OUR PEOPLE

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members assisted 35,418 people experiencing disadvantage

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our approximate number of volunteers
in the 2020/21 financial year

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employees contributed to our work this year

OVERVIEW

In striving to provide world-class community services for people experiencing disadvantage, it is also essential that we provide support for our own people: the members, volunteers and employees who make this work possible.

We have made Our People a core pillar of the Strategic Plan 2020–2022 in recognition that the Society would be nothing without the many thousands of people who make our mission their own. Our priority is to nurture and support all of our people so that they are fully engaged and empowered to work together towards addressing poverty and disadvantage.

OVER THE THREE-YEAR PERIOD OF OUR STRATEGIC PLAN, WE HAVE COMMITTED TO:

  • Create opportunities for all of our people to engage with our tradition, mission and vision;
  • Develop a membership strategy that ensures membership engagement and care;
  • Develop a volunteer strategy that ensures effective support for our volunteers;
  • Create an organisational culture that supports ‘One Society’;
  • Implement, monitor and evaluate our Reconciliation Action Plan; and
  • Create a safety culture for all of our people in every site and every activity.

The results of the Strategic Plan 2020-22 and the accompanying restructure from the previous financial year continue to bear fruit. Our performance indicators most relevant to our people have been strong. 

We operate as ‘One Society’, in which our members, staff and volunteers work together in pursuit of a common purpose – the reduction of poverty and disadvantage in our community. Formation programs and training in relation to our tradition, spirituality, mission, values, service excellence, and work for justice builds this sense of common purpose. Our members tell us that their membership experience is enhanced by better support and systems. All of our people feel supported, skilled and confident in fulfilling their roles. 

Our members continued to adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic and developed new and innovative ways of delivering assistance to people in need in COVID-safe ways. Our members worked with staff to continue to provide bushfire assistance through our Community Grants and Community Development programs.

Our volunteers, too, have been stalwart throughout the pandemic. Never losing their keenness to give of their time to help our Vinnies Shops and services continue through some turbulent events. Even during lockdowns when shops needed to be closed, our volunteers’ readiness to return upon reopening never dimmed. 

And our staff have shown significant generosity with many voluntarily giving up work hours or salary during times when revenue was down due to the closures of Vinnies Shops to ensure the people we assist still had somewhere to turn. 

In turn, the Society is very grateful to everyone who has contributed to its sustainability during a very uncertain period of time. The pandemic, the floods, and the ongoing delivery of bushfire support mean there is more demand for our services than ever and our people have met every challenge to make sure assistance is available to those who need it. 

WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY

In late 2020, we introduced the ‘Vinnies Safe Works’ approach to safety – with key safety resources made available to employees, members and volunteers through the Safety and Wellbeing Hub on the staff portal and through our dedicated members and volunteers website.  

Our COVID-19 response has been one of the primary focus areas of the Vinnies Safe Works team. The team has been involved in every aspect of our COVID-19 response and played an integral part in our recovery program in the second half of 2020, which saw the safe reopening of all of our facilities and sites following the lockdown of early 2020. The Vinnies Safe Works team provided advice around COVID-safe approaches to all parts of the organisation, including through: 

  • leading the development of targeted action plans for all areas 
  • providing daily COVID-19 updates 
  • developing a centralised approach to the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment 
  • implementing the NSW Health QR system for contact tracing in all sites. 

This year we established an organisation-wide WHS Management Committee to collectively oversee our approach to safety. We also made significant progress towards the implementation of an online Incident and Risk Management System, through which we will manage all hazard and incident reporting as well as our return to work processes.  

Finally, we implemented significant safety training initiatives, including manual handling training throughout the organisation, and a new Society-specific safety orientation training for all of our people. 

OUR MEMBERS, VOLUNTEERS, AND STAFF

MEMBER PROFILE

Peter Burgess is the Wagga Wagga Central Council President and has become a prominent voice on social justice issues.

