By Louis Schetzer, Senior Policy Officer, Homelessness, PIAC
It is with much sadness that we note that Dale King, a committed and long-time StreetCare member and fearless advocate for homeless consumers, passed away in late November following a short illness.
Dale was a larger than life character. From the time he started in StreetCare in its very early days in 2009, up until his departure in late 2015, he was a committed and determined advocate who passionately gave his all for ensuring that people with lived experience of homelessness had a voice. He was an effective representative for StreetCare and homeless consumers on several high-level committees within the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and was never afraid to let his views be known… sometimes with a bit of a bad joke thrown in as well.
Never afraid to take the mickey out of himself, he once said ‘I want people to think I’m a boof and a clown, so that they let their guard down with me, and then I can surprise them.’ He was very intelligent and highly effective.
What was not well known about Dale was his story of survival. He had no education after the age of 14. He was forced into homelessness at a very young age and said everything he learned was from the school of hard knocks. He spent some time in prison for various offences that were often related to his homelessness. His last period in prison was in 2011, while he was already a part of StreetCare, and upon his release he couldn’t wait to get back involved in StreetCare projects.
Dale was a gentle giant of a man, often loud, ebullient, sometimes in your face, but a loyal friend and committed to helping homeless people. He was one of the founders of the Western Sydney Homeless Connect, a driving force behind the swags for homeless people drive in Western Sydney and a champion for the rights of homeless people in Western Sydney. He was the first StreetCare member from that part of Sydney and was significant in broadening the focus of StreetCare and HPLS beyond inner Sydney.
He was also the main driving influence behind PIAC’s ‘Beyond the Prison Gates’ project in 2012, helping to design the project, recruiting and interviewing participants, and to advocate for people exiting prison into homelessness. He wanted to do whatever was necessary to prevent other people having to overcome the same barriers and obstacles that he had experienced when he came out of prison.
He was also a keen footy fan (he barracked for both Port Adelaide and Sydney), he loved independent film and had a keen appreciation of portrait painting. After his release from prison in 2011 he was excited at the opportunity to visit the National Portraits Gallery in Canberra and to see the next Archibald exhibition.
In his last few days he joked to me that he was going to be a StreetCare representative on a much more powerful committee than the Premier’s Council and that where he’s going, not even I could stop him putting his foot in his mouth. He also said he’s going to have the best seat in the house at next year’s grand final. He said that StreetCare and PIAC were the only real family he ever had and wished farewell to all at PIAC, HPLS and in particular, StreetCare.
Dale will be remembered fondly by all at PIAC and StreetCare, and missed by the many people with whom he who worked closely and developed strong friendships.
‘Dale could always understand what I was thinking, but say it so clearly. But god, he was so obsessed with footy!’
Veronica Penna, StreetCare member 2009-2014
‘Dale used to say: there are two types of people in the world of homelessness – those that make decisions and those that write the cheques. He said we have their ear and the hearts and minds to influence them. He always encouraged us to soar with the eagles.’
Mary Sullivan, StreetCare member 2009-2016
‘His thoughts and heart were always thinking of the needs of homeless people and the most vulnerable in the community.’
Daryl Smith, StreetCare member 2013-present
‘I was always struck by Dale’s passion to use his experiences to help those who were struggling on the street, his biting sense of humour and his intelligence. Dale wasn’t one to suffer fools but despite his rough edges, he cared very deeply about others and would do anything he could to help anyone in need.’
Chris Hartley, former Policy Officer for StreetCare, PIAC
‘Dale was the voice of ‘no bullshit’ down to earth honesty, social justice and tangible fair action. He was smart, warm, generous, and very very funny. Our world is both a lesser place without him but a better place for him having been in it.’
Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice Chancellor Inclusion and Diversity, University of NSW, Chair of the NSW Department of Family and Community Services Going Home Staying Home Panel of Experts
‘Dale was forceful – in a climatic, more than a human, sense. Like the wind, rain or fire, Dale’s force built on itself. His whisper could be a bellow. He had a wicked sense of humour. He didn’t hide from the difficult parts of his own history but was driven by kindness. He felt he could ease the lot of other people in the same boat, by sharing what he knew.’
Edward Santow, Human Rights Commissioner, Former PIAC Executive Officer
‘Dale was always so energetic and full of life. I loved his giant puppy energy, cheekiness and inappropriateness!’
Samantha Sowerwine, former Senior Solicitor, HPLS, PIAC
‘A gentle soul – rest peacefully…’
Simone Parsons, Consultant
‘Dale was funny, warm and charming. He wanted to share his story in the hope of helping others and making a difference. He had a lot to offer the world.’
Gemma Pearce, Media and Communications Manager, PIAC