Continuing a spirit of youth

In 1833, Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year-old student, and his friends were compelled to act in response to the hardship and disadvantage they saw around them in post-Revolution France.

Nearly two centuries on from the genesis of the St Vincent de Paul Society, the same spirit of putting faith into action lives on through our Vinnies Youth.

Activate, the Society’s first statewide youth conference, brought together 60 members, volunteers and staff at Mary Mackillop Place in North Sydney for a day of connection, inspiring talks and a chance to learn more about key social justice priorities.

During the morning session, attendees heard from senior leaders including Claire Victory, St Vincent de Paul Society National President; Paul Burton, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW State President; and Jack de Groot, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW CEO.

Members of the NSW Youth Leadership team shared their experiences and motivations for being part of the Society, such as volunteering with the Vinnies Vans service, taking part in fundraising activities and finding a shared sense of connection with people united by the values espoused by Vinnies.

Keynote speaker Rose Jackson MLC spoke on the challenges faced by young people, including access to housing and the effects of privatisation, along with the importance of participating in democracy and encouraging young people to take on leadership as an example for others to follow.

The Conference concluded with a session on the Uluru Statement from the Heart led by Bridget Cama. Bridget, co-chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue, detailed the history of the Uluru Statement and the functions of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and Makarrata, a Yolngu term describing a coming together after a struggle, facing the facts of wrongs and living again in peace.

“The Statement is a gift to the Australian people, to walk alongside First Nations people… [to] reimagine what this nation, that we all call home, could look like."

Robert Cohen, Vinnies Aboriginal Engagement Partner, and Solange Frost, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor, explained how the Society is supporting the Voice, while Tia Foster and Merindah Hardy from Vinnies Services shared their personal insights on the importance of the Voice as First Nations women.

Across NSW, close to 4,500 youth members are involved with Vinnies through schools, universities and youth conferences, raising awareness and supporting people in need in their local communities.

Young people, as members, volunteers and staff, play a crucial role in enabling the good works of the Society.

In the words of Paul Burton, speaking during his address on the day, “there are seven values of the Society – advocacy, commitment, compassion, courage, empathy, integrity, respect – everybody here is a seven-star person.”

Learn more about making a difference in your community by joining Vinnies Youth today.