State funds to help at-risk communities

May 16, 2022 BY

Geelong MP Christine Couzens, South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman, Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas, Dr Alica Kennedy and Western Victorian MP Andy Meddick with Cherished Pets staff. Photo: SUPPLIED

AN OCEAN Grove community vet will expand its service for vulnerable people and their pets after receiving $465,000 in the 2022-23 State Budget.

Cherished Pets has earmarked the funds to support the delivery of its ‘Geelong Pets in Crisis Project’ that provides immediate respite for the pets of people experiencing housing insecurity or fleeing violence, enabling people to access pet boarding facilities at short notice.

The funding will also help expand the team’s veterinary social work services to respond to complex crisis cases.

A further $150,000 was announced in the budget for the Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre to expand its Pets in Crisis Program, which finds pet-friendly emergency accommodation for victims of family violence and ensures the animal is not left behind.

Out selling the budget, MPs dropped into the Cherished Pets community enterprise last Wednesday (May 4).

“We’re ensuring locals escaping family violence or experiencing homelessness can access immediate respite for the pets through trusted organisations,” Bellarine MP Lisa Neville said.

Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said people should not have to make the choice between their pet and their own safety.

“That’s why we are investing in animal care organisations to give them the tools and resources to care for animals in need.”

Dr Alicia Kennedy, who founded Cherished Pets in 2015, said the funding would enable the facility to meet a rising demand for crisis pet care in the region.

“For people experiencing physical and mental health or personal security challenges, while supporting the health and wellbeing of the companion animal,” she said.

It’s one of several projects Western Victoria MP Andy Meddick of the Animal Justice Party lobbied the government to support in the state budget.

$3.2 million will be allocated over three years to trial a Safe Space hub for LGBTQIA+ people in Geelong, Surf Coast and Ballarat.

Mr Meddick led a taskforce on the issue, alongside LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups SPEAK and Drummond Street, following an increase of youth suicides in the region.

“Trans, non-binary and gay youth struggle in rural communities – this is my experience as both a parent and a politician. This funding will fill a huge gap in youth services in my electorate and I’m so proud to have delivered it,” he said.

“This work has been in response to a number of young people in the community tragically taking their own lives after not being able to access support in a way that was easy and accessible to them.

“I have no doubt that this funding will save lives.”