Big Group Hug Annual Report 20/21

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BIG GROUP HUG 2020/2021

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Ordinary people working together to protect every young child in Australia from the adverse effects of disadvantage. WHAT

Mobilise community support to respond to the needs of young children by donating pre-loved and new items. WHEN

Immediately WHERE

Victoria HOW

Provide responsive, non-judgmental support, and material aid targeting disadvantaged, marginalised or vulnerable children (aged 0-16 years). WHY

Every child deserves the best start in life!

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LETTER FROM CHAIR LETTER FROM OUR CHAIR AND FOUNDER Wow, what a year it has been! A definite rollercoaster of highs and lows; lockdowns and freedoms. It’s been mentally and emotionally exhausting and while we’ve all felt this way, it’s our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities who faced the toughest hardships during these times. When COVID-19 first reached our shores last year and sent us into our very first lockdown, we at Big Group Hug were shocked at the sudden increase in demand for essential goods and services. Even with our doors closed to donations and with a skeleton volunteer staff, we continued to answer the cry for help and assisted 2,141 families, including 3,769 children in the 20/21 financial year. That’s a staggering 59% increase in the families assisted from the previous year! Of course, the statistics are only a small part of the story. It’s the faces, the names, the personal lives we touch that best demonstrate our impact through this difficult time. Denise, who through COVID, found herself unemployed and struggling to pay her rent. Our intervention of providing baby goods, nappies, clothes, and a car seat enabled her to stay afloat. She re-donated the goods two months later when she landed back on her feet. In increasingly uncertain times, one thing remains strong… the 11,000+ community members of Big Group Hug who selflessly provide basic relief to kids and families doing it tough. The formidable work that we do at Big Group Hug did not go unnoticed this year. We were extremely honoured to receive several nominations and awards, including nominations for the Hesta Excellence Awards, and becoming a finalist in the Social Well-Being Category at the 2020 Keep Victoria Beautiful Sustainable Cities Award. The Sustainability Victoria’s Award was a particular highlight of mine, as whilst our primary goal is to provide material aid to vulnerable and disadvantaged children, we are also committed to doing what we can to protect the planet for those same children to enjoy when they grow up.

I would personally like to thank our Match Leaders as this day would not have been possible without your immense generosity, our donors for helping us support even more families and allowing us to carry on with the amazing work that we do, and finally our volunteers who help spread the word and made the day a huge success. I am always in awe at what our dedicated volunteers can (and will) do for disadvantaged and vulnerable children. They have been and will always remain the backbone of our organisation. At a time that impacted the lives of everyone in our community, without fail our on-theground heroes devoted countless hours both at home and in our warehouse to ensure that families and children in need did not go without. Volunteering during on-again off-again lockdowns, providing COVID-safe home delivery drop-offs, and again implementing our drive-by donation days, our amazing volunteers provided consistency and support for children this year who otherwise would have gone without. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and Big Group Hug, our small, yet mighty organisation, is that village!

Angela Wood

Founder and Chair Big Group Hug

Our inaugural Giving Day was a smashing success and achieved more than we could have ever imagined. By matching your donations in 24 hours, we managed to raise just over $80,000 for Big Group Hug.

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OUR BOARD BOARD MEMBERS Angela Wood Executive Director and Founder Big Group Hug Role on BGH Board: Chair Founding Member September 2014

Leeanne Bremner Senior Project Manager to the Group CEO WISE Employment Ltd. Role on BGH Board: Company Secretary Elected September 2021

Geraldine Camilleri Executive Director – Big Group Hug Managing Director – Dentists of Tasmania Role on BGH Board: General Member Elected October 2014

Graham Haydar Director Aintree Group Role on BGH Board: Treasurer Elected July 2020

Melinda Whitehouse Philanthropy Manager Alfred Health Role on BGH Board: General Member Elected August 2021

Paul Armstrong Operations Manager IONYX Role on BGH Board: General Member Founding Member September 2014

Kat Oborne Exiting Board Member We would like to thank Kat for her service, passion and support on the Big Group Hug board.

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To build strong families - to enhance the bond between parent or caregiver and child by alleviating some of the financial burden and stress often experienced by families in vulnerable situations when they have a baby or young child.

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RUO T The areas we had the most impact: High impact

OUR REACH Over the last 12 months Big Group Hug has taken requests from 94 different agencies, across 165 suburbs, within 33 Local Government Areas (LGAs). There were 10 key LGAs that made up 91% of all requests during this time. In order, they were Whittlesea (40%), Hume (14%), Moreland, Banyule, Darebin, Brimbank, Melton, Wyndham, Yarra, and Maribyrnong. Big Group Hug’s reach is widespread and has grown from servicing just the early years, to now incorporating older children, young mothers, and caregivers experiencing difficulty. We are always seeking new and innovative ways to support families doing it tough. We set no boundaries, no restrictions, just pure old-fashioned support no matter where it is needed.

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List of Councils we have supported: • Banyule City Council • Bayside City Council • Brimbank City Council • Cardinia Shire Council • Casey City Council • Darebin City Council • Frankston City Council • Greater Dandenong City Council • Hobsons Bay City Council • Hume City Council • Knox City Council • Manningham City Council • Maribyrnong City Council • Melbourne City Council • Melton City Council • Mitchell Shire Council • Monash City Council • Moonee Valley City Council • Moorabool Shire Council • Moreland City Council • Nillumbik Shire Council • Port Phillip City Council • Swan Hill Rural City Council • Whitehorse City Council • Whittlesea City Council • Wyndham City Council • Yarra City Council • Yarra Ranges Shire Council

Lower impact

The top 20 agencies we supported: 1. Whittlesea Community Connections 2. City of Whittlesea 3. City of Moreland 4. Uniting Care Australia 5. Brimbank City Council 6. Anglicare Victoria 7. DJHS 8. VACCA 9. City of Darebin 10. Caroline Chisholm 11. Catholic Care 12. Community Information & Support (CIS) 13. MOSS 14. DHHS 15. Mercy Hospital for Women 16. Red Cross 17. Merri Health 18. AMES Australia 19. Life Without Barriers 20. Brotherhood of St Laurence

OUR IMPACT OUR IMPACT Big Group Hug saw a staggering 59% increase in demand for our services during this financial year. With your generous financial and material donations… this is what YOU help make possible!



