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Autumn 2008 Issue No. 61

A publication from the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW/ACT Circulation 18,000

World Youth Day

World youth make their way to Sydney

Residents at Risk Vinnies NSW launches a major social justice research report

Contents 3

President’s Message

Dear Sir,




Encounter India

I am writing to you about your Night Patrol Service in the city that I have enjoyed over the last 3 years. I am moving back to Melbourne permanently but cannot go without giving high praise to one particular group that comes out to us each month. That group is from St Aloysius College and although other groups are good to us, this group has always been outstanding.


Breaking the Cycle Conference


White Paper on Homelessness


Mate Helping Mate DVD Launch


Residents at Risk


Blind Faith




Thank you John O’Neill


World Youth Day




Caught in the space between shifting destinies


Engineer of Charity, the Charles O’Neill book launch


Growing Works - Volunteers


Lewisham site - building update

Vision is produced by Community and Corporate Relations, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, and is distributed free of charge throughout the Society to Catholic parishes, and schools and relevant entities in New South Wales and the ACT. Editor: Rachel Irvine

The way and manner in which the boys from this school mingled and talked with us was outstanding. Their main co-ordinator, Mike, a walking saint in my opinion, and his assistant Gale were absolute standouts. When I mentioned to Mike I was sending a letter to the school about him, he asked me to promise not to, or if I did, not to mention him. This is why I have sent this letter to you. I would respectfully request you to send a copy of this letter to St Aloysius on my behalf as I think they all should be acknowledged. God bless and thank you all. David Dear President,

Distribution: Ozanam Industries

I am a member of the Circle of Hope, and I am pleased to donate to your Society, my humble art work. I have taken the time to make these sculptures, as I totally approve of the excellent, untiring, and inspirational work conducted in a manner, second to none, by the St Vincent de Paul Society.

All correspondence and contributions can be sent to: Publications Officer Community and Corporate Relations St Vincent de Paul Society, PO Box 5, Petersham NSW 2049 Email: Phone: (02) 9568 0287

Thank you kindly for your continuation of such a service, which is delivering HOPE to the ones who have lost hope, through no fault of their own, in many cases.

Supervising Editor: Julie McDonald Writers: Bec Bromhead, Dane Hiser, John Gresser, Julia Gilchrist, Mary Hadchiti, Greg Hogan, Tamara Holmes, Andy Marks, Rachel Irvine. Layout and Design: Rachel Irvine

The current Society of St Vincent de Paul (NSW) State Council Members are: Barbara Ryan, Bill Johnston, Peter Sharp, Ray Reynolds, Des Kinsella, Beverley Kerr, Jessica Wood, Don Hewitt, Gillian Ferguson, John Donnelly, Tony Thornton, Kevin Walsh, Gwen Sampson, Michael Kukla, Terry Walsh, Pauline Black, Leo Sheehan, Ivor Davies Disclaimer: The views expressed in Vision are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the St Vincent de Paul Society. Responsibility for the content of this publication is taken by Julie McDonald, CCR Manager. © St Vincent de Paul Society NSW 2008


Letters to the Editor

Autumn 2008

God Bless one and all at St Vincent de Paul Society.

From the President’s Desk Dear Friends,

The beginning of 2008 has brought many new and exciting developments at the NSW Trustees Council. From the Residents at Risk report to the exciting election of a new State President, the Society continues to grow and flourish because of dedicated service by our Vincentian brothers and sisters. The Residents at Risk report, the Society’s first major social justice paper for 2008, highlights the complexity of a range of issues concerning housing affordability and homelessness. As you will read in the report extract published in this edition of Vision, this is a pressing issue and one that demands the full attention of Society members. Recent months have seen a heightened focus on mental health issues. Recognising that mental illness rarely occurs in isolation from a range of other personal and social factors; the National ‘Care of the Mentally Ill Committee’ convened the Breaking the Cycle Conference in Sydney. Delegates from across

Editor’s Note: Please see page 6 for further information on this story.

This social engagement is exemplified through the Mary McKillop Outreach Program. The startling results, demonstrated an interview with Mark, a client of the Mary McKillop Outreach, is that social engagement is crucial in assisting people living with a mental illness to overcome their difficulties. Compeer also has reason to celebrate as the program was the State winner of the NAB Volunteering Awards for 2007. Congratulations to all involved in such an inspiring program. We anticipate that you will enjoy this edition of Vision and wish you all the very best for an exciting year ahead. Go with God, Raymond James Acting State President, NSW Trustees Council

New State Council President Elected On Saturday the 16th of February, the St Vincent de Paul Society elected its first female president in its 127 year history. In a single ballot, Barbara Ryan, a member of the Society since 1994, became its President. Mrs. Ryan, started her vocation with the St Vincent de Paul Society through volunteering in the clothing pool at the Matthew Talbot Hostel, and was most recently the President of Matthew Talbot Homeless Services. Mrs. Barbara Ryan

With much LOVE and sincere utmost respect, Michael Harrison Art Sculptor

Australia attended the two-day seminar to listen to experts from the Society and across the social services sector raise issues for discussion, whilst challenging current approaches to homelessness and mental illness.

Her involvement with the Society includes volunteering at the Matthew Talbot Hostel, serving on the Frederick House Committee, member of the State Council Aged Care Board, and home visitation as a member of the Mosman Conference. Mrs. Ryan was elected on a platform of renewing the Society through four basic goals; they include: - enhanced spiritual development of all members - inclusive two-way communication across the Society - revision of State Council purpose, processes, projects committees and staff - active development of the Society’s public profile The Society looks forward to the future with Barbara Ryan as its President.




Animation celebrates ten years of making a difference

Emily Hayes, Compeer Training & Support Officer Chatswood; Tony Rizzo, Regional Executive, Inner West National Australia Bank Ltd; Alicia Boyd, Compeer Program Assistant; Rhonda Wannan, Compeer Training & Support Officer, Blacktown; and Tricia Meers, Compeer Coordinator. Mauro Di Nicola, Animation Consultant; Julie Foreman, Co-ordinator, Animation Project; John Falzon, CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council; Michael Thorn, Animation Committee member; Ella Hogan, Community Animator.

The 10th anniversary of the highly successful Campbelltown Animation project was celebrated on 17 October in front of a 80-strong crowd at University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown.

Vinnies mural brings colour to the community

Youth Reach fundraiser scores a hole-in-one

Terry Malouney and Dennis O’Neill decided their Centre, Wollongong Warehouse, needed a lift. The two combined their artistic ability and created a mural that depicts the good works of the Society.

The 3rd Matrix Planning Solutions Annual Charity Golf Day in support of the Society’s Youth Reach program in Dee Why was held in October.

While volunteering with the Wollongong Conference, these two gentlemen have received many congratulations on the mural and some admirers hoping to purchase it. “It’s not for sale,” Dennis says, “but visitors to the Wollongong Warehouse are most welcome.” Visit the mural on Monday to Friday 9am-4pm or Saturday 9am-noon.


Autumn 2008

Manly Golf Club hosted Peter Phelps and Georgi Coward along with other golfers, to enjoy a day and night of on-course competitions, a dinner, auctions and golf presentations, to raise funds for at-risk youth from 13 - 24 years of age. In 2006/07, Youth Reach experienced a thirtyfour per cent increase in youth requiring assistance, compared to the previous year. For information on Youth Reach, please contact Harriet on (02) 9971 4358.

