Bairnsdale Assistance Centre
Vinnies Victoria is delighted to announce the official opening of our new and expanded assistance centre in Bairnsdale. Officially opened on 23 April, with more than 40 people in attendance – including the East Gippsland Mayor Mendy Urie and local Indigenous artist Brad Brown – the centre will provide support to the increased number of people requiring assistance and living in the Bairnsdale and East Gippsland communities. 

Following the devastating bushfires of 2020, the centre’s volunteers noticed a significant increase in need from people experiencing homelessness in the community. The area found itself with a shortage of low-income housing, higher rents and some community members were finding it difficult to attain long term housing – especially younger men. 

In order to support the growing need, Bairnsdale conference members felt that their present assistance centre was simply not enough. The members dreamed of expanding the centre to create a new one which was purpose-built to accommodate the growing need of local people requiring assistance, especially following the bushfires and COVID pandemic.

As a result, the new Bairnsdale Assistance Centre has expanded and is purpose-built equipped with three COVID-safe interview rooms and an impressive food pantry. 

The centre also features Rosalie’s Place, named in honour of Sister Rosalie Rendu (1786-1856), which consists of the first and only dedicated shower and laundry facilities specifically for the use of local people who are homeless in East Gippsland. We extend our sincere thanks to Miele for donating white goods to the value of $15,000.

The Bairnsdale Assistance Centre provides a wide range of practical and material support items such as food hampers from their six months’ supply of non-perishable food items as well as perishable items stored in their freezers. The centre also provides assistance kits which comprise of a tent or swag, dignity packs (toiletries), small Primus gas stove, cooking utensils, blankets and Vinnies cards.
People requiring assistance can also schedule an appointment with our volunteers to confidentially discuss any further support needed.

People requiring assistance can also schedule an appointment with our volunteers to confidentially discuss any further support needed.

Cath McMahon from Bairnsdale Conference said, “This centre is a dream come true for us, and it would never have happened without our amazing team of volunteers dedicated to helping people in need in our area. 

“We are especially proud of Rosalie’s Place and the dignity that these facilities provide for people dealing with the toughest of circumstances. There is a lot of hidden homelessness in the Bairnsdale area, and while we provide emergency accommodation when necessary and do everything we can to connect people to housing services but, in the meantime, these bathroom and laundry facilities are an important way to restore people’s sense of self-worth. 

“This centre does not just belong to St Vincent de Paul Society, but the entire East Gippsland community.”

Since 1 January 2020, when the bushfires hit the area, the Bairnsdale Conference has provided nearly $450,000 of material aid to 5,300 local people in need. This amount is in addition to the millions of dollars distributed throughout the fire-affected areas from our Bushfire Appeal.

Thank you Brad

Taking pride of place in the new Bairnsdale Assistance Centre is a beautiful indigenous artwork created by proud Gunaikurnai artist Brad Brown. At the opening, Brad unveiled his painting which was created specially for the centre and features the blue wren that is native to the area and significant to the local Indigenous community. 

Brad said, “[The Vinnies volunteers] approached me to do an artwork so people would feel more comfortable about coming to this place. So, I came up with this design, which is the wren bird and the totem of [local] Aboriginal people… There's a lot of meaning in it.” 

Brad (pictured right) is also in the process of becoming a Vinnies volunteer in Bairnsdale.