Families Helped


Babies & Children Helped

(633 families were recurring, 1,032 were new families, 476 were unknown)

Agencies Supported

In 2020-21 Big Group Hug provided 100,200 items.












Feeding Equip.

Other 13%

Asylum Seeker 8%








Along with all these other items...

Refugee 4% Bridging Visa 4%


Financial Hardship 59%

Top 5 reasons for families seeking assistance Other Carers 7%

Domestic Violence 12% Grandparents 6%

Family Situation

Two-Parent Families 43%

Toiletries - child Toiletries - adult Pram Toiletries - baby Other Nappy Bags Playmat Toiletries - family Car Seat High Chair Bouncer Capsule Cot

579 560 387 326 300 284 258 230 183 170 169 161 158

Baby Bath Baby Carrier Cot mattress Change Mat Bassinet Booster Safety Gate Potty / Toilet Seat Portacot Baby Monitor Stroller Vaporiser Playpen

153 151 146 111 102 96 77 70 67 49 41 23 20

Single Parent Families 44%

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THE STORIES THAT MATTER Jennifer Harkins Story First time mum, Jen, had a tricky pregnancy. Severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum) meant that she found herself at the hospital on a weekly basis. However, when an incident at 27 weeks pregnant sent Jen into preterm labour and resulted in doctors putting her on strict bedrest, Jen’s anxiety and stress levels escalated. Not only was there suddenly no income, but Jen and her partner, Ben’s parents lived over 90 minutes away, meaning they had no support networks available to them quickly.

Photographer credit: Linden Jesensek

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While at the hospital Jen asked to talk to a Social Worker. On the Social Worker’s recommendation, Jen enrolled in the Enhanced Maternal and Child Health Program. Weekly visits at home followed from a Whittlesea Council Nurse, Mary, who Jen says, “was absolutely amazing.”

“There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help and support. Sometimes, life can feel like it’s spiralling. It’s in these moments that we need to put aside our fears, raise our hand, and ask for help from organisations like Big Group Hug.” When their beautiful baby boy arrived at 39 weeks, the excitement was also met with the reality of having a newborn and no family nearby for assistance. “My son is a real treasure, but when he was born, he decided that sleep was for losers,” laughs Jen, going on to say that she and Ben functioned on little to no sleep. Ben also had to go back to work, especially since they were down to one salary, but that meant Jen was tasked to do it all, with minimal sleep.

Photographer credit: Kerry Herschell

Mary not only supported and guided Jen through the early days of motherhood, but she also listened to Jen’s concerns about providing for their baby. Jen admits that, at the time, there was so much on her plate and sometimes she needed a quick escape to family but didn’t have the necessary items or financial means to set up a safe sleep space for baby at their parents. That’s when Mary told Jen about Big Group Hug and gently nudged Jen to allow her to get in touch with the organisation. A few days later, Jen got home from the doctors to find her front porch full of surprises. “It was such an amazing feeling to know that people cared. That to me, made me feel so much better,” said Jen teary. “I didn’t get a baby shower due to COVID but opening up all this perfect stuff for my son, ready to go, in perfect condition was like a baby shower… I was so overwhelmed with happiness.” Jen’s gratitude towards Mary and Big Group Hug was bubbling over, as she knew that, at the time, they couldn’t afford the nursery and feeding items, but without these essential items, she would be isolated from family. Mary had requested bottles, bibs, two boxes of different size clothing, and a portacot but Jen also received

ATTER PAYAL’S STORY Photographer credit: Kerry Herschell

toys, blankets, nappies and a few more items from Big Group Hug. “I loved the fact that I got a portacot, but also that you took the time to send a sheet as well that fitted. That was awesome and saved me a lot of hassle.” Having these key items from Big Group Hug allowed Jen to reach out for help whenever she needed it, without the extra challenge of lugging everything she needed for baby with her. This in turn gave Jen a chance to rest and replenish herself, while the grandparents got the fun bit of bonding with baby. Today, Jen and her gorgeous family are doing well. She’s back at work and baby is growing, thriving, and reaching all his milestones. But this story doesn’t end here… Jen was so blown away by the support she received from Big Group Hug that she decided to pay it forward and donate her pre-loved items and more BACK to Big Group Hug so that another family in need could use them. Talk about going Full Circle! As Jen rightly says, “There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help and support. Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond your control, life can feel like it’s spiralling. It’s in these moments that we need to put aside our fears, raise our hand, and ask for help from organisations like Big Group Hug. I am so glad I did because not only did it take away the stress of finding and buying these essential items needed, but it allowed me to focus on what’s really important – the wellbeing of my son, my partner and myself.” Jen now advocates and promotes Big Group Hug to others, openly telling people that Big Group Hug helped her, and prodding them to donate their new and pre-loved items to the organisation. We applaud you, Jen, you truly are a remarkable soul.

