A faith-based charitable mission to Australia was undertaken by Scotsman, Charles Gordon O'Neill during 1881-91 at the request of Society’s President-General Adolphe Baudon (1819-88), who wrote to O’Neill in 1877 concerned that the first Conference established in Australia by Father Gerald Ward in 1854 had dissipated. O'Neill was born in Glasgow in 1828 but living in New Zealand where he was a well known engineer at the time of the request. O’Neill was unable to galvanise sufficient interest among local laity to re-establish the St Vincent de Paul Society when he travelled to Sydney and Melbourne several times between January 1880 and May 1881. O’Neill’s mission finally gained a foothold in July 1881.

The mission successfully established the St Vincent de Paul Society in NSW beginning with St Patrick’s Church Hill Conference and provided a Catholic alternative to the then flourishing evangelical slum missions. O’Neill served as President of St Patrick’s Church Hill Conference and from 1884, President of the Particular Council of Sydney. He successfully gained Catholic acceptance of the Society and recruited volunteers from among the male Catholic laity in Sydney. By 1891, the year of O’Neill’s resignation from Society leadership, the Society had 20 active conference with over 300 members undertaking almost 11,000 visits to people in need annually. The Society was consolidated under a Superior Council of Australasia in Sydney in 1895.

Read more about the history of the St Vincent de Paul Society.