Julie Foreman, project co-ordinator said at the event that, “The process of animation is based on the power of ordinary people to effect change in themselves and in their communities. The Animation Project, while recognising the importance of the economic dimension of poverty, believe that groundbreaking changes occur when those who are affected by poverty are listened to with the heart rather than the head.” Through Animation, over 150 program participants in four public housing estates have undertaken advocacy and community projects addressing housing, infrastructure and transport issues. Projects have included a community Laundromat and Cafe in Claymore, a community mural, a performance expo, festivals, two books and two short films. For further information, please contact Julie Foreman by email:, phone: (02) 4627 9018.

Compeer Sydney wins state NAB Volunteer Awards Compeer Sydney, the Society’s mental health friendship program was recently awarded the State Winner of the NAB Volunteer Awards for 2007. The Award was given in recognition of outstanding achievement in demonstrating best practice volunteering in the not-for-profit sector. Tricia Meers, Compeer Coordinator, noted the wonderful honour bestowed on Compeer when she accepted the $10,000 cheque from Tony Rizzo, Regional Executive of NAB Inner West, on behalf of the Society. Tricia paid tribute to the continuing strong support of Compeer’s dedicated and professional volunteers and staff as major factors in the continued growth and success of the program. Since 1995, Compeer, an international program, has grown from the original Lewisham program to eleven programs throughout NSW, Victoria and SA. The donation will be used to further develop the three Compeer programs in Sydney.




Professionals have deemed Michael’s work, “first class.” Each piece takes at least 3-4 days of spare time. Harrison works out of both his home’s carport and a tool shed. Each sculpture’s pieces are laid out, braised together, hammered into place and edges ground smooth before the painting process begins. After Michael donated the work to the Society in December, it was taken to Matthew Talbot Homeless Services where it will remain on display.

Generous schools and business bring joy to those less fortunate

Kamahl’s latest CD Faith of our Fathers which he has so kindly donated the proceeds of to the Society.

Sculptor Michael Harrison of Marayong and the Circle of Hope sculpture that he produced and donated to the Society.

Member finds inspiration in Society’s good works Inspired by the Society’s “excellent, untiring, & inspirational work,” sculptor Michael Harrison began work on what he calls, “my humble art work.” Michael, who taught metalwork in the Navy, has been a sculptor for many years. However, he only started this type of metal sculpture about 10 years ago. Made from the scrap pieces from machines that punch holes into sheet metal, Harrison donates the sculptures to charities as well as to friends and family who may be sick or going through a hard time. “None of my works are copied, they are all one-offs, originals,” says Michael who has been a member of the Circle of Hope donor club for many years.


Autumn 2008

Kamahl with Bishop Cremin at the Circle of Hope morning tea to launch his latest CD, Faith of our Fathers.

Christmas box from advertising agency Clemenger.

At Christmas time, many schools and businesses show their support by collecting goods such as quality toys, clothes, books, toiletries and nonperishable food items for hampers to be given to the people the Society assists. These groups put a lot of energy, enthusiasm and creativity into collecting hampers that are then donated to Vinnies members who bring some Christmas joy to people who need it most. Schools and business recognise that simple pleasures such as receiving small gifts and goods are something they often take for granted. These groups make an effort to share some happiness with those less fortunate. Thank you.

Faith of our Fathers marks a significant milestone in the 40th year of Kamahl’s illustrious recording career. Kamahl is delighted that his latest release will assist people in every area of need.

Continuing his long history of support of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Kamahl kindly donated album profits to the Society’s Christmas Appeal.

At the album launch, John Picot, the Society’s NSW CEO said, “Kamahl has been a strong advocator and supporter of the Society for many years. It is our honour to be associated with what Kamahl considers some of his best work. His passion for helping those in need has been once again illustrated with his kind offer to donate proceeds from the sale of the CD. We thank Kamahl and the Catholic Weekly for this great initiative that will bring these familiar old favourites into many homes, and also support the Society’s good works for the poor and disadvantaged in the community.”

Faith of our Fathers was produced in conjunction with the Catholic Weekly and features a collection of twenty traditional and uplifting hymns including; Ave Maria, Faith of Our Fathers, Sweet Sacrament Devine, On Eagles’ Wings and Amazing Grace.

Faith of Our Fathers is available from Vinnies Centres throughout NSW/ACT for $16, or from The Catholic Weekly on (02) 9390 5400 or for $18 (including postage and packaging). v

Iconic international entertainer, Kamahl unveiled his new album, Faith of our Fathers at the St Vincent de Paul Society’s regular Circle of Hope supporters’ morning tea in December 2007. Officially launched by Bishop David Cremin, Kamahl gave lucky attendees a private performance and signed copies of his latest CD.






To sit with someone and see joy in their eyes at your presence, knowing all the while, that they are dying, is devastating. The heart-breaking situation was counter-balanced by seeing the dignity of these people restored in the compassionate service of the Sisters and volunteers, caring for and sharing this time with them. Amidst the great need that exists in this country of 1.2 billion, where many are at or below the poverty line, is real hope. Hope is inspired by the kindness and spirit of our fellow brothers and sisters in India. Overburdened with the enormity of need, Vincentians continue to serve with great love. For twelve days we immersed ourselves in Indian culture and Vincentian works that spanned the east coast, from Kolkata to Chennai.

Encounter India is part of National Council’s lead up to World Youth Day 2008. World Youth Day brings together young Catholics from across the globe. In the same respect, this encounter brought together Vincentians young and old, united as members of an international family. By Alicia Webster, Broken Bay Diocese Youth Representative On September 19, six Vincentians embarked on a unique journey to India. The group: Jess Logan, Ky Chow and Jemima Johnson from Sydney Archdiocese, Matthew Kirkham and our chief, Kevin Walsh, from Lismore Diocese and myself, Alicia Webster.


Our main goal was to experience the abject poverty that exists in India, while learning about the many projects working to defeat that poverty. This trip was an opportunity to witness first-hand the work of St Vincent de Paul Society conferences in India and to develop relationships with our twins. We took on our most challenging destination first, to Kolkata. Kolkata is a city of twenty million people the same population as Australia.

Of the six, only our leader Kevin (State Overseas Partnerships and Development Committee, Chair) had been to India before.

On our first day, we visited the tomb of Mother Theresa. It was wonderful to be in the home of this humble woman - one who believed passionately in social justice and being one with the poor.

This was sure to be one eye-opening experience, especially for our youngest member, Matthew, who was making his maiden voyage overseas.

We visited several of Mother’s homes including one for abandoned girls and another for the destitute and dying. This was the most challenging visit I faced.

Autumn 2008

About two hours out of Kolkata we visited the rural village of Guma, visiting adopted families in their homes. It was heart-warming to see that one of our core works here in Australia, home visitation, was also alive and well in India. We were also able to meet a young university student benefiting from the Assist-aStudent program.

the story of this community, in their words, from their heart, was sad. However, it was great to see the hands-on work of the Society, rebuilding homes and indeed the community. It was in our Chennai-leg of the trip that we were joined by the President of Indian National Council, Joseph Pandian. A dedicated Vincentian with a big heart and a cheerful laugh, he brings a smile to the faces of all who encounter him. Meeting fellow Vincentians throughout the trip and learning about their challenges and achievements made me extremely proud to be a part of the Society. I don’t think I will ever stop realising the value of this encounter. I’m sure that as time goes on and I reflect more on my experience, it will have an even more profound impact. What is certain is that our Vincentian journey continues still. It was a unanimous feeling amongst all the participants that we were filled with a renewed enthusiasm for the Society and its good works.

To sit with someone and see joy in their eyes at your presence, knowing all the while, that they are dying, is devastating.

Jeevan Jyoti, (translated ‘Light Life’) is an Indian National Council funded work established in Baripada. It is a home for females aged 6-60, living with profound deformities and other disabilities. Presently, the hard-working nuns who run the facility are caring for 42 women and girls. These women are filled with a joy so pure it was infectious. As the name translates, the aim is to bring light to the lives of these women and young girls.

