The Society in the NT
The first record of Vincentian activity in the Northern Territory was a gathering of various members of the armed forces from Australia and England who met in the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Darwin on the 22nd of July 1945. The conference of St Mary Star of the Sea was subsequently founded on the 27th of September 1949. Terry Muldon, living in retirement in Alice Spring in November 1988, recalled of the group’s activities “There was no Social Security assistance in those days, but likewise, there weren’t many people in Darwin. Those that were there were established, and therefore didn’t have the role of assisting the poor with finance, but rather of offering help to overcome job difficulties and to place newcomers into positions so that they could earn for themselves.”
The conference became inactive about 1952 but re-established in 1961 and continued assisting people with job difficulties as well as visiting the Men’s prisons at Fannie Bay and Berrimah. The conference grew to include the Stuart Park Centre in 1967 and the men’s overnight shelter at Stuart Park in 1978. The planning and construction of the latter was also supported by the Sacred Heart Conference. The men’s overnight shelter was renamed Ozanam House in 1985 in conformity with practice elsewhere. Until recurrent government funding supported the operations, parishioners donated and served all meals on a daily roster basis and was subsidised by the Stuart Park Centre. It provides only meals now, the role of accommodation being undertaken by the Bakhita Centre in Coconut Grove.
The Bakhita Centre site was acquired by the Good Shepherd Sisters in 1965 and developed as an orphanage run by the Canossian Sisters. It was reopened in 1984 as a men’s shelter for the St Vincent de Paul Society and has since been expanded with affordable housing at Ted Collin’s Village, 20 x 2 bedroom units suitable for families, located next door.
An Alice Springs conference started in 1961 but did not last and was reactivated again in 1965. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Conference began in the old Catholic Hall but then moved to the Central Australia Show Society’s member’s lounge. Resources consisted of 20 bales of clothing from interstate, several tea-chests of women’s high heeled shoes and 20 cents. The operations were transferred to the Gap Road property in 1969 however it became apparent over time that a central site was required to meet the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population’s needs as there were a large number of itinerant people arriving in Alice Springs after the sealing of the road south to Adelaide. The current site on Railway Terrace in the CBD of Alice Springs was purpose built in 1987.
St Joseph’s Conference in Katherine was formed in 1980 and received a request from the Department of Social Security to assume responsibility for a hostel on Giles St. The original structure was demolished and a purpose built facility to house homeless and itinerant men was built with government funds in 1988 and renamed Ormonde House.
The Tennant Creek conference is thought to have started around 1971 with resources stored in either the church or a small shed. Several accommodation sites were acquired however none still exist as the conference has now been disbanded. The Centre still exists, but is open only on Saturdays run by volunteers. It provides a very important part of the fabric of Tennant Creek and many customers travel hundreds of kilometres to buy bags of clothes from the Centre.
Other conferences in the NT include St Paul’s Conference in Nightcliff, Holy Spirit Conference in Casuarina and Holy Family in Sanderson.
The largest impact of the St Vincent de Paul society in the NT was in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy in December 1974. Personnel and resources were on hand with blankets to be flown by the RAAF to Darwin the day after the cyclone. Further financial, bedding and housing support was provided with about $1M plus in aid given out.
Our current services include;
- Conferences - Serving people in need on a one to one basis, in the spirit of Christ
- Vinnies Centres - Providing quality pre-loved clothing, household goods and furniture for people in need.
- Food Vans - Feeding the homeless and hungry.
- Vincentcare - Providing emergency accommodation and support to homeless men every day of the year.
- Youth – Buddies days and Five2L8