Payal* is an international student who came to Melbourne in 2018 with her husband. She also worked part-time, and things were going well for the couple as they made their way through life in their new country. Then COVID struck, and Payal found out she was pregnant. She continued working right up until 38 weeks when she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Payal says she was fortunate to have paid annual leave for two months, but things started to get difficult when that stopped. She couldn’t go back to work or her studies as she had to look after their little baby, her family was overseas and unable to assist due to travel restrictions, and money was always tight even with her husband working hard to provide for the family. Payal was incredibly stressed and suffering from post-partum depression – she didn’t know where to turn for help. In desperation she confided in a friend who told her about Big Group Hug. “I was nervous and hesitant to ask for assistance even though we were facing severe financial crisis and I was so distressed. But I realised I needed to do this for my baby,” said Payal. She posted a distraught plea for help on Big Group Hug’s social media page and the team immediately sprang into action. The information was sent to the Request Team, who contacted Irene Shand-Len, a caseworker with the Women’s Life Centre to assist. Irene then called Payal to chat and assess her needs.

Within 30 minutes, Big Group Hug’s Warehouse Team had a formal request for Payal and were able to arrange much needed items such as formula, nappies, wipes, warm sleeping bags, toiletries, toys and more.

“I was nervous and hesitant to ask for assistance even though we were facing severe financial crisis and I was so distressed. But I realised I needed to do this for my baby.” Big Group Hug’s driver then delivered the bundle of items directly to Payal and her family. “I couldn’t believe that in just one day Big Group Hug was able to get all the things I needed and more. I was so grateful when I saw everything, especially the sleeping bags as we have no heating in our bedroom so it’s incredibly cold at night. Now I can keep my baby warm. Thank you so much Big Group Hug team for all that you do,” said Payal. Payal and her family are slowly getting back on their feet, but as she says, they couldn’t have done it without the care, commitment, and assistance of Big Group Hug. *Real name not used for privacy.

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THE STORIES THAT MAT THE STORIES THAT MATTER Martha* and her children came to Australia full of hope and seeking asylum. While they were expecting to find safety and a home in this foreign land, they were soon shocked by their ugly reality. On a sunny afternoon, Martha clutched her children’s hands as she prepared to flee their home. Martha knew that she was strong and brave and that she had to get out, but she also felt all the raw emotions gushing over her at once. She left her home with nothing but her children’s favourite clothes, toys, and some food. Martha and her children walked out of that house survivors of family violence. She felt so many things but was mostly overwhelmed by this huge wave of relief. Sadly, that sense of relief soon turned to fear as Martha was forced to face the harsh reality of being a single mum, with three young children, no income, no support, and nowhere to go. She found herself in emergency accommodation and Martha was put in contact with a Case Worker. Upon hearing Martha’s story, the Case Worker knew that this young family was in for a long road and needed all the assistance possible. They assessed Martha and her kids’ needs and put in a request with us for essentials such as nappies, formula, a pram, toys, books, and clothing for all three kids. That same week, the Case Worker picked up all these items and more for Martha. The squeals of delight from the kids as they opened up their individual toy packs, was met with tears streaming down Martha’s face as she clutched the care package Big Group Hug sent specifically for her. Filled with toiletries and basic necessities, Martha remembered that she took none of these items with her when they left home. These key essentials will help Martha and her children, while they figure things out and get back on their feet. Her gratitude towards Big Group Hug is immense and as she says through sobs, “I can’t even put it into words... just Thank You!”

Stephanie* and her family have had it tough in recent years. Their beautiful little girl had been diagnosed with a chronic illness, which stunted her growth and development. Stephanie and her partner put their child’s needs first and provided everything they possibly could for her. Recently though, their daughter required a transplant and while she is improving health-wise, the rising hospital bills, coupled with a greater need for essential items, has resulted in stress and strain on the family. Stephanie’s Maternal Health and Child Nurse told her about Big Group Hug, and once their request came through, the team set about finding the necessary items and making up the care packs quickly. Nappies, toys that assist with development, a bigger pram, and clothing were all packaged together and sent off to this family. A few weeks later Big Group Hug received a letter from Stephanie, thanking the team for their swift turnaround time, care, and compassion. *Real names not used for privacy. 12 | Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21



To build strong community - offer genuine, ongoing opportunities for members of the community; individuals, community organisations, schools, government, corporations, and small business to engage in philanthropic and altruistic work for the betterment of their communities.

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Active volunteers

New volunteers

16, 314 Volunteer hours

Volunteers are the heart and soul of Big Group Hug. We could not do what we do without their passion and dedication towards helping vulnerable children in need. From laundering clothes and toys, repairing pre-loved items, picking up and sorting through donations, to offering their professional skills and services, and so much more… volunteers at Big Group Hug ensure that every child has a fair and equal chance to the very best start in life.

Stacey Woolley

Big Group Hug Volunteer Stacey is currently a stay-at-home mum to three beautiful children. “My name is Stacey (36) and I work on the Requests Desk at Big Group Hug. I first heard of Big Group Hug in 2017 when I was about to have my second child. We were updating our pram and I wanted to donate the one we currently had as it was still in good condition. Not long after, I started volunteering on Tuesday nights, as well as helping on Donation Day Saturdays. When I resigned from my job in April 2020, I volunteered more, coming into the warehouse three times a week. The reason I chose to volunteer specifically for Big Group Hug is because I genuinely believe in the vision and mission that the organisation aims to achieve. Big Group Hug has certainly made great headway over the years in being a familiar name within the community (especially with the recent support from Whittlesea Council workers through the Working for Victoria grant). Sadly though, I still have conversations with people who haven’t heard of us, and worse still, I see too many items on the side of the road for hard rubbish collection that could be used by another family.