We then visited Surada, a beautiful village in the Orissa region that is lush green with rolling hills and sprawling rice paddies. It was here that we joined in the distribution of food and clothing, and sent kids into frenzied excitement over our funny looks, language and accents. Once in Chennai, we travelled to the coastal village of Pulicat, devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Hearing

We feel privileged to have taken our service across the seas and to have experienced poverty at its most fundamental level. On behalf of all the participants, I extend our sincere appreciation to NSW Trustees Council for their support of this program. I also thank those from Broken Bay Diocese and beyond who’ve been keeping us in their prayers whilst we were away. The wise Archbishop Emeritus of Kolkata, Henry D’Souza told us, “Where the road ends, the real India begins.” I feel I journeyed beyond the streets, to the heart of India - it’s people. For more information on becoming a Youth Vincentian contact Jessica Pollard on (02) 9560 8666. v



Homelessness When asked what needs to be done to break the cycle of homelessness and mental illness, Rhonda Gregory of the Salvation Army invoked the simple yet extraordinarily powerful refrain of a well-known Burt Bacharach and Hal David song: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

Breaking the Cycle Conference 2007

Gregory was one of many innovative and inspiring participants in the National Council of St Vincent de Paul Society’s Breaking the Cycle Conference (Oct. 18-19, Sydney); a meeting of minds designed to consolidate, evaluate and invigorate current approaches to the dual challenge of homelessness and mental illness. The conference’s keynote speaker, Dr Guy Johnson, set the tone for the two-day gathering, urging the 220 delegates assembled to reconsider their approach to homelessness and mental illness. Dr Johnson was critical of the increasing trend of rationalising our response to the issues; a trend, he explained, that is often expressed by dehumanising and sometimes completely unfounded statistics. While he cited media portrayals of homelessness and mental illness as an example, he did not discount the prevalence of this attitude among some policy makers, researchers and elements of the social service sector in general. Dr Johnson pointed to a newspaper headline stating that “80 per cent of homeless people have a mental

Graeme Fear, NSW Mental Health Coordinator; Clover Moore MP, Lord Mayor of Sydney; and John Meahan, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council President.

one in five had mental health problems prior to entering the homeless population. While anxiety and psychological trauma periodically affect nearly everyone experiencing homelessness, Dr Johnson’s findings thoroughly dispelled the commonly held belief that mental health problems are the leading trigger for homelessness.

“We must”, argued Professor Disney, “focus on rent and not the upper end of the market.” illness”. Not only is this figure utterly incorrect, he argued, but it also perpetuates damaging and misleading stereotypes of homelessness, and more importantly, homeless people. Dr Johnson comprehensively redressed this error. Contrary to sensationalist headlines, the most recent research, he explained, reveals that 31 per cent of homeless people have a mental health problem. Breaking this figure down further, Dr Johnson pointed out that of those 31 per cent, only

10 Autumn 2008

Dr Johnson’s perspective may indeed have merit, but why quibble about statistics? Surely helping people is the central issue? Again, Dr Johnson thoroughly addressed these questions with the following practical observation: “when research is incorrect, services are misdirected.” Having offered a series of insightful reassessments of the relationship between homelessness and mental health, Dr Johnson went on to correct the ledger and identify three stages typical to the process

of becoming homeless, involving: firstly, changing relationships with the labour and housing market; secondly, changes to existing social networks; and, thirdly, loss of family support. These areas, explained Dr Johnson, are where the bulk of targeted preventative measures should be directed. Dr Johnson’s sentiments were echoed throughout the conference by a range of inspired speakers who, in various positive ways, called for a more humane and spiritually-attuned response to the dual crisis of homelessness and mental illness, a response designed to “bring back the face of people who have been traumatised.” Professor Julian Disney, a leading social services sector researcher, joined in the call for a new approach. Discussing housing affordability, Professor Disney reminded us that the issue is “not just about the cost of housing, it also concerns the flow-on effects of these cost pressures.” He went on to criticise the manner in which current discussion of housing affordability has descended into a narrowly focused drive to gain political mileage through policies designed only aid first home buyers. “We must”, argued Professor Disney, “focus on rent and not the upper end of the market.”

journey he and the choir members experienced in finding a collective voice to faithfully reflect the spirit of their individual stories. In closing the conference, St Vincent de Paul Society National CEO, Dr John Falzon encapsulated the tone of the event with his emphatic declaration of the political dimension of homelessness – a declaration that initially surprised some of those assembled. Dr Falzon posed the contentious question: “Is the St Vincent de Paul Society political?” “Yes!” he stated. “Like Blessed Frederic Ozanam, we speak out when we see injustice,” in solidarity with the poorest of the poor. Raising the issue of bias – a somewhat controversial issue during an election campaign – Dr Falzon again put the Society’s ethos to the forefront of the discussion. “Are we partisan?” he asked. “Absolutely”, he exclaimed. “We are on the side of the poor!” The depth and complexity of the issues discussed at the Breaking the Cycle Conference reiterated the gravity

Dr John Falzon and Professor Julian Disney. Professor Disney discussed housing affordability saying, “We must focus on rent and not the upper end of the market.”

Professor Disney stressed, social service entities with experience in low-cost housing management must play a part. “There is a big role for religious organisations – who used to be involved in aged care – to become involved as non-profit managers,” urged Professor Disney. “They have housing experience.”

“31 per cent of homeless people have a mental health problem.” Other speakers included Tim Marchant and Associate Professor Peter Howard who presented an animated discussion on the many positives associated with the Clemente-Catalyst program – a homeless persons’ humanities education initiative the St Vincent de Paul Society established in cooperation with other agencies. Jonathan Welch, the Creative Director of the homeless persons’ ensemble, The Choir of Hard Knocks, shared the wonderful transformative

and immense scope of the crisis of homelessness and mental illness. The vibrancy and compassion expressed by conference participants confirmed that faith and spirit abounds in the hearts of those committed to seeking out and relentlessly pursuing better paths towards breaking the cycle. The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, thoroughly commends and congratulates all who contributed to the success of this innovative conference and we look forward to future endeavours of this nature. v




Rural Taskforce every night. We’re not like that. Australia is not like that and we intend to make a difference.”

White paper features homelessness By Dr Andy Marks

The first white paper commissioned by a newly elected government is a highly anticipated event. A white paper is the vital beginning of the policy development process, inviting extensive analysis and consultation with the community. A new government’s first white paper is an indication of a broader agenda, revealing much about its priorities, its vision and the manner in which it intends to govern. History has shown that Australian governments traditionally make issues surrounding finance, defence, or foreign affairs the first order of the day. Not so new Labour government. With his announcement that the Government’s first white paper will address the issue of homelessness, Prime Minister Rudd resolutely broke with tradition. “It is dead wrong”, he said, “that on any given night, some 14,000 people are sleeping rough. We should not be allowing this to happen.” On the occasion of the Society’s appeal launch in Canberra, the Prime Minister detailed the crux of the moral dilemma he, like all Australians, can no longer ignore. “I don’t want to live in a country where we simply discard people. I don’t want to live in a country where, like many I visit around the world, it’s acceptable for people to be sleeping rough

