The ACT has the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia. According to the 2011 census, 1,785 ACT residents were homeless on Census night 2011—a larger number than were homeless on Census night in 2006. To combat this, the ACT and federal Labor governments contributed towards Common Ground Canberra, a $14 million jointly funded project aiming to end chronic homelessness by developing permanent, high-quality, supportive and safe housing for Canberra's most vulnerable homeless people. Common Ground Canberra is a not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with government, business and the not-for-profit sector.
The site in the Gungahlin Town Centre will have an initial development of 40 one- and two-bedroom units, to be completed in December 2014. It was my pleasure to attend the sod turning for that site at the end of last year and to see the strong commitment in the Canberra community for Common Ground Canberra. I want to pay particular tribute to the board of directors for Common Ground Canberra, Chair Stephen Bartos, directors Diane Kargas, Jenny Kitchin, Jon Lovell, David Matthews, Simon Rosenberg, Gwen Wilcox and Bob Wilson and, most importantly, Liz Dawson. Liz Dawson is one of those social entrepreneurs that communities are fortunate to have. She is a tireless voice for the vulnerable, involved not only in Common Ground Canberra but also in programs to reduce educational disadvantage and to work with dentists to provide free dental treatment for those who cannot afford it.
Liz has devoted her life to looking after people less fortunate than herself. She is someone that is very hard to say no to. Liz will bail you up at any community function you happen to attend and, in her indomitable way, will ask you when are you going to help out on her next project. The last of these conversations I had at length with Liz involved a homelessness project, which had a four-poster bed out in the middle of one of the public squares in Canberra. Liz and I sat on the four-poster bed discussing homelessness for a very pleasant hour.
Her husband, Peter Dawson, is also a great contributor to the Canberra community through his book Creative Capital, which really highlights the great city in which we live. I commend them both for their commitment to building a better city.