CHRISTMAS LUNCH IN THE PARK WITH MISSION AUSTRALIA
In the spirit of getting back to what Christmas is all about, we decided to spend part of our Christmas Day volunteering at Mission Australia’s lunch in the park.
I was aware of the work Mission Australia does in part because of their stellar reputation, and also because I’d had a bit to do with them when I worked at Diabetes WA. They do a lot of awesome stuff but the Christmas lunch had always stood out to me. Christmas can be a very isolating, stressful occasion for vulnerable members of our community. It’s a time when capitalism gets all the more competitive, there’s pressure on “Santa” to deliver the goods present and food-wise, and feelings of loneliness can be exacerbated.
The lunch provides a place for people-in-need to gather and celebrate over a shared, three-course lunch provided by Mission Australia and their generous sponsors. There’s entertainment, games and gifts for the kids, a very special guest appearance by a certain gentleman from the North Pole, and, most importantly, a sense of respect, dignity and camaraderie. Guests also receive a care package with some basic essentials (toiletries, muesli bars etc.) to take away.
Guest registration reporting for duty!
Over 1200 people attended the event, with more than 300 volunteers working alongside Mission Australia staff to make sure it ran smoothly.
It was a truly amazing experience and a reminder that, at the end of the day, we’re all bonded by our common humanity. It’s crazy to think how much weight we can give to a person’s bank balance, ethnicity, education or religion when, ultimately, we all just want to feel seen and respected.
I’m always a bit cautious when writing about topics like this because I never want it to seem like I’m being condescending or doing this as a tokenistic gesture. I’m fully aware of, and grateful for, the head start I’ve been given in this life by virtue of my socio-economic status, family and educational opportunities. I’m also aware that any of us are only a few wrong choices or bad luck away from needing support services and it makes me SO proud to be Australian when I see what an excellent job we can do in providing them.
Kudos to you Mission Australia for providing such an awesome event for the people of Perth and thank you so much to the lovely guests and volunteers that Chris and I spent Christmas with, you made it one to remember.
Here’s an excerpt from Dug, the event’s 2017 ambassador:
“I first attended Christmas Lunch in the Park in 2014. At the time I was sleeping rough and the event served two purposes –it gave me a place to be with people who were travelling the same path while also allowing me to connect to a bigger world through the volunteers and support service workers; and it met a physical need by feeding me on the day and leftovers from the event kept me going for several more days,” Dug said.
“I returned to Christmas Lunch in the Park the following year. By that time I had housing but probably felt more isolated than ever. It was the connection to other people and the life I was heading towards that I really valued that year. Christmas Lunch in the Park connects us in our humanity. It’s the one day when people don’t walk around you, but instead are willing to sit down with you and share a meal and that’s a big thing when you are homeless.”