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For these reasons, I wish that more people knew about Big Group Hug… who we are, what we do, and who we help. On my days at the warehouse, I’m always surprised at how much some people have to donate (literally carloads), as well as how much support is needed for those families doing it tough, even more so now with COVID. We constantly need donations for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and if someone was thinking about donating to Big Group Hug, I would first ask them what they have, and then let them know if we would take it. I know first-hand the hard work that goes into checking each item, so if I could screen goods before they get to the warehouse, then we may have fewer unusable items that we need to dispose of. And to those who are thinking about volunteering with us, I would tell them to please jump on the website and sign up. It doesn’t matter if you can volunteer for one day a month or every day of the week, every little bit helps a child thrive and not just survive.”


Jayne Clarke

Big Group Hug Team Member Jayne (mid 40’s) has been with Big Group Hug since March 2017. Starting out as a volunteer, Jayne’s bubbly and infectious personality has seen her being roped into a number of roles over the years. From sorting clothes, doing administration, answering requests, and more recently, working with schools and community groups, Jayne has done it all. “I love the values that Big Group Hug stands for. We work with so many members of the community to build a village in which every person feels supported and loved. That feeling of belonging to a community who puts others’ needs before their own is why I’ve continued to support Big Group Hug,” states Jayne proudly. “We have amazing volunteers who dedicate their time to help the organisation help others. And then we have amazing community support, who provide us with the means to be able to do what we do. All of which form this wonderful organisation, whose aim is to simply help people at their lowest with dignity and love.” Jayne says she wishes others knew that Big Group Hug receives no ongoing funding, and that they also provide material aid to other agencies such as Berry Street, Orange Door, The Smith Family, Vinnies, and Brotherhood of St. Laurence. These partnerships are vital to the operations of both Big Group Hug and these organisations. According to Jayne though… that’s not all! “We also literally save tons of items from ending up in landfill. Big Group Hug are as passionate about sustainability as they are about helping people. We partner with sewing and knitting groups to bring new life to old doona covers, sheets, pillowcases, and clothing. We even partner with organisations

who can either pass on items that we can’t rehome or shred them into rags,” explains Jayne. She also mentions that youth are an important part of Big Group Hug, and the youth volunteering team are enthusiastic about making a difference in the world. If someone was thinking about donating to Big Group Hug, Jayne says it’s imperative they are aware of key information, “We pass on goods to children aged between 0 – 16 years old. We are always on the hunt for items for older children especially clothing, board and card games, and books. The goods that we send to a child/teen is always presented as a gift, so we look for items that are in excellent condition. If you can’t donate an item, you could always sell it, and donate the funds to Big Group Hug.” With regards to volunteering, Jayne explains that there’s a wide range of roles, both on- or offsite, available at Big Group Hug. “You don’t have to sign your life away and you can make it work within your capabilities. Volunteers can be aged from 16 – 600 years old,” says Jayne cheekily. “Younger volunteers are also welcome but must be accompanied by a parent/guardian at all times.” When Jayne is not coordinating Big Group Hug’s Schools & Community Engagement Program, or making the team laugh with her antics, she is juggling being a mum, wife, daughter, and friend; an Alumnae Coordinator at Catholic Ladies’ College in Eltham; and running a Project Management and Business Advisory business with her husband. Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21 | 15

OUR PARTNERS & SUP OUR PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS It is with humility and gratitude that we acknowledge the contributions of so many who support us in a financial capacity, with in-kind goods and services, or both. We often struggle to name every individual, group and business that help us, but we simply could not do what we do without your faith in our organisation.

Trust & Foundations • Awesome Foundation Melbourne • Bank of Melbourne Foundation • Bendigo Bank - East Ivanhoe and Heidelberg Community Bank Branches Foundation • Collier Charitable Fund • DGP Foundation • Felton Alfred Estate • Flora & Frank Leith Charitable Trust • Inner Northern Community Foundation • Pressroom Philanthropy • Sisters of Charity

Grants from Local Councils • City of Whittlesea • Banyule City Council • City of Darebin • Nillumbik Shire • Yarra Ranges

Business & Sponsorships • A-Grade Club Supplies • AFI Branding Solutions • All Founders • Anywise • Baldwin Medical • Bunnings Group • Mr & Mrs Booth Event Hire • Bright Delights • Buxton Mentone • Cadbury • • Commonwealth Bank • Core Principals • Coles Group • Dentists of Tasmania • Designworks • Doctors of Ivanhoe • Echo Chamber Escape • Goff Electrical & Security P/L • Heros Wear Masks • Just Believe Fit • Kapitol Group • Kids Love Rainbow Colours • Laurimar and Buckingham Real Estate Eltham, Montmorency and Diamond Creek • Love to Dream via Little Rockers Radio • MC Labour Service • Money3 • Ovatarange Pty Ltd • Shine Lawyers Epping • Star Displays • Sustainability Victoria • Thorne Harbour Health • Ticker • Westfield • Yarra Valley Water

In Kind Support • API (Australian Pharmaceutical Industries) • Ayres Packaging • BabyLove • Bedhead Hats • Bellamy Organics • Bloom & Grow

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• Bonds • Brumby’s Montmorency & Ivanhoe • Bunnings Mill Park • Bunnings Thomastown • Chemist Warehouse • Core Principles • Ecoriginals • EGO • F45 Mill Park & Doreen • Footscape • Footys4All • Goff Electrical & Security P/L • Good 360 Australia • Goodwill Collective • Hairhouse Warehouse Epping • Hire for Baby • Hope Centre • Kids Of Eltham • Kinfolk • Little Innoscents • Little Turtle Baby • Lollipops Playland • Lush • Medela Australia • Natures Organics Pty Ltd • Nicepak • Officeworks Brunswick • Officeworks Coburg • Officeworks Epping • Officeworks Fitzroy • Period Project • Pinchapoo • Priceline Australia • Ritz Of Rosanna • Share the Dignity • Soxy Beast • Ted the Toy Man • Tennis Warehouse Australia • Tommee Tippee • The Nappy Collective • The Stork Nest • Waverley Industries


To all our n supporters, koid s behalf of thed the you help an ange, world you ch

“Thank you”.

