In 2014, Christine Couzens was elected to the Victorian Parliament as the Member for Geelong. Christine attended Corio Primary School and Corio Tech before getting a job in a local cake factory when she was 15.
I am born and bred in public housing. At first my family had a two bedroom concrete house in Norlane and when more kids came along we moved to a three bedroom place in Corio.
At home were my parents, Doug and Liz, my two brothers and three sisters. We were a large working class family and I remember feeling really comfortable in public housing, feeling very safe and secure.
Corio was a tight community, everyone knew everyone else. The regular outings, like going to Church, kept you connected with your neighbours.
There wasn’t a lot of money left over after the basics had been paid for, it was always a struggle to buy new school shoes and things like that, but we were happy.
One thing that growing up in public housing taught me was the importance of public policy. It was clear to me that Governments could make a real difference.
I also learned that you have to listen and you have to care about those who have no power, and now I concentrate on representing all people, in particular those who are most vulnerable in our community.
My parents instilled in me at an early age the values of social justice and supporting others in need. I have committed my life to making our community a fairer place for all. That is why I started working in the areas of housing, disadvantage and homeless youth.
After a few years working in the community sector the move was on for community sector workers to have qualifications. I came to appreciate the importance of an education and I completed a Bachelor of Arts in social science while still working full-time.
I have not come from a privileged background but I am privileged to have had opportunities either offered or that I have taken.
The message I have for young people who live in public housing today is that they shouldn’t feel shy about it at all. Public housing gives them an affordable, safe and secure base to allow them to concentrate on education or employment opportunities. They should use it as a stepping stone to achieving their goals.