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It is significant that this announcement coincided with the launch of the Society in ACT’s door knock appeal. The priorities the Prime Minister discussed are long held Vincentian principles. The Prime Minister’s declaration of his Government’s plans at this St Vincent de Paul Society event is an acknowledgement of concurrent aims. The announcement of the white paper fulfils the Government’s election campaign pledge of $150 million address the challenge of providing adequate levels of crisis accommodation. “It’s not something you just throw bits and pieces at”, said the Prime Minister. “You’ve actually got to come up with an integrated solution to the overall challenge of homelessness.” Importantly, as well as listening to people, such as Vincentians working at the grass roots level, the Prime Minister has been listening first hand to the stories of homeless people, ensuring that they are not the powerless subjects of policy but rather they are the integral part of the process. The St Vincent de Paul Society warmly applauds the Government’s commitment to work towards meaningfully addressing the crisis of homelessness. Equally encouraging is the Coalition’s support of the white paper. Speaking in response to the Prime Minister’s announcement, Dr Brendan Nelson commented, “it is a paradox of Australian society that so many people are homeless while the country is going so well.” Dr. Nelson added. The St Vincent de Paul Society will continue to work closely with the Government in the development of policy and funding responses to the crisis of homelessness. v

Mate Helping Mate DVD Launch Inspired by the experience of John Harper, a farmer who suffered acute unexplained physical pain before visiting his GP only to find that he was “as fit as a mallee bull,” the Mate Helping Mate DVD focuses on alleviating social isolation and depression caused by the drought and recent floods. John, middle above, realised his pain was severe mental anguish, and became aware of the impact the drought was having on friends and neighbours. He decided to: “Load up a bus with some mates and have a night out.” News of the night’s success quickly travelled through the district. Soon, members of the Rural Taskforce were meeting with John to convert his simple program into a resource for all rural communities in New South Wales. With the assistance of the local Area Health Service and the Department of Primary Industries all involved hoped John’s idea of a night out could provide some relief for rural farmers. Graeme Fear, the Society’s Care of the Mentally Ill Coordinator, launched the DVD to a crowd of 300 in Stockinbingal with a reading from Murray Hearten’s poem of a father penning a letter to his struggling farmer son. Local Stockinbingal poet, Wendi Guy, echoed Hearten’s sentiments in her observation that “Depression is where negative thoughts defeat all positive thoughts.”

Ben Harper, pictured far right, former local AFL star who became a paraplegic after a bucks night gone wrong, emphasised in his speech the importance of family and friends’ support to deal with depression as he recovered from his injuries. Bill Thompson, rural solicitor and MC for the launch, commented that in his job, he comes across many families dealing with never-ending drought-induced stress. Bill complimented the Rural Taskforce for coming out to the communities and asking them what they needed, saying “What we need is moral support and empathy, not sympathy.” Graeme Fear said of the initiative, “This is real grassroots, self-help stuff.” He commented the Society’s involvement “was about letting people know about it.” Clearly, Mate Helping Mate is an outstanding example of what people in rural Australia can do to help themselves; echoing John’s seemingly simple solution to talk to his friends. v

For a copy of the DVD, please contact Graeme Fear on (02) 9568 0279 or visit



Social Justice While conference members monitor Ricky’s situation, he strives to remain independent. As he puts it, he is “not one to ask for help”. Although he has made progress, Ricky still struggles with self-esteem issues. Conference president, Dale tells how Ricky is reluctant to invite family members to visit him in the caravan park as he feels that he has “nothing to offer anybody.” Ricky’s story is one of many included in the Society’s NSW Social Justice research report, Residents at Risk. The report, produced by Society researcher Dr Andy Marks, examines the predicament of disadvantaged caravan park residents in selected locations across the state. Primarily drawing on interviews with Society members conducting regular visitation with residents, the report also incorporates conversations with residents, a special case study, and statistical analysis to, firstly, build an account of marginalised caravan park residency and associated challenges; and secondly, present a series of informed recommendations.

At first glance, the report’s subject matter may provoke a series of questions. Why conduct research on caravan parks? Aren’t they holiday destinations? It is indeed the case that for many people, caravan parks are a place to spend treasured holiday time with loved ones. As one holiday maker remarked in response to the threatened closure of a much loved park by developers, “It’s just part of the Aussie tradition to spend your holidays at a caravan park down on the coast.” For others, however, caravan parks are associated with an entirely different level of existence. Surely it is not “part of the Aussie tradition” to leave extraordinarily disadvantaged men, women, children and families with no option but to reside indefinitely in caravan parks across NSW, one step away from homelessness. For them, the threat of park closure is but one of many pressing, often desperate, concerns impacting on virtually every facet of their existence.

For an increasing number of people, caravan parks are a form of stop-gap housing – an improvised form of crisis accommodation... These people are not spending their holidays in a caravan park, nor are they residing in parks as a result of, what is often called, a lifestyle choice. For an increasing number of people, caravan parks are a form of stop-gap housing – an improvised form of crisis accommodation with none of the network of support services considered basic requirements for recognised forms of crisis accommodation. With affordable housing at record lows, and social housing utterly failing to meet demand, an increasing amount of people are turning to caravan parks as a ‘last resort’ form of housing. Many people are unable to secure even this type of inadequate

Residents at Risk

14 Autumn 2008



Social Justice accommodation as the number of parks continues to drastically decline and site rents increase at a rapid rate. The number of caravan parks in the Sydney region alone has more than halved in the last seven years from 164 establishments in 2000 to 74 in 2007, and many regional areas have experienced similarly marked declines in supply. One Western Sydney caravan park runs at full-capacity, with some people waiting to secure a site resorting to sleeping in their cars alongside a creek bordering the park.

extremely poor. In one regional park, Shelly lives with her mother and her three young children in a secondhand canvass tent. At another park, Hayley, a single mother in her mid-20s, has only $50 a fortnight to live on after paying the rent. Violence is an ever present threat in the majority of caravan parks studied. Reports of violence towards women and children are common. Many residents, particularly those with children, consider

For most people, what was initially intended as a temporary or transitional housing option - just until they ‘get back on their feet’ - turns into a long-term cycle of deprivation and marginalisation... For most people, what was initially intended as a temporary or transitional housing option - just until they ‘get back on their feet’ - turns into a long-term cycle of deprivation and marginalisation, as the

means to make choices and secure better housing options evaporates. The living conditions reported across the caravan parks comprising the report’s case studies and ‘conversations’ ranged from inadequate to

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their environment to be particularly dangerous; despair among these groups is understandably high and avenues of protection and recourse are either ineffective or non-existent. Parks are a common form of accommodation for women fleeing domestic violence. The threatening and abusive behaviour prevalent in many parks exacerbates already fragile levels of stress and anxiety. Against the advice of prisoner support groups, many parks act as transitional housing for ex-prisoners. Coping behaviours developed in prison are often transposed to comparably brutalising park environments, further complicating and heightening existing patterns of violence and abuse. The fact that children, families, the elderly and people with special

needs are forced to contend with these conditions is utterly unacceptable. Levels of substance abuse and addiction are high in the majority of caravan parks studied. Many people who enter parks as a form of ‘last resort’ accommodation turn to drugs and alcohol when their ability to make choices and extricate themselves from this desperate existence disappears. Without the financial means and social support networks to exercise control over their lives, many residents slide into damaging behavioural patterns, further eroding already precariously low self-esteem levels.

volunteer physician and community health nurse at a mobile health clinic established ‘on-site’ at one regional caravan park confirms that many residents have poor levels of access to basic health care, and virtually no access to specialist and ongoing care. In addition to the characteristics of caravan park residency detailed above, disadvantaged park residents also report difficulties relating to their tenancy. Most were unaware of their rights. Those who had a rudimentary understanding of the regulatory environment felt unable to exercise those rights. A culture of fear pervades relations between many tenants and park operators, inhibiting the ability of many residents to secure fair and reasonable outcomes.