“I WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE’RE ACTIVELY OUT THERE IN THE COMMUNITY LOOKING AFTER THE MOST NEEDY AND THAT WE ARE THERE TO SUPPORT THEM.” – PETER BURGESS

Peter Burgess

Peter Burgess has become a prominent voice on social justice matters in the Wagga Wagga community. 

Speaking regularly to local media on issues such as housing and income support, Peter strives to use his position as Wagga Wagga Central Council President to support people experiencing hardship and advocate for change. 

“We want people not to just recognise Vinnies as a shop,” explains Peter.  

“I want people to understand that we’re actively out there in the community looking after the most needy and that we are there to support them.” 

First joining the Society while living in Sydney during the 1980s, Peter joined the Sacred Heart Conference in Kooringal seven years before taking up his current role in 2019. 

Peter spends his time engaging with conferences throughout the Riverina while serving on the NSW State Council. He sees his work influenced by a strong Catholic faith along with a caring mentality cemented from his career as a teacher and school psychologist. 

“When I was teaching in the state system, they made me year advisor for a group of Year 7 kids. My eldest son was going into Year 7 at the same time; every time a kid came up, I’d think ‘if this was my child how would I want him or her treated?’” 

“That’s not so different to what we do now when we have that idea of ‘when we see the poor, we see the face of Christ’ – in a lot of ways it’s very similar. 

“As an organisation we’re not judgemental. We’ve always got to be mindful that we’re dealing with human dignity.”

OUR MEMBERS

Despite the pandemic and associated lockdown, Society members helped tens of thousands of people in the 2020/21 financial year. Like our services, our members do essential work and they continued to provide assistance to people who need it. 

The Society are integral to what we do. The courage they have shown throughout the pandemic has been an example for us all. Many of our members are in higher risk groups from COVID due to age or illness but this hasn’t diminished their desire to help.

Building on lessons learned in the previous financial year, the Society has been working to enable members to pursue their goals in a COVID-safe way and this has involved ensuring they are supplied with alcohol hand sanitiser, personal protective equipment, guidelines, and regular updates on the latest from government and NSW Health. 

The contactless drop-offs established in the last financial year were built upon throughout the 2020/21 financial year and more contact with people we assist was done digitally through video conferences and by telephone. Adapting to COVID-safe conditions has been an ongoing process and our members have proven themselves up to the challenge no matter how quickly the situation has changed. 

Members provided support in the wake of the NSW floods and played a continuing important role in the distribution of black summer bushfire funding through the Community Grants scheme. After being on the ground with immediate support last year, they are helping build back better and stronger in the medium and long-term recovery process. 

During the 2020/21 financial year, leadership teams were established in all regions with the aim of sharing information to improve opportunities for members, engagement, and decision-making. A membership growth strategy was also developed following consultation with Central Councils and research on best practices. It resulted in a strategy with a focus on youth recruitment and plans to improve youth programs and engagement with young leaders. 

A member engagement survey was undertaken in the 2020/21 financial year. The feedback from that survey will be used in setting strategy in the future to further support and enable members to serve the people we assist. 

Once again, the Society thanks its members for their dedication to poverty alleviation, and their commitment to that end through thick and thin.

THE PEOPLE OUR MEMBERS ASSISTED THIS YEAR

Our members contributed 33,569 hours of service to support 35,418 people during the 2020/21 financial year. They provided $7,655,657 worth of food, electricity, clothing, furniture, accommodation, transport, medical costs and more. Among those assisted were 5,155 people living with a disability and 8,500 people identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 

The main form of assistance requested of our members this year, as with previous years, was food. 48% of people seeking assistance reported not having enough food to get by. Many of them had dependent children whose health and development could be impacted by inadequate nutrition. 

Around 70% of people supported by our conferences are living at or below the poverty line, with 12% getting by on $500 or less per fortnight. Many are unemployed or underemployed, with more than half receiving government income support as their primary source of income. 52% are experiencing housing stress, spending more than 30% of their income on accommodation. 

Find out more below about the circumstances and demographics of people assisted by our members. 