Community Groups & Schools • BANSIC • Banyule Charity Knitting Group • Briar Hill Preschool • Bundoora Presbyterian Church • Bundoora Retirement Village • Caroline Chisholm • Country Women’s Association • Crafty Bits Craft Group • Eltham College • Eltham Woods Childcare Cooperative • Eltham Rural Group • Epping RSL Poppy Ladies • Good Karma Network • Guardian Childcare and Education • Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School • Ivanhoe Grammar School • Kew Toy Library • Knit One Give One (KOGO) • Kool Kidz Narre Warren • Kooringa Close Retirement Village • Lalor Secondary College • Maples Early Learning Centre Mernda • Melbourne Grammar School & ELC • Methodist Ladies College Parents Association

• Milestones Early Learning Centre Greensborough • Mill Park Village • Our Lady of Mercy College • Pascoe Vale CWA & friends • Pascoe Vale Womens Association • Preston Goodstart Learning • Reservoir West Primary School • Rotary Club Central Melbourne • Rotary Northside • South Morang Knitting Group • Soroptimist International of Deakin Inc • Team Jake • The Poppy Ladies • Turbans 4 Australia • Walmsley Retirement Village • Whittlesea Happy Yarners (WHY) • Whittlesea Knitting Group • Winston Hills Preschool • Womens Life Centre • Yarra Valley Grammar School

IT Partners • Bower House Digital • ConFer With • Google • Mason Frank International • MS Office • Salesforce

ProBono Assistance • Aintree Group • Be Seen Digital • Goff Electrical & Security P/L • Governance by Design • Llgold • Minter Ellison • Vital Talent

All the Mums Network – Our Sister Organisations across Australia Adelaide - Treasure Boxes Ballarat - Eureka Mums Bendigo - Sunshine Bendigo Brisbane - Baby Give Back Canberra - Roundabout Canberra Clayton - St Kilda Mums Geelong - Geelong Mums Hobart - Tassie Mums Perth - Little Things for Tiny Tots Seaford – MSFIN Sydney - Dandelion Support Network and Mummies Paying it Forward Warragul - Olivia’s Place

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Tess Brazzale

Enhanced Maternal Child Health Nurse Tess is a familiar face around Big Group Hug HQ and is someone who has worked in the Maternal Child Health (MCH) sector for just on 20 years. She first heard about Big Group Hug while attending the Enhanced Network meetings, that included Banyule and Darebin MCH services. It was here that conversations circled around this amazing group of ladies who were trying to distribute their own pre-loved baby goods, clothes, toys, and especially prams, to other families in need. “I can remember visiting the area in Rosanna – St Andrews Playgroup Hall where my third child attended playgroup. The hall looked very different, full of well organised items with prams, prams, and more prams! One was almost unable to walk around the storage area, it was so full of donated items – an amazing attest to the generosity of surrounding communities,” recalls Tess fondly. Since then, Tess has called Big Group Hug on numerous occasions to assist with items for families in need. She praises many aspects of teaming up with organisation, starting with how streamlined it is. “They have had incredible leadership that has grown and developed over the years. They keep abreast with relevant societal needs, as well as up-to-date

with various and forever changing consumer regulations (especially regarding nursery furniture),” compliments Tess. “Also knowing that items going to new families have been safety checked, cleaned, and looking ‘brand new’ shows the care that the team put into every request that comes through. And no matter what is requested, the Big Group Hug team tries to accommodate the order, even when resources are scarce.” Tess wishes people knew that Big Group Hug rely solely on the wonderful and generous donations of the local community. That means a fair amount of goods donated are pre-loved and some items going to disadvantaged families may not always be brand new. When asked, what item is always requested, Tess is quick to confirm that prams are always on the list. “Recently, I find that sleeping bags are also in high demand as families are trying to adhere to the SIDS-SUDI best advice, and books are a current big need. Also, when a caseload consists of a young baby, then items such as baby baths, bassinettes, and a lot of the safe sleeping space items are needed urgently,” says Tess. Tess’ favourite story about a family who has received Big Group Hug support solidifies the reason why she

– and we – do what we do. “I remember once delivering to a home where a large mob lived. I tried to text ahead to say that I was on my way but was not sure of whether I had the correct details. I stopped with a loaded car at the address given and started to unload the things. A very focused six-year-old recognised me from having completed some of her consultations at the Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Service. Before I could get the material aid into the home, this beautiful, smiling, excited young person came up to me and said, ‘Are these for me?’ I replied, ‘Yes, but let mummy see what is here first.’ The look on her face (wish I could have taken a photo) – pure joy and appreciation – could be clearly translated from her expression.” When Tess has time off from formal work, facilitating in the spirit of ‘Mother Christmas’ to families in need, she enjoys cooking, travelling through country Victoria (when not in lockdown), and spending time with family and friends, especially her three young grandchildren.

Giving Day Fundraising Campaign Raises Over $80,000 Big Group Hug’s inaugural Giving Day, held on 21 May 2021, proved to be a big success. Local businesses and the community at large dug deep to support the organisation and raise funds to help provide material aid to local children facing poverty. The purpose of Giving Day was that for 24-hours only, all donations received would be matched thanks to the generosity of Match Leaders.