Residents struggling with addiction issues typically do so in a completely unsupported environment. The broad findings emerging from Residents at Risk In the absence of constructive assistance, the only indicate that despite often common challenges government response many of these residents and triggers, the problems faced by disadvantaged encounter comes in the form of crippling welfare caravan park residents are manifest in many ways. penalties. Punitive measures, such as Centrelink payment breaches, in which welfare payments are One factor that was, however, common to nearly cut-off for eight weeks (in most cases without all residents covered in this report was their often financial case management) are incredibly desperate feelings of loneliness. “They feel as though damaging. Indeed, welfare penalties only add to they’ve been abandoned, as if nobody cares about the complex and ongoing array of challenges disadvantaged caravan park residents face. Most disturbingly, payment The fact that children, families, the elderly and breaches place already vulnerable people with special needs are forced to contend people at a heightened risk of primary homelessness. St Vincent de Paul Society with these conditions is utterly unacceptable. members report that successful recovery and rehabilitation from addiction is most commonly them”, was a refrain closely approximated by nearly achieved by people given the assistance required to all Society members asked to surmise the general secure better housing options. feelings of the people they assisted. Violence, abuse and addiction place additional pressures on caravan park residents living with a mental illness. While not sufficiently confirmed by existing modes of data collection, Society members anecdotally report the incidence of depression, anxiety and other conditions such as schizophrenia is markedly high among the disadvantaged residents they serve. Addiction and mental illness are often accompanied by physical health problems. The sheer range and volume of medical conditions addressed by a

Given the enormity of the problem, the report closes with a series of detailed recommendations to government and the social service sector. Residents at Risk is a continuation of the Society’s longstanding commitment to social justice, ensuring that those least able to speak out for themselves have a voice. The report is due for release at the Society’s Winter Appeal Launch. v Dr. Andy Marks:



Volunteers Men’s Shed volunteer Robert, working with Mark to weld a wheelchair frame.

mentored by an older man who is very helpful. I talk with him, he shows me what section to work with by directing my hands and together we can drill, place parts, and weld the wheels from the bikes to the wheelchair frames.” Bob Nelson, Manager of the Mary McKillop Outreach, confirms that the, “children having landmine-related disabilities are benefiting from the wheelchairs. They are dismantled following construction and packed into flat pack boxes for transport overseas.” Nelson explains that the Mary McKillop Outreach provides its support services for approximately 130 residents from licensed residential centres. It also offers intensive assistance to another 30 clients who have high-support needs.

Blind Faith Hope on wheels for kids in need

Mark now produces the work of a fine craftsman, and has a CV of mechanical experience including adjusting brakes, fixing nursing bed wheels, designing and constructing wheelbarrow kits, and patching up baby strollers for sale at Vinnies Centres. Mark’s work developed his interest in: “Vintage things. The things nobody wants anymore. I particularly like the old valve radios and always keep the little screws from any part I’ve worked on. You never know when they’ll come in handy.”

Bob Nelson, Manager of the Mary McKillop Outreach in Lewisham, Sydney has eleven paid staff and over 100 volunteers who are Vincentians, university students and church members. Together, they coordinate a range of activities at Mary McKillop Outreach, including VETAB accredited educational courses.

Mark and his mentor use donated bicycles for the parts to construct the homemade wheelchairs, in the program deemed Little Aussie Wheelchairs.

By Julia Gilchrist

Mark enjoys working with the mentors who volunteer at Mary McKillop Outreach. “I’m

Spurred into action after Caringbah Rotary spread the word about third world children injured in landmine accidents or losing the use of their legs due to polio, one of Bob Nelson’s young male clients at the Mary McKillop Outreach, Mark, wanted to provide his carpentry and welding skills to help. Mark says, “I thought if a person has lost the use of

18 Autumn 2008

their legs, I can help them. I like taking things apart and making them better, I wanted to do this instead of just staying at home.” Growing up in Sydney near Central, and born completely blind, Mark was also born with a natural talent in wood-working that was enhanced after spending a few years repairing wooden nursing home bed wheels.

A completed “Little Aussie” wheelchair. 1000 of these wheelchairs have been assembled through the program run by Bob Nelson.

Mary McKillop Outreach, through its programs and support of projects like Little Aussie Wheelchairs, is able to work towards its long-term objective of enabling its clients to gain substantive and satisfying employment. Bob Nelson says, “Our clients, like Mark, have just blossomed.” Bob says the achievements of clients are a testament to the quality of “the programs,” which “demonstrate what people with a disability/mental illness can do with a little help, working and learning together.” The Little Aussie Wheelchairs has just reached the 1000-wheelchair mark. More bikes are needed for Mark to continue his good work. Additionally, funding is urgently needed to purchase the kits that provided all the additional parts necessary to assemble the bikes. In addition, the cost of packing the wheelchairs and the postage required to get them to the children who need them, is overwhelming. To donate old bikes, or greatly needed funds, contact Gary Greinke at Mary MacKillop Outreach on (02) 9568 0247, or email him at v










By Tamara Holmes, Events Coordinator

Thank you.

The Events Team would like to thank the Hotels Have Hearts Committee, comprised of some of Sydney’s leading hoteliers. The hard work of its supporters has enabled the event to continually set new fundraising records on each successive occasion to support Matthew Talbot Homeless Services. Additionally, it is our good fortune to have the Charles O’Neill Race Day Committee, driving the event at Rosehill Racecourse. In conjunction with motivated and dedicated supporters, Br. Dan Stafford has been a tireless advocate for Matthew Talbot Homeless Services and its people. His determination, dedication and love for his work continue to inspire. Thank you to the Australian Stockbrokers Foundation that for the last 14 years has generously donated proceeds from its annual Award Night. Network Ten has consistently enabled the Society to achieve many of its fundraising goals in a manner not possible without their all-round support. No successful Vinnies event would be possible without them.

Acknowledgements. Hotels Have Hearts Committee

Kim Maloney, the Shark Hotel; John Ryan, Bar 333; Martin Short, The Australian Hotel; Kathy Young, Bar Zanzibar Newtown and The KB Hotel; Jenny Farrell, Macquarie Boutique Hotel; Jack Lucas, Triple Ace Hotel; Paul Dirou, City Hotel; Stephen Harvey, Cheers Bar & Grill; John Franks, Thomas Hotels; and Malcolm McGuinness, Scruffy Murphy’s Hotel. Charles O’Neill Race Day Committee Sue Keighery, Jo Hayson, Mary Rose Lynch, Tina Alagna, Kathy Young, Jenny Farrell and Barbara Cooley.

20 Autumn 2008

Exciting Society Events for 2008!


Charles O’Neill Book Launch Captain Charles, Engineer of Charity will be launched at The University of Sydney’s Great Hall on Thursday 17 April 2008. The launch will celebrate the life of Charles Gordon O’Neill the founder of the St Vincent de Paul Society in NSW.


Matthew Talbot Homeless Services Race Day at Rosehill A firm favourite on the sporting calendar, this newly re-named event, on Saturday 31 May, is held in aid of the Society’s homeless services across NSW.


World Youth Day 2008 A comprehensive program celebrating the biggest youth gathering in the world, with our holy father Pope Benedict in attendance.


Magic Moments at the SCG Supporting Matthew Talbot Homeless Services Join sports personalities at this sports themed event being held at the SCG.


Hotels Have Hearts Gala Dinner Our generous hoteliers join us again to raise invaluable funds for Matthew Talbot Homeless Services at the Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney.

Brother John O’Neill at the Circle of Hope morning tea November 2004.

Top: John O’Neill receives Christmas Appeal cheque 2005. Bottom: John O’Neill at the Aged Care transfer in 2007.

From all of us here at the St Vincent de Paul Society, we thank Brother John O’Neill for his dedicated service as State President of the Society in NSW/ ACT from 2003 to 2007. A board member between 1998 and 2003, Brother John had a clear vision for the Society in the future.

