Lorenda honoured with OAM

One of the most familiar faces on our Fitzroy Soup Van team – Lorenda Gracey – has been awarded an Order of Australia medal. 

All teachers deserve a medal, but Lorenda’s contribution to her community is remarkable – she taught English in maximum security prisons for 35 years and served on our soup vans for 25. The country’s highest medal of service seems a fitting commendation for the inspiring 81-year-old and St Vincent de Paul Society is delighted for her. 

Lorenda loved teaching prisoners in Pentridge and Port Phillip Prison, whose ages ranged from 17 to 70. She says: “Many of the people I taught had poor home lives as children and difficult experiences at school, so once they got into education in prison, some of them just loved it. They would enrol in all the subjects they could and often turned their lives around as a result. It’s lovely to get a call from a former prisoner to say they’ve now got a job and are doing OK. 

“It’s surprising how many people struggle to read and write and it puts them at such a disadvantage, so that’s why it’s my passion to teach English. I’ve also wanted to hopefully inspire people to enjoy learning and do good with their lives. Education is one of the keys to rehabilitation.” 

The medal also recognises Lorenda’s incredible work serving so many people over the years in need with our soup vans.

“I’ve had a good life and many people haven’t, so I feel for the people we serve. It’s not just food but friendship too because disadvantage can often lead to lonely, disconnected lives unfortunately. I love being able to make that personal connection.” 

Lorenda will be going to Government House in April to receive her medal, but she doesn’t have any intention of putting her feet up just yet on the soup vans.

“I’ll keep going as long as I can.” 

What an incredible lady. Congratulations Lorenda! 

Lorenda’s insights into teaching English in prison speak to the importance of early intervention to help young people who might be struggling. The after-school education programs offered by St Vincent de Paul Society serves exactly this need. If you can support us to help students thrive with literacy and maths, please donate at our Back to School Appeal