On the day, volunteers called on their networks, as well as Big Group Hug’s database of donors. The energy and excitement at Giving Day HQ were electrifying as donations started to pour in. The total amount raised for Big Group Hug’s 2021 Giving Day was a staggering $83,610! This amount allowed the organisation to buy bigticket items like new car

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seats, prams, and cots, as well as much needed items such as formula, nappies, toothbrushes and more – thereby helping 100s of disadvantaged children and families across Victoria. Thank you to the community, local businesses, Match Leaders, volunteers, and every person who donated and helped make our first Giving Day a resounding success.

Schools & Community Engagements The Schools & Community Engagement program at Big Group Hug defines what the organisation firmly believes in – the power of people! We partner with local schools and community groups to increase awareness around childhood poverty, determined to ensure every child thrives. “It is inspiring to watch our young people develop their passion, knowledge, and ability to disrupt the poverty cycle. Our program seeks to level the playing field by bringing together people from different walks of life, working together towards a common goal,” says Jayne Clarke, Schools & Community Engagement Coordinator. The program has schools and community groups who choose to be either: – a collection point for Big Group Hug; where they also sort clothes, toys, games, books, and toiletries before bringing them to the warehouse – a participant in Big Group Hug’s goods raising campaigns and / or – a full partner with Big Group Hug, embedding the values of our organisation into their school or community program. Big Group Hug programs run in correlation with the school curriculum, and the school in turn fund- and goods- raise for the organisation.

“We try to offer something that is right for every level of participation,” says Jayne. One of the benefits of the Schools & Community Engagements Program is that it helps to build a sense of community from a young age. “By engaging our youth, we get an insight to the social issues that are relevant to their generation… the generation we’re trying to help. This ensures that we always provide what the community needs and link groups along the way,” explains Jayne.

“Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, but by connecting with schools and the community, we hope to normalise that it’s okay to hit hard times, to ask for help, and to know that there’s always someone who cares enough and has your back.” Jayne goes on to share that the impact she has seen thus far has been nothing short of phenomenal, with these young people so keen to make a difference in the lives of other similar-aged children. Teaming up with Big Group Hug has also had a positive impact on families. “We’ve had volunteers join Big Group Hug because their children have come home and shared their experience. It is indeed special to get a teenager, firstly to talk about their day, but also to have such a profound impact that they want to go home and talk about it,” says Jayne. Jayne says one of the best parts of her role is working and learning from these students. She says they have such a passion to do good, that it’s hard not to get excited. When asked about her most heart-warming moment, Jayne mentions two that she can never forget.

“It was one of the first school holiday groups I was working with. They were girls who were in years 10, 11 & 12 from a few of the local secondary schools. A request came in for items for two 16-year-old girls. This team sprang into action and the amount of love and kindness that went into each box was just beautiful,” says Jayne. “The other memory that will always make me tear up… we had a school that wanted to work with us. They didn’t have a budget for a bus to come, so each student pooled in money from their own pockets to come and see what we do and how we do it… how incredible are these young souls?” Jayne says lockdowns and restrictions have really put a spanner in the works for so many planned activities. But that didn’t stop this team. They successfully led the Put the Squeeze on Poverty fundraising campaign in October 2021 and are keen to do more in future. What’s more… Jayne cheekily says to keep an eye out for early 2022 as there’s a full immersion program about to commence in Term 1 of the school year.

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SPOTLIGHT ON. EMBRACE – Youth Project EMBRACE, a new Youth Project, is an extension of the existing Big Group Hug service, focused on providing essentials to youth aged between 13-19 years old.  The project is a ‘By Youth, For Youth’ model, meaning that youth from this age bracket volunteer to directly source, sort, and supply materials to other youth who are experiencing hardship.

How EMBRACE was Born “One day a 16-year-old boy walked into our Big Group Hug warehouse, carrying his two-year-old sister so that his heavily pregnant mum wouldn’t have to. Seeking nothing but essentials for his siblings, he couldn’t help but be mesmerised by what he saw in our warehouse. It must have seemed like a mountain of goods to one who had fled his home country of Pakistan with barely a stitch of clothing to his name. You see, this 16-yearold had experienced trauma beyond our imaginings. His cousin had been shot as she walked next to him to school… shot because she was a girl… a girl seeking an education.  When we care for little ones, we foster a sense of attachment and security. Those early years are crucial to the long-term health of children. When we provide aid for young people, teenagers and beyond, we foster identity, we give them

the things that make them, them. Things that help remove the stigma of not having or not being enough.  This young man, eyes boring through our shelves had but one simple request, he wanted essentials for his sister, but he meekly wondered aloud if we had a basketball. A simple thing, discarded by so many young people when they lose interest. For this young man, it meant putting a piece of who he used to be, who he wanted to be, back in place.  That basketball is the reason we decided to make sure no child, whether they are aged five or 15 years old, wants for the things that so many of us take for granted. That they never feel less than because they don’t have the things that make them human.” - Angela Wood, Big Group Hug Founder and Executive Director.

Meet Sophie Brasacchio EMBRACE Coordinator

Sophie (20) first got involved with Big Group Hug two years ago when she stopped by to lend a hand at one of our Sausage Sizzle fundraising events at Bunnings Warehouse. It was here that she was approached by founder and executive director, Angela, who asked her to become the Youth Ambassador for the organisation. Since then, Sophie has been working with a team of nine youth on growing the teen sector, called EMBRACE, of Big Group Hug. “The project we are currently building will provide material aid for the teen youth of Melbourne. We aim to provide an individualised and specialised clothing program where teens can develop their own identity by choosing clothes that form their style. EMBRACE will be a mobile project, whereby we will travel to locations where youth are known to congregate and create a mobile shop for them to collect material aid,” explains Sophie. While they are still in the early stages of the project, Sophie believes that the greatest benefit of this program is that it will extend Big Group Hug’s material aid to a larger age demographic of Melbourne. “Teens are one of the most vulnerable populations as they go through many hormonal and social changes. Hence, it is extremely pertinent to aid them as much as possible,” says Sophie. The EMBRACE Team also hope to mentor other volunteer youth and equip them with transferable life skills that they can use in their own paths; always remembering to aid those when they can. And since they understand and recognise that childhood and adolescents is such a volatile time, the team wish to make these significant development periods easier to grow in and manage. When asked what’s to come in the next year, Sophie beams proudly and says, “We are hoping to make this project sustainable, helping youth weekly with our mobile program. From here, we can only grow further… the sky is the limit!” *If you or someone you know would like to find out more about Big Group Hug’s EMBRACE Team, please email