Committee (VDAC), to facilitate the recruitment and development of the Society’s active members and volunteers throughout NSW and the ACT.

Thank you John O’Neill Brother John and his State Council had many accomplishments during his term, most notably the reorganising of the Society’s financial systems including the introduction of a new accounting and information system (GWIS), incorporating collective banking.

Close to Brother John’s heart was the plight of rural NSW and he encouraged the creation and development of the Rural Task Force, to better coordinate drought relief efforts across the State. The Society’s sharpening of focus on homelessness and metal health problems coincided with the successful transfer of the Society’s Aged Care facilities to Catholic Health Care.

With John’s initiation, the National Council adopted a National Style Guide to redefine the use of the Society’s logo and branding to better manage how the Society presents its public image.

Special thanks to John’s wife, Imelda. The Society greatly appreciates the love and unconditional support of Imelda and the O’Neill family in enabling John fulfil his role as State President.

Other significant initiatives adopted by the State Council during John’s term included the creation of the Volunteer Development Advisory

Finally, Brother John’s leadership over the last five years has been profoundly appreciated, and we wish him the very best health and happiness for the future. v



Youth Works Time is flying and we are well and truly approaching the phenomenon of World Youth Day, which will take place in July 2008. NSW is committed to a holistic approach to WYD08, so that it is not just an event, but an opportunity for reflection and renewal across a whole range of areas in Youth and in the Society. A group of young people recently returned from the Encounter India program (see page 6 for more details). With the WYD08 aim being strengthening our relationships with our twins, this mission was wholeheartedly embraced. Young people from the Society in NSW are getting involved with the plans for the Vincentian Family Gathering, which will take place in Bathurst in the week proceeding WYD08.

Many youth and young adult conferences across NSW are utilising the Foundations Program, which is a preparation resource for the lead up to WYD08. Conferences and Councils across the state have hosted fantastic fundraising initiatives to support some of our twins to attend WYD08. Update: we are thrilled to announce that we are able to support over 50 Vinnies Youth members from 18 countries to attend WYD and our Vinnies events! Some Dioceses have already held WYD Retreats for their youth and young adult members and volunteers! Many Dioceses have co-hosted some inspirational and moving events with the WYD Cross and Icon as it traveled north through NSW into QLD recently.

When planning the Cross and Icon’s journey throughout Australia, the JCI, Journey of the (WYD) Cross and Icon, organisers decided that they wanted to bring the Cross and Icon to communities in Central Australia. They decided to bring together a group of young people to accompany the seven-person JCI travelling team on a Great Crossing Journey, to bring the Cross and Icon from the Darwin Diocese to the Port Pirie Diocese, via remote communities in the Northern Territory and South Australia. From the many applicants, fifty young people were chosen to form this pilgrimage group and participate in a truly unique adventure. 5 of these young people were from Vinnies Youth across Australia, including Jess Wood and Bec Bromhead from NSW. By Claire Victory, SA

world youth day journey of hope There are a number of ways for young people in NSW to participate in World Youth Day 2008: The Whole Shebang

Pre-WYD Formation Retreat approximately 3 months before WYD Travel with local Vinnies to Bathurst for the FamVin Gathering, Bathurst 9-14th July 2008 WYD Week, Sydney 15-20 July 2008 Post-WYD Retreat 20-22 July 2008 WYD Reunion approximately 2-3 months later

Short and Sweet

Pre-WYD Formation Retreat approximately 3 months before WYD Travel with local Vinnies to Sydney for WYD Week in Sydney, 15-20 July 2008 Post-WYD Reunion and Retreat approximately 1 month later

22 Autumn 2008

Can’t get that much time off work? Just come for the day for the: Vinnies International Youth Gathering Sydney, 16th July 2008

You can now register online!

Be sure to check out our WYD08 website to keep up to date with all our Vinnies WYD plans and bug your Youth Coordinator for more information!

The JCI organizers and youth represenatatives’ first encounter with the WYD Cross and Icon was in Darwin. Hundreds of people from the Mindil Beach markets came down to the beach to eat their dinner where they were confronted with the amazing sight of the Cross and Icon standing on the beach against a glorious setting sun. When the Darwin Diocese handed over the Cross and Icon the following day, it was a powerful moment as the people of Darwin were genuinely sad to see the Cross and Icon leave their community. It was a real privilege to be entrusted with carrying these symbols across Central Australia. For the next 6 days we travelled through the heart of Australia, visiting Katherine, Tenant Creek, Alice Springs, Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa), Uluru, Coober Pedy and Woomera. The amazing thing about being involved in the Journey of the Cross and Icon is that you can be celebrating with a crowd of hundreds of people,

sharing in the sense of peace and hope that the Cross brings, while simultaneously having a completely unique, private, personal response to the Cross. It is the same feeling you get at World Youth Day itself; being able to turn to the complete stranger next to you with tears in your eyes or a huge smile on your face and not having to explain it, because you both know that you’re sharing in this amazing experience together. When the group handed the Cross and Icon over to the Port Pirie Diocese, we were all surprised at how emotional we felt. The Journey had a bigger impact on us than any of us had expected it to. We were emotional partly because we were farewelling our group and partly because we were leaving without the symbols of hope that we had travelled through the heart of Australia with, witnessing the impact they had on the individuals and communities with whom they came into contact. v



Ear to the Ground

condition” in his 2001 collection of essays, Step Across This Line. Of all places, Rushdie draws his inspiration from The Wizard of Oz; a film that he claims “made a writer of him”. Discussing the migrant status of the Wizard and Dorothy, who both hail from Kansas, Rushdie recognises distinctive types of migrant behaviour in both characters. “Dorothy and the Wizard have adopted opposite strategies for survival in the new, strange land”, Rushdie explains. “Dorothy”, he continues, “has been unfailingly polite, careful, courteously small and meek, whereas the Wizard has been fire and smoke, bravado and bombast, and has hustled his way to the top – floated there, so to speak, on a current of his own hot air.” Neither approach is entirely successful.


tween shifting de stinies

By Dr Andy Marks, Society Researcher Strangers come in many forms. For example, the circumstances of people experiencing poverty, mental illness or isolation, can make them a stranger. Such circumstances can exclude people from everyday life, unfairly making them a stranger to the people and perhaps the lifestyle they once felt familiar with. This is particularly the case with migrants and refugees. Dr Andy Marks Strangers are not created out of thin air. Nobody typically chooses to be called a stranger. They are identified as such purely as a result of the attitudes of people around them; attitudes that refuse to admit those we don’t know or understand into everyday life and the familiar parts of life we treasure and enjoy. Strangers are created by attitudes that needlessly and perhaps unwittingly perpetuate behaviours that exclude.

