For many of us Christmas is a time to celebrate with food, festivities and family - a time of joy and rest. But for many, it can be one of the toughest days of the year. It can be a reminder of what we’ve lost, opportunities missed or perhaps who we’ve been separated from.

Most Western Australians have been challenged by the uncertainty of the last two years, with many facing significant financial difficulties, setbacks and a decline in mental wellbeing.

Since its humble beginnings as a simple sausage sizzle 46 years ago, Mission Australia’s Christmas Lunch in the Park in Perth has helped bring joy to those who are experiencing homelessness or some form of disadvantage in our community on Christmas Day.

At last count, we’ve served 67,000 meals to date with at least another 1200 to be added this year. It’s not cheap or easy to run a charity event of this size on Christmas Day. But our staff, partners, donors and volunteers pull it off year after year, focussed and driven by the positive impact it has on people’s lives. Take a look at Wellington Square over the next week and you’ll see the sheer amount of work involved in the set-up as marquees, fencing, chairs, tables and decorations go up.

This landmark event is symbolic of the generosity of our WA community – Christmas Lunch in the Park is entirely funded by donations and grants. We also have more than 360 wonderful volunteers who donate their time to make the day possible, many who put their hand up every year to get involved.

Our guests are not who you may envisage. All ages and backgrounds are represented, some come alone, seeking companionship on this special day, and many families also join the fun. The vast majority of people sitting around the tables are experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness. The impacts of the pandemic have forced many people into homelessness for the first time in their lives.

Christmas Lunch in the Park is a chance for people from many walks of life to not only relax and have a break from the challenges in their lives, but is also an opportunity to seek and receive help.

It’s a safe space where people can share in the joy of a tasty meal, enjoy entertainment and have someone to talk to on Christmas day. And while they’re there, anyone who needs it can connect with local community services for support or have a haircut, shower or receive clothing.

Once again this year, our friends and partners from Wungening Aboriginal Corporation will also welcome and provide support to our Aboriginal guests.

We’ve also teamed up with the fantastic folk at Foodbank to provide every guest at Christmas Lunch on the Park with a take-home care pack brimming with personal care items and non-perishable food.

If you can’t make it along to volunteer on the day, there are other ways you can bring joy and make a difference in someone’s life this Christmas. You can ‘Donate a Plate’ online where every dollar counts, and a donation of $100 can provide Christmas lunch, gifts and care packs for a family of four.

As we round out 2021, I want to take this opportunity to recognise every person and family we have served in WA this year. Thank you for trusting our people to provide support to you in various forms, and for the resolve and resilience you have shown in response to trying times.

At Mission Australia, we’re working towards our vision of an Australia where all of us have a safe home and can thrive. Christmas Lunch in the Park holds a special place in our hearts and we will always be there to help those doing it tough. But our ultimate hope is that one day, no one needs to come to our Christmas lunch.

 

Photo of Jo Saddler

 

Jo Saddler
WA State Director Mission Australia
@missionaust

 

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'