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Supporting Australian communities in unprecedented times

Kaitlyn Fasso-Opie  |  18 May 2020

A summer of bushfires has been followed by a pandemic that has seen unprecedented shutdowns and economic hardship. Yet organisations such as St Vincent de Paul are continuing to respond in any way they can.

The message from Vinnies that went out to supporters and volunteers in late March was brief and clear: ‘We will get through this.’ Coming on the back of an unprecedented summer of bushfires and hardship for many Australians in rural areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an enormous challenge for Australian social outreach organisations, including the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Yet that same organisation, with its grassroots supporter-base and deep connection to the community, is also well placed to mobilise effectively in communities across the country.

Vinnies National President Claire Victory says with the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold in Australia off the back of the bushfires, people’s resilience is being tested.

‘People don’t necessarily have faith in the ability of our society to help in times of crisis, as well off as Australia might be’, she says.

‘People do feel it’s all up to them. People don’t have reason to believe that it’s all under control because they’ve seen people lose their livelihoods.’


The coronavirus outbreak has come on the back of another enormous project for Vinnies - responding to the aftermath of the summer’s bushfires, which tore through communities across the nation. 

‘Our members within New South Wales and Canberra, especially in Goulburn, have put in an insane amount of hours to get out to people’, Claire says.

‘These people are overwhelmed, traumatised, dealing with stock on farms. Some people are only just dealing with the extent of their loss. It’s a challenge for us, and different states and territories are approaching it in different ways. Getting our members to step back and take care of their own health and wellbeing is also a challenge at times.’


That balance between the needs of the community and the welfare of members is even more crucial at this time. Writing to members in March, Claire said that Vinnies would continue to work to maintain contact with people in need of support during the coronavirus pandemic. It would also do everything it could to preserve the health and safety of members, volunteers, staff and companions, ceasing home-based visitations.

‘Many of our members are aged over 60 and most companions are living with existing health issues. Both groups are at higher risk of serious consequences should they become infected’, she said.

Conferences have moved to telephone and web-based consultations, and providing practical support such as food drops at people’s front doors.

‘At a time of enforced self-isolation required by the response to COVID-19, the Society’s model of care can continue to meet those needs. But we need to be smart about how we

do this so that both the community and our members are safe.’


Vinnies has launched an appeal to support people who are impacted by COVID-19, including providing food, support with utility bills and rental payments for those whose income has been effected.

If you can help provide support, go to

Main image: Yucel Moran, Unsplash.


Loungeroom concert to support world’s most marginalised

Australian singer, songwriter and musician Gary Pinto organised a free online concert in early May, bringing together Australian and international artists in support of Caritas’ Project Compassion campaign.

The line-up included artists such as Diesel, Matt Gresham, Carmen Smith and the Nashville-based Bobby Lee Stamper as well as many others.

Caritas says marginalised communities around the globe are even more vulnerable at this time. If the virus hits places like the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, or conflict-torn communities in the Middle East, the impact will be catastrophic.

Pinto said now was the time for people to come together and put our faith in humanity into action.

‘Together we can sing, together we can raise money and together we can walk alongside each other and in doing so be transformed in our own lives.’

Image: Daniel Nour

For more on Caritas’ COVID-19 response go to


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