24 Autumn 2008

In discussing strangers, I am reminded of a perspective offered by the Indian born writer Madan Sarup, a man, who faced many challenges as a newly arrived immigrant in the U.K. He went on to build an internationally recognised career as a highly esteemed academic and author. In spite of his success, or perhaps because of his consciousness of the circumstances of his own journey, he wrote extensively on the experience of being a stranger. “Strangers”, Sarup wrote, “often seem suspended in the empty space between a tradition which they have already left and the mode of life which stubbornly denies them the right of entry.” Regardless of whether it was intended to do so, this description of “strangers” seems to capture the precarious circumstances of many migrants and refugees. Armed with the imaginative license of a writer, Salman Rushdie – also a migrant – presents additional insights into the stranger and the “migrant

As Rushdie observes, “Dorothy learns that meekness isn’t enough.” She needs wisdom, heart and courage to find home. “And the Wizard – as his balloon gets the better of him for a second time – realises that his command of hot air isn’t all it should be.” Reflecting on these fictional dilemmas, Rushdie draws some real life parallels, observing that, “it’s hard for a migrant like myself not to see in those shifting destinies a parable of the migrant condition.” Does the community place these contradictory demands on migrants and refugees? In a word, yes.

the seemingly simple act of buying groceries in a supermarket, Tony observes that many newly arrived refugees have never experienced anything remotely resembling a shopping mall, let alone the learned ability to navigate their way through the massive array of packaged and processed food. Tony reflects that many refugees are also attempting to cope with language difficulties, the trauma of displacement, separation from family, and in some instances the post-traumatic effects of torture and persecution. Appearing on the ABC’s Enough Rope program, Sudanese youth worker, Mujahid Ahmed spoke about the “A to Z of challenges” faced by many refugees in Australia. For refugees coming from cultures that value a strict patriarchal hierarchy, Australian cultural values concerning gender equality can present problems. This is particularly so when, Ahmed says, “the male of [a refugee] family is unable to find employment but his wife ends up working.” This type of situation, explains Ahmed, can leave the male feeling “demoralised and incompetent, causing an extra level of conflict within the family.” It follows that many refugees feel paralysed by conflicting personal expectations and the social expectations of the Australian community. These contradictory messages significantly inhibit an individual’s ability to find a context for their own story – their identity – within the broader cultural narrative of Australia. Returning to Madan Sarup,

If migrants and refugees are to be able to forge their story as individuals and as Australians, we must afford them the latitude and support to do so. If they are to succeed, migrants and refugees are expected to take bold and positive steps to integrate into the community, yet their visibility, conversely, makes them potential targets of abuse. We expect boldness and meekness in the same breath.

he comments that “if you ask someone about their identity, a story soon appears”. He explains the significance of this personal “story”, adding that it is a vital component in the many “processes by which identity is constructed.”

Society member, Tony, comments how his work in assisting migrants and refugees has given him an inkling of the extraordinary demands placed upon many people attempting to bridge the “inbetween space” between their former life and their new life in Australia. For example, speaking about

If migrants and refugees are to be able to forge their story as individuals and as Australians, we must afford them the latitude and support to do so. With patience, support and understanding, we can forge a story as individuals and as a nation that reflects Christ’s compassionate and liberating love. v



Charles O’Neill book launch

O’Neill was also somewhat of a visionary as an engineer. In 1885, over 100 years prior to the eventual construction of today’s Sydney Harbour Tunnel, he tendered for the construction of a tunnel under the harbour to North Sydney. Importantly, O’Neill’s considerable professional expertise was tempered by a giving nature and compassionate heart. No doubt his experience growing up on the river Clyde left a mark on his psyche. Eviction, starvation, forced public labour and the harsh environment of the poorhouses prompted over a million Irish to flee the nightmare of the potato famine. As a young man, O’Neill would have seen the wretched human cargo arriving from Ireland on foul cargo vessels, in which men, women and children huddled together in filthy holds. At the age of twenty-three, O’Neill’s selfless desire to serve people in need prompted him to join the St Vincent de Paul Society in Dumbarton, Scotland.

ENGINEERof charity After years of meticulous research, the St Vincent de Paul Society is proud to announce the launch of Engineer of Charity, by Steve Utick, a chronicle of the life of Charles Gordon O’Neill, founder of the first NSW conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

His faith and steadfast commitment to the Society’s ‘good works’ saw him rise quickly through the ranks. In 1863, he was elected President of the Superior Council of Glasgow and was an esteemed member of the Council General in Paris.

From its 176-year history, to its current international reputation as a leading lay, Catholic, charitable, organization, the Society is in many ways guided by a strong consciousness of its past. The history of the Society in Australia is an inspiring tale, one that begins with the commitment and compassion of one man, Charles Gordon O’Neill.

In 1864, O’Neill’s yearning for new and greater challenges led him to New Zealand. In addition to his previously mentioned exploits as one of the colony’s leading engineers, in Wellington, in 1876 he founded the first conference to be aggregated in New Zealand.

Born in Glasgow in 1828, O’Neill trained as an engineer at Glasgow University. His expertise in this field would, later in life, see him take the lead in major engineering projects throughout New Zealand and Australia, including the Wellington to Wairarapa railway route, the Wellington tramways, and the Clyde River Bridge.

O’Neill’s considerable professional talents saw him move to bustling Sydney Town in 1881. True to his commitment to the Vincentian vocation, he founded the first St Vincent de Paul Society conference in NSW on 24 July of that same year at St Patrick’s Church Hill, The Rocks.

Reminiscent of his early life in Glasgow, St Patrick’s, at that time, overlooked the desperate vista of the Quay, where the poor and destitute flooded into the slums and rambling back alleys of The Rocks. Reflective of his meticulous and innovative skills as an engineer, O’Neill’s unwavering efforts in visitation, conference support and lobbying laid sound foundations for the Society’s growth in Australia. By 1890, as a direct result of his commitment, over twenty conferences had been established throughout NSW. He was also instrumental in establishing the Society’s first ‘Special Work’, St Aloysius Home for Boys in Surry Hills. By 1891, O’Neill’s solidarity with the poor and marginalised saw him swept up in the economic depression that hit the colony in the decade following the gold rush. Like many businesses and institutions of the time, the Northumberland Bank, of which he was nominally a Director, collapsed. He suffered financial ruin. Although cleared of any impropriety by the courts, O’Neill’s commitment to protecting the reputation of the Society and the viability of its ‘good works’ prompted him to step down from all Society offices. O’Neill quietly endured the personal hardships thrust upon him. Thanks to his tireless efforts and unshakable resolve, the Society continued to grow. His own sacrifices, borne through his selfless service to the poor and destitute left him and his brother John in poverty. However, despite his failing health, O’Neill remained a committed Vincentian up until his death in St Vincent’s Hospital in 1900. He was buried in Rookwood cemetery.

“O’Neill quietly endured the personal hardships thrust upon him.”

26 Autumn 2008

In 1961, in accordance with his wish to be laid amongst those he dearly loved, O‘Neill’s remains were moved to the Society’s burial plot for the destitute. His burial amidst those he served so well befit his commitment in life. As a cutting attribute to Saint Vincent de Paul, from O’Neill’s Society Manual reads: “Those who love the poor in life shall have no fear of death.” v

Society Events

On 17th April 2008, the St Vincent de Paul Society will proudly launch the true yet extraordinary saga of Society principal cofounder Charles Gordon O’Neill, a brilliant young Irish-Scot engineer and architect - a man torn between professional ambition and desire to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to serve the destitute - a story lost for over one hundred years. Launching in the grand historic surroundings of the Great Hall at the University of Sydney, Engineer of Charity is an important part of Australian history. It tells the story of the man who brought to Australia in 1881 one of the country’s largest lay Catholic charitable organizations, the St Vincent de Paul Society. The Society has grown from small yet significant beginnings to become a dominant charitable force with over 40,000 members and volunteers assisting over 5000 people everyday across Australia. Celebrations will occur throughout the week. A special mass will be held at St Patrick’s Church in Church Hill on 16 April. Additionally, there will be a pilgrimage on 16 and 19 April to visit significant places in the life of Charles Gordon O’Neill on Wednesday 16 and Saturday 19 April. For further enquires please contact Mary Hadchiti on (02) 9568 0220 or A key launch event will include a presentation, Introducing Captain Charles, in the auditorium of the Catholic Institute in Sydney by author Steve Utick and key collaborator in the book Vince Dever, on Sunday 27 April. The lecture will run from 2:00-3:30 pm with a refreshment break. The presentation will offer a special insight into the story of Charles O’Neill, capturing the highlights from the book in the flesh, complete with rare digitally presented photography, audience interaction and question time. Books will be for sale at the event. All net royalties from the sale of the book will support the St Vincent de Paul Society’s homeless services.