Gender

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Age (years)

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Accommodation

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Co-habitants

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Primary source of income

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YOUTH MEMBERSHIP

Throughout NSW there are more than 8,220 youth members engaged in schools and communities. 

Our largest cohort are our primary school-based Mini Vinnies, with more than 6,938 students who take part in fundraising appeals and school sleepouts, and take action on social justice issues that affect their local communities. 

Our 1,100 high school members work together to do the same and more, working on community gardening programs, Vinnies Vans and organising their own social justice events. 

We have around 200 young adult members in university, parish and community-based conferences. Young adult members run social days for kids and teens, homework programs, volunteer on Vinnies Vans and run social justice advocacy and fundraising initiatives. 

YOUTH MEMBER PROFILE

Damien is the Marketing and Communications Advisor for the Society’s Youth Team.

“IT’S A LOT OF FUN! JUST BEING WITH PEOPLE THAT SHARE THE SAME GOAL IN THAT SENSE.” – DAMIEN HA

Damien Ha

For Damien Ha, his time with the Society has shown him the capacity generosity has to change lives.

Having joined during his final years in high school and still in university, it’s only been a few years but he’s been heavily involved during that time.

Damien has already been co-ordinator of the Sydney University Night Patrol Team, President of the Sydney University Conference, and is now the Marketing and Communications Advisor for the Society’s Youth Team.

He says one of his strongest memories of volunteering with the Society came early.

“It was probably one of the first times I went out on Night Patrol.

“I was on the beverages in this particular one, I was serving out Milo, coffee, or tea and there was this one particular family – a dad and his three children.

“They were three small daughters.

“They all just politely asked for a cup of Milo and they were so happy as well when they received the Milo.

“They couldn’t have been older than eight.

“Seeing just the dad and his three daughters out there late at night in Martin Place, that’s not something that you usually see or something that’s right to see – to see them in the cold like that, coming all the way out here for a cup of Milo,” he says.

Damien says he thinks his own experience in life is what drives him to give of his own time.

“Probably, a big part of volunteering with Vinnies is probably just the values that I’ve grown up with.

“My parents’ background – they grew up in poverty and always taught me to be grateful for everything I have.

“Perhaps that’s inspired me to make a difference in other people’s lives as they have in mine,” he says.

Another factor that keeps him engaged with the Society is the people it has introduced him to.

“It’s a lot of fun!

“Just being with people that share the same goal in that sense.

“With Vinnies, going out on those volunteering programs, let’s say Night Patrol, we’re all there for the same reason – to help the people that we serve.

“Whether that be through physical help like giving them food and beverages or maybe it’s just social help in having a conversation with them.

“I think it’s definitely a massive rewarding factor being part of Vinnies, just being with people that share that common goal.”

Damien describes his time with the Society as a rewarding experience and encourages others to join in.

“It’s something so different and meaningful compared to normal things we would do in our everyday lives.

“We wake up, we go to work or we study, and then maybe we go back home and just repeat day in, day out.

“But Vinnies, I suppose, provides that outlet to be able to make some meaningful change that I can’t do in other parts of my life,” he says.

VOLUNTEER PROFILE

Bellingen shop volunteers, Team Leader Rhonda MacGraw (left) and Kay Vickers.

Dennis Hancock and Neil Yates

Retail volunteers win awards 

No one becomes a Vinnies shop volunteer with the aim of winning an award but this was the added bonus for two volunteer teams serving in the state’s Mid North Coast and Upper North Coast areas. 

Calling themselves the Vinnies Bellingen Shop Volunteer Legends’ the six hard-working volunteers of the popular main street shop won the Volunteer Team award in the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards 

‘For our volunteer team it is all about helping not only our small town, but all that Vinnies does, the friendship our small shop has created and having people from all backgrounds made to feel comfortable,’ Team Leader Rhonda MacGraw told the paper in nearby Coffs Harbour. 

The tiny shop window has become a talking point in Bellingen, every week featuring new creative displays that engage passers-by. The community waits with anticipation to see what magic will transpire in the windows. 

