Peter Khalil: I would like to speak about a program that does incredible work for families in my electorate of Wills. It’s called the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters, otherwise known as HIPPY. It is run by Merri Health and it prepares four-year-old children from disadvantaged backgrounds for school. The program is founded on the principle that parents are their child’s first teacher. A HIPPY home tutor visits the family at home over two years, engaging the whole family and teaching parents activities which help them engage with their child’s learning. Those activities help introduce literacy, numeracy and practical skills which make sure kids are ready to learn when they start school.
In my electorate of Wills, HIPPY Moreland works with 60 families in the suburbs of Fawkner, Glenroy and Hadfield. These suburbs experience high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and are culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse, with many newly arrived families choosing to call those areas home. The HIPPY program actually helps kids in those families with migrant backgrounds to start school on an equal footing to their peers, in line with the egalitarian ethos which is so important to me and so many Australians. The HIPPY program is in high demand, attracting 60 to 80 expressions of interest every year. It is my hope that many more families will benefit from it in the years to come.
Unfortunately, due to budget pressures, Merri Health can no longer continue to fund this vital program. Merri Health urgently needs $60,000 in funding in order to keep the program up and running. Hundreds of people in my electorate of Wills, including participants and community leaders, have written to me about how important this program is to them. Fawkner Primary School Principal Roger Pell wrote to me expressing that his students who went through the HIPPY program before they went to the primary school came more prepared and ready to learn than kids who didn’t. Especially in an area where there is a highly linguistically diverse population, it is so important. One letter from parents and carers about their experience with the HIPPY program said:
We gained so much from Moreland’s HIPPY Program. The program enriched both girls to be ready for school …What makes HIPPY Moreland unique is that Merri Health knows our community. They have been offering the service for more than 10 years, understand and respect the needs of our multicultural community.
It’s a critical service for people in my electorate. I’ve written to the Minister for Families and Social Services asking for federal support to save the HIPPY program. As of this speech, I haven’t heard back from the senator from South Australia, Anne Ruston, but I’m sure she’ll get back to me. Tomorrow in my electorate I’ll be visiting Merri Health and some of the HIPPY families to hear more of their stories. I’d like to be able to give them some good news, so I might try to run over to the Senate side, to the other place, and see what’s going on over there. I want to be able to tell the HIPPY kids that the federal government has found just a small amount, that $60,000, to help keep the program going. The minister may not have seen my letter yet, but I hope she can commit to education for kids in my area who really need it. It’s a small amount but it makes such a big difference to so many multicultural communities.