Growing Works National Volunteer Week

Volunteer Profile

The theme for National Volunteer Week 2008, May 12th - 18th, is ‘Volunteers Change our World.’ Historically, the week has focused on recruitment, and provided a national focus for recruiting volunteers and promoting the value of volunteering in the community. In 2008, following extensive research, the focus will change to celebrate and thank volunteers. We have a great deal to celebrate with our Society volunteers! We encourage you to recognize the Society volunteers in your local area and participate in any programs in your local communities. If you have a local Volunteer Centre you may wish to find out what activities they have planned. Tell us about how you recognize your volunteers. We welcome photos and articles. For more information and ideas about the week visit or contact Kate Scholl to discuss on (02) 9560 8666. A limited supply of posters and lapel pins have been ordered. Please contact Kate if you would like some for your volunteers.

Volunteer Statistics

“Volunteering with Vinnies has been fun and fulfilling! My first day as a volunteer, I coordinated the Charity Gift Wrapping at Broadway Shopping Centre. Young Vinnies volunteers wrapped Christmas Gifts for customers in turn for gold coin donations – we raised over $450! I am now working on a project with the Sydney Youth Team, pioneering the use of a database system to make volunteering in Vinnies far more effective. It’s a HUGE project but one that will definitely be rewarding in the end.” – Krystina Szafraniec, Volunteer for Sydney Archdiocese

Please share your stories and ideas of how volunteers are being recruited, appreciated, and supported in the many good works they are involved with. We know there are many other stories out there. Let us hear your ideas, news and views.

28 Autumn 2008

Volunteers encourage the true Christmas spirit

It’s Time to Grow recruitment workshop now available During this four hour program, participants will: • Reflect upon the gift of being a Vincentian • Explore issues impacting recruitment • Gain ideas and resources to initiate recruitment • Learn skills for encouraging new growth • Draft a recruitment plan

Share with us!

In the first 7 months of the 2006-07 financial year, The Broken Bay Diocese recorded 118,760 volunteer hours (not including community service or work for the dole) for Special Works and Centres. Conference activity recorded 15,400 visits with 33,357 persons assisted in that same time frame.

Sharing news from the Volunteer Development Advisory Committee (VDAC)

Contact Kate Scholl, Volunteer Development Coordinator, or phone, (02) 9560 8666 or fax (02) 9564 3622.

Children from St Martin de Porres, Natasha Robinson, Paul Caronna, Lora Caronna, David Sgangarella and Helena Bragge, with the hampers and gifts St Martin’s students collected in order to bring to those in need.

By Carmel Smith, Davidson Conference St Martin de Porres Primary School, situated in the leafy northern suburb of Davidson in the Broken Bay Diocese, has always responded generously to the work of the St Vincent de Paul Society. This year was no exception. Davidson Conference is twinned, as a result of the drought, with the pretty town of Coolah 388km northwest of Sydney. It is described in the tourist guide as the town of the original Black Stump. Hampers and presents for 14 families from the Coolah area were collected by the generous parents, children and staff of St Martin’s. It took three cars and a trailer (driven by two Conference members and one of the school parents) to transport these beautifully wrapped goodies to Coolah where they were gratefully received by two local Conference members, Frank and Kris. Thank you St Martin’s school for your generous giving in the true spirit of Christmas.

Dioceses that have so far scheduled the workshop for 2008 include: 3 May Broken Bay (Central Coast Regions) 24th May Broken Bay (Sydney Area Regions) The Diocesan Presidents in these dioceses welcome members from other Dioceses that might wish to attend. This initiative will be rolled out to each Diocese throughout the year. Please contact Kate Scholl for more information.

Vision for our volunteers The vision of the Volunteer Development Advisory Committee is to have valued, supported volunteers engaged in the mission and good works of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW. We are working towards this by promoting and supporting practices that ensure volunteers and members in the NSW St Vincent de Paul Society are: •innovatively and actively recruited, •warmly welcomed when they enquire, •responsibly screened, •suitably trained, spiritually enriched and supported to fulfill their roles confidently and •led by Society leaders who are appropriately prepared for leadership positions.




It’s about

A new home for Society State Office After twenty years in the Mary Potter Wing, Lewisham, the staff and members of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW State Council have out-grown their present building. In order to better serve Society members, volunteers, and ultimately people in need the NSW State Council voted to build a new purpose built State Office. The new building has had to meet the stringent requirements of being a budget office building in the immediate and long term. That means adopting best practice environmentally seeking to reduce the need for mechanical ventilation, making best use of natural light, and recycling rain water. In the early planning the strip out and redevelopment of the Central Services building (adjacent to the Mary Potter Wing) was considered, however cost, heritage values and limitations of the existing structures discounted that option. The Central Services building will be demolished and replaced with a new four storey open plan office building with flexible meeting and training facilities on the top floor.

30 Autumn 2008

yours and mine

Marrickville Council has given building approval for the Jackson Teece designed building. Builders Paynter Dixon will complete the project under the close scrutiny of Page Kirkland, the Society’s cost and quantity surveyors. The new building will accommodate the State Council and Sydney Archdiocesan Council’s administration and good works staff members. It has been designed to meet the Society’s requirements for the next 50 years and beyond and so will have room to accommodate up to 120 people into the future. The flexible open plan layout will encourage improved communication and team collaboration between departments. Building work commenced in January with preparations for demolition. The new State Office is expected to be completed by July 2009. Regular updates on the building progress will be reported in Vision. v

Designed by

Preliminary Perspective of the new NSW State Office.



Pictured above, Andrew, an employee of Ozanam Industries for 24 years.

Ozanam Industries, a Special Work of the St Vincent de Paul Society, employs over 100 Australians with a disability in a supervised and supportive work environment. With over 35 years experience in mail fulfillment, general packaging and distribution, we provide a comprehensive range of services to some of the nation’s most respected brands. We also manufacture Communion (Altar) Bread in our Bakehouse at Stanmore, supplying Parishes and Religious shops throughout Australia. If you are aware of a Parish not currently purchasing their Communion Bread from us, we would love to talk with them and be able to submit a quotation.

All phases of Mail Fulfilment | Database Management | Supply of Envelopes | Assembly of Showbags & Folders | Annual Report Mail Outs | General Packaging

For a competitive, obligation-free quote, please phone: Peter Rodrigues t: 02 9807 4066 81- 87 Ryedale Road West Ryde NSW 2144 e:

Peter Girlich t: 02 9519 3044 66 - 72 Salisbury Road Stanmore NSW 2048 e:

Wednesday 16 & Saturday 19 April 2008:

Join us for a spiritual pilgrimage to visit significant places in the life of Charles Gordon O’Neill, including St Patrick’s Church, Church Hill, The Rocks, Balmain and Charles’ final resting place in Rookwood Cemetery.

Wednesday 16 April 2008, 7 pm:

Celebrate the life and work of Charles Gordon O’Neill with us at a special Mass, St Patrick’s Church, Church Hill.

Wednesday 17 April 2008, 7 pm:

Charles O’Neill Book Launch Cocktail Party, Invitation Only The University of Sydney, Great Hall

Sunday 27 April 2008, 2 pm:

Introducing Captain Charles, a presentation by author Steve Utick Catholic Institute of Sydney For inquiries please contact Mary Hadchiti on (02) 9568 0220 The book, Captain Charles: Engineer of Charity, written by Stephen Utick, is available from Friday 18th April 2008. A special price has been arranged for Society members - $29.99.