It’s one thing to talk about homelessness, but Major Brendan Nottle knows that to help stop it he will have to walk the walk—right to Parliament House. Jessica Morris talks to Major Nottle about his 40-day trek from Melbourne to Canberra.
Why are you walking from Bourke Street, Melbourne to Parliament House, Canberra?
In December last year, there was a man in his late twenties who took his life. His mum said, “If we had the services in place in Mount Gambier that would have supported my son, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and I think my son would still be alive.” It was a really profound reminder to me that people often make an assumption that homelessness commences in cities, but it very rarely does.
Homelessness often starts in suburbs and regional and rural areas many years earlier. If we’re going to resolve homelessness in the city of Melbourne or in other cities, we need to address the issues that cause homelessness, which often occurs in regional and rural areas.
The purpose of the walk is to go to Canberra and meet with politicians and say, “We need a national plan.” So we don’t want to be more prescriptive than that, but we’re really keen on a bipartisan long-term strategic plan that’s well resourced.
You are walking for 40 days. Why are you stopping at different towns on the way?
We’re walking from 8 September to 16 October, and it’s an opportunity for us to hear local stories and to hear their solutions. We want to gather that information and take it to Canberra.
Project 614 is fundraising $200,000 through the walk, so what will these funds go towards?
All funds raised will go directly into Project 614’s work with people who are homeless. We want to look at getting more houses for our Magpie Nest housing programs (a collaboration between Project 614 and the Collingwood Football Club) in different communities, and then establish a shopfront near those houses. This will provide support to residents so that people who have been homeless no longer have as much need to come to the city because they can receive that support locally.
What has public support been like so far?
We’ve had businesses like Snowgum donating runners and walking shoes. Let’s Go Motorhomes have donated a campervan and a motor home. Avis have donated two safety vehicles. Collingwood Football Club is sponsoring the event, and Tobin Brothers Funerals and the CFMEU are also sponsoring the walk. Back in Motion Physiotherapy have enabled me to go on the walk, and PFD Food Services are our major sponsor.
We’ve seen an increasing number of people wanting to sign the petition online at our website too, and that petition will be taken to Canberra as well.
Can you tell me more about the petition and why it’s important we sign it?
The petition is a call for our politicians to work in a bipartisan and cooperative manner to establish that national plan, and it’s an acknowledgment that, if we’re going to resolve homelessness in the cities, we really need a national plan that resources services in suburbs to reach more areas across the country. We want 105,237 signatures—one for every person listed as homeless in the 2011 census.
Who is walking with you?
My wife Sandra and youngest daughter are going to come on the walk for a fair part of it, and our other daughters will come and go.
Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten walked with us for part of the journey, joined by Victorian premier Daniel Andrews after the launch breakfast. We were also supported by Victoria’s Chief Commissioner of Police Graham Ashton, and Collingwood Football Club’s Nathan Buckley and Eddie McGuire. Some people who are homeless or have been homeless will also be walking with us for parts of the journey.
To register, fundraise and/or sign the petition, visit walkthewalk.org.au.