Remarks at AskIzzy launch, Melbourne

January 29, 2016

Thank you very much, Penny, for that very warm introduction. And thank you Aunty Di for your very generous Welcome to Country. Thank you to the Salvos for all the work they do and for their great, great collaboration. And, of course, welcome Robert Doyle, here in this wonderful hall. A reminder, Lord Mayor, of the absolutely unequal Victorian architectural endowment of Melbourne – what an extraordinary city you preside over.

Lucy and I are delighted to be here. This is a combination – what we have today – is a combination of technology, innovation and great love. Of love of our fellow man, of love for those worse off than us, of love for those who are homeless.

Harnessing with our imagination, innovation, technology that enables – as Brendan was saying to Luce and I just down stairs a moment ago – the ability to learn in a few seconds what it would have taken him years to learn on the streets in the pre-digital era. And isn’t it great that four leading Australian companies, as Penny said, the News CEO Peter Tonagh is here; Google Maile Carnegie is here, CEO; Tracey Fellows from REA Group; and of course David Spriggs from Infoxchange. You’ve all got together and you have come up with this remarkable website.

Now, AskIzzy is doing exactly what successful digital technology should always do – it focuses on the customer or on the user. It asks – it doesn't say, it's not saying, "What is a cool product we can develop and let's find someone who needs it," which a lot of companies do, rarely successfully I might say.

What you've done is you've brought your business skill and your understanding of markets and customers and you've said, you've found out, you've worked with the Salvos here, you've worked with their clients, with the homeless people and people who have been homeless, like those we were talking to downstairs a minute ago, and you've said, "What do you need? What actually do you need?" You've found out what they need and then you've provided the technological solution to do this.

What it does is it provides a 24/7 information service that tells you where shelter can be found, food, clothing, legal advice anywhere in Australia. Punch in your suburb, punch in your postcode and a homeless person who needs those services will be able to find what is in the area.

It is going to also be an invaluable resource for those who support the people in need – case workers, social workers, volunteers. The dual benefit of the website is that the anonymous data it collects over time will provide a better, clearer picture of where, when and how much demand there is for services. That enables people on the frontline and it enables policy-makers like myself to deliver better targeted and more impactful practical services.

Now just a few nights ago I awarded, under a threat of tempest and lightning in Canberra I might say – I have to say Ben Roberts-Smith, the Chairman of the National Australia Day Council, is a very large and helpful human rain shadow. I think I would have been drenched if I hadn't been standing next to him, so thank you Ben for that.

But it was a pretty wild night but there were two remarkable young Australians, Lucas Pratchett and Nic Marchesi who are here today, who were awarded as the Young Australian of the Year. They're the founders of the mobile Orange Sky Laundry service which is available here in Melbourne which to-date has cleaned or laundered more than 70,000 kilos of clothes for homeless Australians.

That was a pretty cool idea, having washing machines and dryers in a van and going around and helping homeless people. Neither of them expected that this very simple gesture, this simple idea, practical, innovative idea, would go such a long way to raising health standards and restoring dignity to homeless people. 

And according to Nic and Lucas it's the conversations that get started while the clothes are being washed that have the greatest impact because, as many of you know, there is nothing lonelier than being homeless. That lack of connection, that lack of engagement is in many ways the hardest cut, the cruellest cut of homelessness. A sense of connection is a critical thing. Nic and Lucas are providing that and AskIzzy is providing that too by making it easier for people to find a means of connection.

Now this application, this website, is the type of innovative, collaborative and agile thinking that success in today's world demands. It's an example of using all of the resources at our disposal to harness the power of technology to make a difference.

So I want to applaud all of the parties that were involved in this – the Salvation Army, the homeless people and formerly homeless people who provided the key insight into what the customer need was.

To and News Corp Australia, I want to applaud you for recognising the potential of AskIzzy and supporting its development.

I want to acknowledge Google, not only for awarding Infoxchange the half a million dollars to develop the product but for running the Google Impact Challenge for non-profits that use innovative ideas to tackle complex problems.

To Infoxchange, what you've done is an example of what can be achieved when a social conscience, when deep love combined with technology, pragmatism, a focus on the customer, this is an outstanding example of everything successful, progressive, compassionate 21st-century Australia will be; a country that is known for its innovation, for its compassion, for its love and support for those less fortunate, bringing all of those talents together to achieve such a better outcome.

So well done to everybody involved and Lucy and I are delighted to be here in Melbourne to launch this application.

Thank you very much.


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