8 september 2017
Major Brendan Nottle is putting his feet where his heart is and walking from Melbourne to Canberra –through September and into October – to plead the cause of homeless Australians.
‘Everywhere we go, people want to talk about homelessness; we have had our appointment at 69 Bourke Street for 15 years now, and it has never been a more pressing issue over that time than it is now,’ Brendan told e-connect. ‘We need a national, bipartisan plan, and we will meet with anyone and everyone that will see us, in Canberra and along the way.’
For 40 days, from Friday, 8 September (when he leaves Melbourne Project 614 with his support crew, including his wife, Major Sandra Nottle, and daughter, Kineisha), Brendan will be walking along and having a yarn to whomsoever he meets. He’ll be raising funds and raising awareness – the larger struggle: talking about the causes and possible solutions to homelessness.
Brendan’s Walk the Walk for the Homeless pilgrimage will cover more than 700 km, at approx. 20 km per day. While you can fly from Melbourne to Canberra in an hour and five minutes or so (467 km as the magpie flies) or drive it in about six or seven hours (at a highway distance of some 661 km), the walk is symbolic of the daily struggle of homeless Australians.
‘I was inspired to do this walk by the stories we hear each day on the street,’ Brendan explained to e-connect. ‘The frustration and anger has nowhere to go, and no-one to hear it. I think the only way we will make a dent is this is by taking those voices of the voiceless to Canberra.
‘So, each day of the walk, we’ll be taking the opportunity to listen to people’s stories, in suburbs and townships where they don’t get heard – from homeless people themselves and from family members and aid workers.
‘Often homelessness starts outside of Melbourne, or Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and all the big cities. We need a national plan, because homelessness goes way beyond the capitals.’
As Brendan had told Melbourne radio doyen, Neil Mitchell, ‘I just feel it’s the right thing to do’. He’s responded to that prompting: feet first.
The issue of homelessness is, however, especially raw in Melbourne. This follows the infamous murder of ‘Mouse’, a street person killed in January 2014.
Then there was the forced eviction of homeless people from camps around Flinders Street Railways station, on 1 February 2017.
And, tellingly, the death of three homeless persons in a factory fire in Footscray, in inner-west Melbourne, on the evening of 1 March 2017. At the time, Brendan described the Footscray deaths as ‘a powerful reminder that amid all the debate [on homelessness and housing] you’re actually talking about human beings that are homeless and human beings that require long-term, well-supported, affordable accommodation’.
Speaking at a housing forum in Dandenong, in October 2015, Brendan pointed out that every single person of the first 52 people helped by a phone service homelessness assistance service funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust – when it first started in 2010 – was found to have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. These homeless people, as revealed through the programs’ interview process, had been abused between the ages of eight and 15. http://www.sarmy.org.au/en/Social/eConnect/Mission/Salvos-represent-at-rooming-house-conference/
‘Homelessness is such as a complex condition, with many causal and contributing factors,’ Brendan told e-connect. ‘It is an emotive issue that causes tension for people – after all, Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city and Australia is one of the world’s most prosperous nations.
‘To assuage our guilt we can be tempted at times to get involved in simplistic solutions… in some cases, our help actually harms. Instead of scattered efforts we need a well thought-through, bipartisan approach. Hopefully the walk can add to that desire for a national plan, and to address deeper questions – we need national commitments that uphold the right to access shelter, clean water and food.’
So over these next several weeks, as rain falls, the sun beats down, blisters pop, footwear weathers, sinews tighten and conversations occur, think of Brendan and his team. More importantly, think of the stories they are carrying to Canberra.
You’ll be relieved, for Brendan’s sake, to know Brendan hopes to ‘fly home or catch a lift’ once he completes his Canberra visits. His prayer is that the people represented in the stories he carries will also be granted the chance to find a home.
For 15 years, Majors Brendan and Sandra Nottle have been the corps officers of The Salvation Army’s Melbourne Project 614 Corps at 69 Bourke Street.
Click here for a discussion with Brendan about the need to meet people’s material and spiritual needs - econnect/issue-110/Hope-by-Brendan-Nottle.pdf
Click here for a discussion of homelessness in Melbourne, and the growing gap between rich and poor Melburnians - Bridging-the-gap