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Irene Shand-Len

Founder and Coordinator of Women’s Life Centre Melbourne Irene first heard of Big Group Hug while planning the opening of Women’s Life Centre in 2017. She learnt, from an internet search for networking possibilities in the area, of the amazing work Big Group Hug was doing. She then visited the warehouse that was based in Rosanna at the time, chatted with then Operations Manager Jodie Burns, and felt an immediate sense of kinship in helping struggling families. With Women’s Life Centre’s intention to offer pregnant women and first-time mums all the support they could, Big Group Hug was a significant connection and resource to the Centre, and more so, both organisations could mutually serve each other.

“Many families want to stay anonymous, so only a few stories ever get told. However, the Nurses, Case Workers and Agencies like us, see the difference made firsthand and it’s a job so worth doing. Also, the incredible volunteer hours that go in to running Big Group Hug is amazing.” “It’s so wonderful to be a part of a larger network of organisations truly helping families,” says Irene. “Seeing firsthand, the incredible band of volunteers, the relentless drive they have to position donations ready to send to help families and the great generous spirit of Big Group Hug to change people’s lives is inspiring. Then, the recipients faces as they receive the practical help is priceless. So much joy for those families in tough times – that’s the best part of partnering with Big Group Hug.” Irene goes on to say that she wishes more people knew about the stories of changed lives that Big Group Hug

helped make possible. “Many families want to stay anonymous, so only a few stories ever get told. However, the Nurses, Case Workers and Agencies like us, see the difference made firsthand and it’s a job so worth doing. Also, the incredible volunteer hours that go in to running Big Group Hug is amazing. The organisation is genuine about using the resources they get to improve the packages and help they can offer families. They excel in all they do!” As a partner who directly interacts with families in need, Irene mentions that clothing, baby formula, and nappies are always at the top of the request list while prams, car seats, and cots are the bigger, more costly, essential items that new mums need, and Big Group Hug has always been able to find the items for these families. “Big Group Hug has gone to great lengths to see that these requests are filled and struggling families with growing children have some relief,” says Irene.

thing about Big Group Hug to the community at large, Irene would shout out, “If you truly want to make a difference to families doing it tough, if making sure kids have the clothes they need and their parents have a safe place to go for help, Big Group Hug deserves all your support and help. There is no better organisation offering such generous and free assistance to struggling families.” When Irene is not being a superhero herself at the Women’s Life Centre, she says her greatest joy is spending time with her own family, especially her two granddaughters. She loves music, particularly playing the guitar and piano, and enjoys coffee chats with the beautiful friends around her life. *Real name not used for privacy.

Irene proudly states that she feels so privileged to be the face when giving these care packages and when asked if she had one favourite story to share, Irene replied that she had too many to count. “Just earlier this year, Ali* had to flee domestic violence in Queensland and flew to Melbourne with only her four-week-old baby and a small bag. A week before, I had coincidently come to know the lady with whom she would be staying here in South Morang. When Ali arrived with nothing for her baby, they knew exactly where to call for help. I was able to send out an urgent request to Big Group Hug and absolutely everything she needed for her baby was delivered to her in a few days! When Ali saw the carload of baby items, she was blown away! Miracles can happen for people when groups like Big Group Hug stay resourced for this incredible work.” If given a megaphone to say one Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21 | 21

SUSTAINABILITY SUSTAINABILITY At Big Group Hug, we not only help disadvantaged children and families, but we also provide a convenient way for people to discard usable items they no longer need, ensuring they are diverted from landfills and kept in circulation. Our army of around 300 strong volunteers work tirelessly to launder, repair, and breathe life back into used items, ensuring they are in good, safe, working condition for their recipients.

reduce, reuse, recycle

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Our commitment to reconditioning and rehoming unwanted items has seen the organisation divert well over 67 tonnes of waste from landfill in this financial year alone.

Being a solution to climate change is core to our service model, so everything we receive is given new life in three ways: 1. Upcycling – many of our volunteers are clever crafters who repurpose items and make lots of beautiful things such as left-over face mask materials and clean sheets are turned into toy bags and pamper packs, barbie doll clothes are made from cleaned socks, old balls of wool are transformed into woollen blankets, beanies, and scarves. 2. Recycling – we have an equipment area dedicated to safety checking, sanitising and fixing prams, cots, carseats, and bouncers. There’s also our toy area where our volunteer team carefully cleans and sorts through every toy received, categorising them into the various ages and stages of development. Through recycling alone, we saved over 22,000 items from landfill during this financial year. 3. Rehome – If we receive a donation that we can’t use, we try to pass it on to one of our partner organisations, such as Boots for All, who

collect sporting clothing for the underprivileged, Red Nose and Animal Shelter who receive clothing, blankets, and towels that we can’t use, and the Op Shop who take useable items that is outside of our age bracket. This simple act ensures we give every donation received the best chance at a new home. Some of the ways we try to minimise environmental impact within the warehouse include: • Purchasing a test and tag machine so we can safety check and re-home electrical items like breast pumps. • Purchasing an industrial steam cleaner so that donated mattresses can be cleaned to meet health and safety standards. • Establishing a hire service where people can borrow basinets and capsules from us and then return these items when not needed anymore. This not only saves the family the expense of buying them new, but it also promotes recycling and avoids landfill waste. • Changing our packaging to recycled boxes, thereby reducing our reliance on single-use plastic.