‘The team has worked tirelessly to improve the exposure of the shop and together we have improved its performance by over 150% in the past 12 months,’ Rhonda said proudly. 

‘This revenue goes towards providing assistance and services locally and state-wide – an example being Pete’s Place, the Vinnies homeless outreach service in Coffs Harbour. 

‘The team engages cheerfully with every customer, welcoming them into the shop, assisting with good old-fashion customer service. Knowing what our regular local customers are interested in enables us to point out specific items they may wish to purchase.’ 

Fellow volunteer Isla, aged just 16, said, “I love volunteering for Vinnies because of the gorgeous team of volunteers who I also call family; it’s really inspiring to be around such passionate people who are so dedicated to helping out the community.’ 

Further south, the five-member team of Vinnies Hastings Van Drivers was judged the standout Volunteer Team in the Mid North Coast section of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.  

The team has developed over the past few years and has the primary role of moving stock and resources amongst the Vinnies shop network on the mid-north coast. The van runs allow a remote area to connect and share resources with other shops across the region. 

They help increase shop income by getting the right stock to the right locations at the right times. The drivers like to get out and about and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mid-north coast. They enjoy catching up with the volunteers at the different shops and unloading urgent stock. 

These volunteers are valued for being adaptable, resilient and having a ‘can do’ attitude, even in tough times such as bushfires, COVID-19 restrictions and floods. When our Taree shop was inundated with water in March 2021 they jumped in to help with the clean up and start moving rubbish to the tip.

OUR VOLUNTEERS

The Society’s members and staff are gratefully supported by a small army of 9,200 volunteers. They give of their time generously in Vinnies Shops or at our services and enable the Society’s good works. 

Just as the founder of the Society, Frederic Ozanam, did in Paris in 1833, our volunteers give back to their communities throughout the state. Like him, many of them are young and keen to help and find ways to fit volunteering in despite work, study, and other commitments. 

Our volunteers change lives every day through their work in Vinnies Shops and supporting the operation of our many services across the state, from food vans and community hubs to crisis accommodation centres for people escaping homelessness or domestic violence. 

COVID-19 continued to disrupt normal operations this year, with Vinnies Shops having to shut and volunteers being asked to work in back of house roles or temporarily standing down. With our services designated essential, our volunteers showed just how keen they are to help and enabled the Society to operate them throughout the pandemic. 

CELEBRATING OUR INCREDIBLE VINNIES VOLUNTEERS

Whilst the Society values the contribution of our incredible volunteers all year round, we particularly like to celebrate the Society’s volunteers during National Volunteer Week. The Society’s 9,200 volunteers are vital to the Society, working in 360 locations across the State. We simply couldn’t do the work we do without them. This year, leaders across the Society took time out to thank the Society’s volunteers for National Volunteer Week and these were shared far and wide, as well as being played at meetings and Volunteer Week celebrations across shops, homelessness shelters, and hubs, where certificates and gifts were handed out by grateful managers.  The theme for the 2021 National Volunteer Week was “Recognise, Reconnect, Reimagine”. This resonated strongly with our experience at the Society over the last twelve months and the challenges we continue to confront together with COVID-19. The Society’s volunteers more than rose to the challenge of the last 12 months and continue to impress and inspire us as we navigate the pandemic with them. 

EMPLOYEE PROFILE

Vanessa Taylor is a Case Worker at the Matthew Talbot Homeless Service in Newcastle.

“THE SMALLEST THING THAT WE CAN DO IS A HUGE THING FOR THEM.” – VANESSA TAYLOR

Vanessa Taylor

“The smallest thing that we can do is a huge thing for them,” says Vanessa Taylor, speaking with 20 years of experience working with the men who come to the Matthew Talbot Homeless Service in Newcastle. 

During that time she’s seen a lot of change. 

One thing that is immediately clear is that she loves her job and she loves helping people who come to the Society for assistance. 

Vanessa started at the Matthew Talbot as a cook, when it was still a hostel, and worked in that position for about five years. 

“And then that position was made redundant. Instead of paying me a redundancy, Vinnies actually retrained me and I went to TAFE and did my further education there and here I am. I went to being a support worker and now a case worker.” 

