Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn farewells CEO Barnie van Wyk

5 October 2021
Barnie van Wyk, Chief Executive Officer of the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn will be leaving the Society on 8th October 2021 after almost 5 years at its helm.
Barnie joined Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn in February 2017 with over 20 years of international management, and strategic experience.

In announcing the news to Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn, Society President John Feint shared “Barnie is an outstanding and passionate leader and has served the Society of St Vincent de Paul Canberra/Goulburn and the community with great commitment.”

“Under Barnie’s leadership, the Society has become a stronger, more capable, community-based and governance-focused organisation.”

Barnie’s expertise across business, operational risk management, sales, financial management and governance has played a key factor in the significant growth and transformation in the Society’s revenue base, operational capability and financial sustainability.

Over the last couple of years, Barnie has steered the Society through some very challenging and exciting times. These include the 2019 Summer bushfire recovery, rebuilding and community development efforts, COVID-19 response plans and major organisational change and fundraising initiatives.

Some of Barnie’s many accomplishments include:

  1. Growing the Society’s revenue base to $30m per annum so as to ensure its ongoing financial viability.
  2. Establishment of new services and programs to meet the growing needs of Canberra’s most vulnerable. These include:
    • The Community Inclusion Program (CIP) at Oaks Estate helping participants make optimum choices in relation to their health and wellbeing, gain access to mainstream services and support, and shape and influence their community.
    • A joint partnership in 2019 between Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn, Catholic Care and the ACT Government established Axial Housing providing permanent homes and support services to 20 disadvantaged individuals in the Canberra community.
    • A partnership with Amelie Housing providing appropriate, secure and affordable rental housing to end homelessness and create inclusive communities.  

The annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout is one of Barnie’s favorite events on the Vinnies’ calendar. Always one to lead by example, he saw it as his duty and an opportunity to raise awareness of the harsh realities of homelessness with the broader Canberra community.

A serial CEO Sleepout participant, Barnie raised $107k over the last 5 Sleepout events. Tirelessly promoting the event with local media as well as business, community and government leaders, Barnie helped increase CEO Sleepout fundraising income by 60% over the last 5 years, making the ACT the highest fundraising income per capita state in the nation at 7 times the national average. The 2021 CEO Sleepout event culminated in a record-breaking $1m, the highest amount raised in the event’s 12-year history.

Stephen Byron, CEO of Canberra Airport and the Capital Airport Group and participant in the CEO Sleepout shared “I am particularly grateful for your support in arranging a very successful CEO Sleepout. You, your family and team are making a significant difference to Canberra, Vinnies and people in need and I want to thank you for that.”

  1. Implementation of environmental support initiatives such as cutting emissions and generating solar power. This ambitious venture will deliver annual electricity cost savings of about $60,000 for at least 10 years reducing the Society’s carbon footprint by about 300 tonnes per annum. Based on suitability, close to two-thirds of Vinnies 27 retail shops have been selected for on-premise solar installations.
  2. The growth of the Society’s community programs and resourcing also necessitated a focus on continuous business improvement and best practice operations. In April 2021, after extensive preparatory work, Canberra/Goulburn achieved the Quality Improvement Council (QIC) Health and Community Services Standards 7th Edition accreditation. 
  3. Driving the Society’s first Reconciliation Action Plan to begin a journey of understanding of First Nations Peoples and the challenges they face in accessing support, so as to better advocate and influence overall health and wellbeing outcomes.
  4. Transitioning the whole organisation to cloud-based technology to enable the Society’s field and office-based staff to collaborate more efficiently to service people in need.

A vocal champion of Vinnies’ person-centered approach in working with the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our community, Barnie ensured that care and compassion remained at the forefront of Vinnies work.

Neville Tomkins, Chief Commissioner of Scouts NSW and long-time supporter of the Society shared, “Barnie has been an inspiration to us all. Through his servant leadership, advocacy and compassion, Barnie and the Vinnies team have made a genuine difference to the lives of so many Canberrans.”

Barnie’s dynamic leadership also enabled the Society to cultivate new relationships with a wide range of local businesses, government stakeholders and community organisations, leading to a significant expansion in Vinnies corporate and donor support base and ensuring the viability of its 18 homelessness and social impact programs.

Mirko Milic, CEO of Canberra Toyota/Janrule Pty Limited and one of Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn’s major donors said “Barnie has been an excellent leader. His personal passion and involvement were inspiring to me. He often challenged me to do more with the CEO Sleepout and the Night Patrol and I did! His passion was very contagious and he successfully reined in many new business owners to be part of Vinnies programs. To raise over $1M at this year’s Sleepout was phenomenal!  He will be sorely missed!”

Dr. Emma Campbell, CEO of the ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) who worked with Barnie as representative of Vinnies in the Capital Region on the Anti-Poverty Week Committee, stated “We are grateful for Barnie’s tremendous contribution to the shared goal of ACTCOSS and the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn of improving outcomes for vulnerable people in the Canberra region. Barnie has been passionate and outspoken in defending the rights of people facing disadvantage and calling for them to receive the support and services they deserve. We will miss Barnie but look forward to continuing our fantastic relationship with Vinnies to reduce inequality and achieve social justice.”

Reflecting on his tenure at Vinnies and asked about some of the highlights of his time with the organisation, Barnie said: the commitment by government, Vinnies, the sector and the community to disrupt the existing value chain to improve care for all vulnerable people and programs is inspiring, particularly considering all that happened whilst facing the devastation of the bushfires and the COVID-19 outbreak.

He added that what makes Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn a truly unique place is the passion and commitment of its 2300 strong workforce of members, volunteers and employees. “The Vinnies team spares no effort in ensuring that anyone who looks to us for help receives the very best care and support, whether they are assisted at Vinnies outreach services like Street to Home or Night Patrol, local Vinnies drop-in centres like Blue Door or any of our Vinnies shops.”

In order to continue this momentum and build on Vinnies’ long-standing legacy of service, Michelle Colefax, the current Deputy CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn has been appointed as Acting CEO. Michelle will serve as the Society’s first female CEO and is poised to build on its solid growth trajectory until a CEO replacement is appointed.

Media contact: Bianca D’Rosario Bianca. D’Rosario@vinnies.org.au or 0417 836 494