Why giving people, who may otherwise spend Christmas alone, a sense of belonging is so important

It's the 21st of December - gravy day.

I'm a big Paul Kelly fan and I love his Christmas anthem How to Make Gravy. I'm sure many of you know it and love it like I do.

It's about Joe, writing a letter to his family from prison — penned on December 21 — that includes a recipe for how to make gravy for Christmas dinner.

Paul Kelly wrote the song back in 1996, attempting to tell a different kind of Christmas story — one where someone is missing their Christmas.

It strikes the same sort of chord as Tim Minchin's White Wine in the Sun, the Perth-raised singer's carol for his daughter about Christmas in Australia.

The subject of distance features in both songs but under different circumstances. One sings about the miles between loved ones that can make the anticipation of seeing family greater, the other about the prison walls which put a virtual distance between him and his home.

Neither laments missing out on expensive presents. Rather they speak of the longing to share the simplest of pleasures with the people they love — some gravy with a dollop of tomato sauce or the sunshine and summer of an Aussie Christmas.

Missing the festive season with loved ones for whatever reason evokes its own kind of sorrow.

No one should be alone at Christmas.

I'm sure there'll be “orphan” Christmas lunches across WA this year, with people working far from home adopting a new family for this sentimental day.

There will also be some Australians experiencing the jolt of their first Christmas without a loved one, whether permanently or temporarily. Each brings its own raw set of feelings.

Then there are those who sleep rough, whose thoughts are far from Christmas songs and flashing lights and more about finding a safe place to put their swag, sheltered from the elements.

Housing is a challenge for this country, and it's one that will take all levels of government to align, as well as investors and the construction sector, if we are to successfully tackle the issues.

And the Albanese Government is playing its part.

My colleague, Housing Minister Julie Collins, hosted the first housing and homelessness ministerial council earlier this month, bringing together the States with the Commonwealth to help increase housing supply, including social and affordable housing.

The ministerial council will help progress the National Housing Accord, as announced in the Albanese Government's October Budget. So that work is under way.

But with Christmas just a few days away, we also need to applaud the non-government organisations across the country for the weight they carry in supporting the homeless. Every year, they step in and step up to provide the most disadvantaged a place to call home on Christmas Day.

In Perth, Mission Australia's Christmas Lunch in the Park is an institution. It's been running for almost 50 years, approaching an amazing 70,000 meals in that time. Hundreds of volunteers participate, and this wonderful tradition is replicated in similar ways all over the country.

The role these organisations play is important every day, but never more so than over Christmas. The thousands of people who come to Christmas lunch get to share food and companionship, as well as a little bit of entertainment while having the chance to access support services.

One of the first things I introduced after Labor won government was a pilot initiative involving non-government frontline charities.

More often than not, there is a crossover among people needing a range of government services.

This pilot started in August in four sites, but we've just announced 11 more.

It involves Services Australia specialist staff joining forces with charities to help people get their Centrelink fixed, or their Medicare updated, or referrals to social work support, or to work out their myGov access — whatever they need help with.

The first phase of the pilot has already had great outcomes by delivering a tailored service through partnerships with four organisations in Sydney, Melbourne, and Darwin.

So far we have joined up more than 1200 referrals to government and community services.

Early indications are that the strike rate for resolving issues at the first contact is very high. It's a single person to trust.

One person to talk to get it all done. And this person is located in a setting that's safe and familiar, thanks to the dedication of the NGO and their volunteers.

I think we should say a special thanks to these wonderful organisations and their hardworking volunteers this Christmas, and never take for granted what they do for our communities.

They're giving people, who may otherwise spend Christmas alone, the gift of belonging.

Through the simple act of serving Christmas dinner, they're filling cups and souls.

I wish you all much peace and joy, and time with the people you cherish.