The focus has shifted from hostel to assertive outreach during the two decades that Vanessa has been there and she says she thinks the change has been for the better. 

“We’re more pushing for the long-term, helping them to sustain their tenancies and stay in their houses longer, attend their appointments with mental health, drug and alcohol, all those support services that we wrap around them.” 

But even with the change of focus, Matthew Talbot Newcastle is still equipped to provide short-term accommodation for men – and men with children – in need. 

A less common feature of that accommodation is that it’s animal-friendly. 

“It was always an area that was missed. People either would have to surrender their animal or they wouldn’t get the support. And then we had two villas with little courtyards that have been approved that we can have animals onsite. We have a few guys come through with dogs or cats.” 

Vanessa says the animals are great not just for the men and their families who stay at the Matthew Talbot but also for the staff. 

“We’ve had some fantastic animals come through. Very friendly dogs. It’s just been great. Just to go out and be able to pat a dog. You might have had a stressful meeting and just to walk out and see the dog playing. 

“Dogs bring that calmness to all the guys.” 

Vanessa says the best thing about the job is helping men in need – and their children – find long-term housing. 

“You know that warm feeling you get that you’ve been able to help someone who’s been totally down and out to where they are when they’re in their house. It’s unbelievable that people can change from old habits into a new habit where they’re so houseproud and they’re being able to sustain the tenancy. 

“We actually support men and men with children. And having a house set up by another service, they come in and they deck the whole house out with brand new stuff, and seeing their faces when they walk in. These people knew they couldn’t afford to buy beds and fridges and stuff like that and to have a service come in and do that and then seeing the client’s face, that’s one of the highlights, it’s one of the biggest you could ever get.” 

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

This year, we undertook important work on diversity and inclusion in our workplace. We created and filled an internal position focused on diversity and inclusion, developed a Disability and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), and undertook critical foundational work to understand the diversity of our staff and the Society’s level of cultural competency – our ability to recognise, understand and meet the specific needs of the diverse people we serve.  

We also conducted a diversity census across our workforce and either created or advanced network groups for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, LGBTIQA+, and people with disability.  

This year the Society completed implementation of its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and developed a new ‘Innovate’ RAP for 2021-2023 that will see us move towards our goals of being reconciliation leaders in the non-government sector and using our reputation and influence to advocate for stronger recognition and respect for the cultures, spirituality, resilience and special identity of Australia’s First Peoples. 

As part of our RAP, we developed an Aboriginal Recruitment and Retention Strategy to increase employment and participation opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the Society, and to provide sustainable and fulfilling employment and career progression.  

LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT

The 2020/21 financial year saw learning and development deliver on several key learning initiatives online and virtually, and face-to-face when COVID restrictions eased. The Society introduced a refreshed Code of Conduct learning program and an online Aboriginal Cultural Awareness program.  

As part of the launch of the People Potential and Growth performance and development framework, we delivered over 130 learning workshops and provided staff with coaching, support and guidance. 

SUPPORTING OUR EMPLOYEES THROUGH COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to test our people and required the organisation to implement strategies to sustain our workforce. 

Employees who had been working from home started returning to the office with greater flexibility in February 2021 and continued working in a hybrid model with COVID-safe protocols in place until the end of June, when a new COVID outbreak prompted the decision for all of our people who could work from home to do so.  

In the 2020/21 financial year, a number of COVID support mechanisms were provided to our people. People leaders met and checked in with their team members more frequently, our Employee Assistance Program and pastoral support continued with increased communication on how to access these services, and we provided people leaders with wellbeing resources to use with their teams. 

Our Pandemic Leave Policy provided guidance for people needing to access it, and health and safety check-ins were completed for individuals who had to set up their workspaces at home.  

Our frontline workers in particular were also supported in obtaining early vaccinations to protect themselves and the people we serve.  

Our people are critical in delivering on our mission to shape a more just and compassionate society, and they have continued to support the people we serve throughout what has been a challenging and extraordinary year.