DLA PHILLIPS Fox CEO Tony Crawford was in good company when he took the stage at Wesley Mission’s Edward Eagar Lodge last week to help launch a fundraising event for the homeless.
Crawford, along with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones and Wesley Mission superintendent Reverend Keith Garner, were all on board to launch “Touch Life” — a public event to be held in the Hunter Valley over the Anzac Day long weekend which is aiming to raise $250,000 for the homeless. Crawford and a team of DLA Phillips Fox volunteers were attending on behalf of the firm which is one of Touch Life’s major sponsors.
The Touch Life weekend will include a touch rugby competition on Saturday, with corporate teams taking on Hunter Valley wineries teams. Nick Farr-Jones will also be captaining a celebrity team which will play the warm-up match to the grand final on Sunday. On Saturday night there will be a “Concert with the Stars”, featuring Ricki-Lee Coulter, Leo Sayer and the Sydney Street Choir.
Addressing a packed audience at the launch, Reverend Garner said that the pattern of homelessness in Australia has changed dramatically over the last few decades.
“Unlike 40 years ago, it’s no longer the aged and destitute who use our services,” he said. “The average age of a homeless person is now in their 30s; 42 per cent of homeless people are women, many are escaping or have fled domestic violence; and almost half are under the age of 24. These are important figures to keep in mind. In addition, a growing number of the homeless are families for whom the dream of affordable housing has turned into a nightmare.”
He emphasised that homelessness is a complex problem which should be a top priority for not only the government, but for the whole community as well.
Following Reverend Garner, Crawford spoke of the potential that the corporate sector has to help tackle the problem.
“As the Prime Minister said in his January statement, there are signs that the housing problem may be getting worse. He also said that the private sector had a critical role to play in tackling this challenge,” Crawford said. “There can be no doubt that while corporate Australia is becoming increasingly aware of the growing importance of the role that they should play, there is still much, much more that could and should be done by the private sector.”
Encouraging other organisations to get involved, Crawford said that businesses themselves have a lot to gain in terms of the personal satisfaction that their staff will derive from contributing to an important social issue.
Similarly, Rudd emphasised that corporations can play an important role by helping to fund practical initiatives and programs, like Touch Life, that deal with the issue of homelessness.
“We need money to make these services work. And for those of you who are corporates who have given your money or time, or have allowed staff to give money or time, on behalf of the government and the people of Australia, thank you. And we’ll be asking for plenty more,” the Prime Minister said.
Though it was dealing with a very serious issue, the launch wasn’t entirely a sombre affair. When Farr-Jones generously offered Rudd a position on his celebrity rugby team, saying that he was sure he could find room for a “swift, blond, winger” on the field, the Prime Minister regretfully declined.
“There are some things the Australian public needs to be protected from, and me in rugby shorts is one of them,” Rudd said.