Compassion Through Crisis

Rosalie Rendu Lecture 2020

Friday 16 October 2020

This Anti-Poverty Week, the 2020 Rosalie Rendu Forum brought together a collection of exceptional women to discuss how the disruption created by the pandemic and other recent crises could be used as an opportunity to bring about a more just and compassionate society.

In breaking with the tradition of previous years, the event took place virtually in accordance with social distancing measures brought on by COVID-19.

Members of Vinnies NSW Executive Leadership Team listening to panelist Kirsty Robertson

Beginning with a Welcome to Country from Yvonne Weldon of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, host Geraldine Doogue (ABC Radio National) introduced the theme of Reimaging the Future: Can we create more equitable communities post pandemic?

Brooke Simmons, NSW Vice President for Social Justice, delivered a spiritual reflection on the history of Sister Rosalie Rendu who worked to alleviate the suffering of those around her and spread a message of compassion - “Be kind and love, for love is your gift to the poor.”

The three key speakers on the evening were Nicki Hutley, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics; Jody Broun, CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Office and Group Deputy Secretary, Aboriginal Outcomes; and Kirsty Robertson, CEO of Caritas Australia.

Drawing on her experience in economics, Nicki stressed the importance of considering the social, environmental and the economic impacts together and the consequences of inaction.

“What are the costs of failing to act on these issues?”

As a proud Yindjibarndi woman with family connections in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Jody noted the increased empathy displayed as a result of the pandemic and the effectiveness of Australia’s response.

“We can respond really quickly. We need to bring that same attitude to how we respond to other issues, like homelessness.”

For Kirsty, the concurrent issues raised by climate change and Black Lives Matter reinforced that the pandemic is not alone in building impetus for change.

“The pandemic has created a sense of urgency and a renewed commitment to solidarity.”

Jack de Groot, Vinnies NSW CEO, asked the panellist what the Society could do to as part of the recovery with responses including increased female participation in the workforce, working to bring about justice reform, and involving marginalised groups to take an active role in policy making.

During the Q&A section of the panel, Nicki spoke on possibilities such as a Universal Basic Income or Universal Service Guarantees, highlighting the many benefits that have resulted from the effective doubling of the JobSeeker payment through the coronavirus supplement. She also stressed the need for government to play an active role in dealing with the housing crisis and addressing the inequalities in access to services experienced by people in regional and remote areas compared with their metropolitan counterparts.

The Q&A discussion also dealt with the importance of housing in remote communities, the long-term benefits of investing in social housing and child care, and improved decision-making from people in positions of leadership.

Vinnies would like to thank Nicki, Jody, Kirsty, Geraldine, Yvonne, Brooke and the Social Justice Team for their involvement in another tremendous Rosalie Rendu Forum. We look forward to playing our part in creating a more equitable future.

To view the 2020 Rosalie Rendu Forum, contact to access a recording of the event.