at Graceades will go and pick them up, bring them to Graceades, help them study and get them to finish their projects, all in an effort to help them complete their school certificate. They truly exceed what is expected of them. They have done some fantastic work.
I also recently visited the Emerton community project of the W.A.S.H. House, whose staff last year received a Chifley volunteer award for their outstanding project and for their commitment and service to the community. They will be celebrating the International Women’s Day Rainbow Festival on 9 March at Dawson Mall in Mount Druitt. The W.A.S.H. House is a community based resource centre for women. It has an array of programs and services, including child care, counselling and the Emerton community project. The Emerton community project, established in late 1999, has experienced significant growth and development but has not achieved its main aim of generating enough income to be fully self sustaining. Programs currently under the Emerton umbrella are the op shop, which sells, among other things, household goods, clothing and books. They also provide an outlet for affordable household goods and furniture—which, I might add, they will pick up and deliver. This is an essential service to the community, where a number of people are doing it tough.
The project has up to 40 volunteers at any one time who give of themselves and help make the project a success. The Emerton project has only one part-time paid worker, working three days a week, and volunteers to enable two shops to be open six days a week. The volunteers contribute in a range of ways, from customer service in the shops to minor repairs and mending of donated goods. In the first 10 years of the project’s operation there were a total of 135 volunteers, who cumulatively provided 174,720 hours of service. They are a credit to our area. I congratulate Catherine White, the manager, and Jennifer Szymkow.