In 1989 the Burdekin Report was published by the then Federal Human Rights Commissioner Brian Burdekin, shocking the Australian public by revealing the number of young people who were homeless and the appalling lifestyle they lived.
This landmark report was also the trigger that set Ken Morgan off to form Kids Under Cover.
Burdekin said to Morgan at the time: ‘Ken, it’s not going to get any better, it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse. You can cut-through the clutter and get some of them, but don’t think you’re going to go out there and save a hundred out of a hundred, because you won’t.’
According to Morgan, there are over 140,000 people designated homeless at this very minute in Australia and approximately 46,000 of those are at-risk young people.
For a former car dealer, who has one of the most recognisable names in the industry and experienced more than his fair share of life’s ups and downs, including being homeless at 16 and ‘stone motherless broke at 55’, his passion and commitment for dealing with this national problem is as strong as ever, even though he retired from the Chair two years ago.
With the support of the Variety Club and many of Melbourne’s most successful businessmen, media personalities, performers and community workers, Kids Under Cover was established in 1989. That same year it also raised the necessary funds to build one of their first homes for homeless kids: ‘At one stage there, we had about 20 properties, three and four bedroom homes, with carers living there full-time.’
But as Morgan says: ‘It just didn’t work as well as a one-on-one situation or one on two.’
So, the Studio program commenced in 1993 as an innovative extension to the Housing Program and the first two bedroom fully re-locatable studio was built in the same year.
Today the program constructs one studio, complete with a bathroom, every five days on the grounds of the family/carer’s home, providing a safe, secure and stable environment to enable the young person to grow into adulthood.
Currently, there are over 350 studios and since inception, more than 2800 young people have been housed. They are also provided with a mentor, who they can ring at any time and say ‘I’ve got a problem, I feel like I want to run away, talk to me,’ and the mentor does just that.
The Scholarship program also helps young people stay committed to their education or job by covering some of their education expenses. Currently there are 70 young people on scholarships.
And the bottom line for Ken Morgan OAM is: ‘If you’re going to take from this community you’ve got to give back to the community.’