Our work at Big Group Hug is also underpinned by five of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Our commitment to reconditioning and rehoming unwanted items has seen the organisation divert well over 20,000 tonnes of waste from landfill since opening our doors. In this financial year alone, we distributed over 100,000 items to more than 2,000 families facing financial hardship. This includes items which must be distributed new and unused (such as nappies, formula, and toiletries), as well as pre-loved recycled goods (such as cots, prams, car seats, clothes, toys, books, bedding, and electrical nursery items). Either way, this is a record number of total items redistributed (and hence saved from landfill) for Big Group Hug! While we are incredibly passionate about ending the cycle of childhood poverty, we are just as passionate about minimising waste by promoting the upcycling, recycling, and rehoming of preloved items. Our actions contribute to preserving the planet and help build a sustainable world for future generations. Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21 | 23

DocuSign Envelope ID: B0C6F9DF-11E7-4A5F-97C3-D6EE9A99B61A




True and Fair Position

Big Group Hug Ltd Assets Big Group Hug Ltd as at 30 June 2021 For the year ended 30 June 2020

Annual Statements Give True and Fair View of Position and Performance of the Company Current Assets 30Financial June 2021 30 June 2020 We, Angela Wood and Graham Haydar, being members of the Board of Big Group Hug Ltd, certify that –

Cash and Cash Equivalents









Non-Current Assets Plant and Equipment and Vehicles



Total Non-Current Assets



Total Assets



The statements attached to this certificate give a true and fair view of the financial position and performance of Big Group Hug Ltd during and at the end of the financial year of the association ending on 30 June 2020.

Trade and Other Receivables Signed:

GST Receivable

Dated: / / 02-03-2021

Total Current Assets Signed:

Dated: / /


Non Current Assets

Financial Statements

Big Group Hug Ltd

Page 13 of 16

The accompanying notes form part of these financial statements. These statements should be read in conjunction with the attached compilation report. Should you wish to see the full financial statement, please click on this link:

24 | Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21

Big Group Hug Big Group Hug Ltd Liabilities as at 30 June 2021

Current Liabilities



Trade and Other Payables



Employee Entitlements



Total Current Liabilities



Grants - (Unearned Income)



Total Other Current Liabilities






Total Non-Current Liabilities







Capital Reserve



Total Member's Funds



Other Current Liabilities

Non-Current Liabilities

Total Liabilities Net Assets

Member's Funds

The accompanying notes form part of these financial statements. These statements should be read in conjunction with the attached compilation report. Should you wish to see the full financial statement, please click on this link:

Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21 | 25



A cramped church storage space.


Volunteers sorting clothes into sizes.


Prams washed and drying on church lawn.


Christmas Appeal gifts packed on shelves.


New warehouse space


Official opening of new warehouse.


Fundraising at Bunnings Warehouse.

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Incredible volunteer team.



Our new sign outside the church.


Sorting table inside the church in Rosanna.


Volunteers fundraising


Templestone College School Drive for BGH.


School groups give back.


Volunteers sorting clothes.


Our new Big Group Hug van.

Volunteer team keeps growing.

Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21 | 27

HOW TO GET INVOLVE HOW TO GET INVOLVED The opportunities to work with us are endless and our volunteers come from all walks of life. From repairing goods, washing and sorting donations, to offering professional skills like plumbing and IT support, we regard every gesture as a valuable gem that helps uplift our organisation. If you would like to join our incredible volunteer task force, please click on the link and fill in our Volunteer Expression of Interest Form at: While we are predominately (and proudly) a volunteer-driven, donation-based organisation, there are instances when we need to bulk purchase new items such as nappies, baby formula, toothbrushes, underwear, and socks to name a few, for families needing assistance. In addition, if you can make a financial donation to help cover some of our essential operating costs like insurance, warehouse rent, utilities, etc. – all of which are vital for us to do what we do – the Big Group Hug team will be incredibly grateful!


$30 Contributes towards a toy and learning pack.


Will help keep mums and children clean with a toiletries pack.


Will make sure babies are fed, warm, dry, and clean.

Provides clothing for babies through to teens.

$1,000 Will cover the cost of big-ticket items like prams, cots, and carseats – essentials every newborn needs through the first few years of life. Big Group Hug is a registered not-for-profit organisation. All contributions are tax deductable. For more information or to donate please visit

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Big Group Hug Annual Report 2020/21 | 29


KEEP IN TOUCH Social media is our primary method of communication. We regularly put out calls for assistance and the response received has been nothing short of extraordinary. So, pick one of the platforms below and share our social media messages… it’s the easiest way to support Big Group Hug, and make a difference.

FACEBOOK-SQUARE @BigGroupHug INSTAGRAM #biggrouphug twitter @BigGroupHug LINKEDIN big-group-hug globe-asia paper-plane  PO Box 2009, Bundoora, 3083

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To build a sustainable world for the future to help minimise waste by promoting the upcycling, recycling, and rehoming of preloved items, thereby reducing landfill and environmental damage caused by waste.

Big Group Hug M: PO Box 2009, Bundoora, 3083 A: 5/19 Enterprise Drive Bundoora W: E:

FACEBOOK-SQUARE @BigGroupHug INSTAGRAM #biggrouphug twitter @BigGroupHug LINKEDIN big-group-hug