What Vinnies does

The St Vincent de Paul Society shares a vision of an Australia in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, languages, philosophies and cultures penetrate the marrow of our institutions, our organisations, our communities and the lives of all Australians.

In addition to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through our wide range of projects for excluded and marginalised Australians, Vinnies is also engaged in projects and advocacy campaigns that are specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our National Indigenous Immersion Program celebrated its 16th anniversary in 2016 and is one example of the strong relationships that can be forged between Vinnies and Indigenous communities. The annual program has seen the remote Indigenous Community of Nganmarriyanga (Palumpa) in the far north-west of the Northern Territory extend warm hospitality to groups of Vinnies members and supporters. It is an intensive two-week immersion experience that gives a better understanding of what it means to be Indigenous in Australia today. Vinnies respectfully acknowledges that we have much to learn in our understanding of engaging and journeying with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. 

Read an account by 2016 participants. 

Advocating for Indigenous justice

Vinnies is proud to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We strongly support constitutional reform that recognises and empowers First Nations peoples and ensures they have a greater say in decisions that affect them. While Constitutional recognition will not erase the many injustices Indigenous Australians have endured and continue to experience, it is a matter of deep sadness and shame for us as a nation that we have not yet taken this important step in our national journey of recognising the historical truth and honouring Australia's First Peoples. 

We believe that, if constitutional reform is to be meaningful, it must reflect the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and ensure they have a greater say in the policies that affect them. We have expressed our support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution, and a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to supervise a process of treaty-making and ‘truth-telling’ between governments and First Nations peoples. 

In June 2016, we were proud to support the Redfern Statement, which calls for a complete overhaul of policy strategy, engagement and funding.

Vinnies continues to lobby the government on issues of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice and rights. We have consistently opposed compulsory income management schemes in the Northern Territory and, more recently, have condemned proposals to continue and expand the cashless welfare card. We have voiced our opposition to the Community Development Program, which is a punitive and discriminatory work-for-the-dole scheme that disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in rural and remote regions. And we continue to advocate for a concerted and comprehensive response from all levels of government to reduce the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults.  

Recently, Vinnies reiterated its support for self-determination for our First Peoples during National Reconciliation Week 2017. 

Painting the spirit of our land

Lani Balzan is a proud Wiradjuri woman who works as an Aboriginal Education Officer at Wollongong's Warrawong High School.

Her passion for expressing her culture through her artwork is deeply ingrained. In 2016, she won the NAIDOC week national poster competition, an honour that enabled her to speak to a range of Indigenous and non-Indigenous school children across the country.

"It’s partly to do with closing the gap, having people understand what it is for Indigenous people to have their culture," she says. 

During National Reconciliation Week, Lani oversaw a mural involving the St George Illawarra dragons football team. She has also designed a jersey for the team, which they wore during the Indigenous round of the the 2016 NRL competition at Sydney's ANZ stadium.

In this video Lani discusses the importance of ancestors, community and closing the gap in her artwork.

What you can do

Find out more about our  National Immersion Program.

Learn more about Indigenous culture and tradition by visiting the websites of the National Congress and the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and the former Commissioner, Dr Tom Calma, who continues to be a strong advocate for the First Peoples on matter of health, employments and other justice issues.

Find out about the services and programs Vinnies offers and how to become a volunteer or member.

Read our submissions

Submission to the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into Health 30 January, 2015

Submission on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People 15 October, 2014

Submission on the Constitutional Recognition Bill 2012 15 January, 2013

Submission on Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory 16 January, 2012