From our CEO

Big Housing Build - Footscray

Big Housing Build - Footscray, topping out coming soon

The Human Rights Commission argues that access to adequate housing should be added to a list of rights receiving legislative protection. In May, a parliamentary committee backed the call for a Human Rights Act.

Can such a position really be made into law in Australia? Last week, this seemed possible when independent senator David Pocock and MP Kylea Tink introduced a private members’ bill in both chambers of Federal Parliament. The bill calls for “the right to adequate housing” to be included in a list of rights that should receive legislative protection.

It would require current and future governments to implement a 10-year national housing and homelessness plan. The plan’s objectives include improving housing supply and affordability and ending homelessness.

This comes at a time when Australia is grappling with a severe housing supply and affordability crisis that profoundly affects many communities. Increasing calls for support in our call centres underscore the urgency of this crisis across our state.

On Census night 2021, there were more than 30,000 individuals experiencing homelessness — nearly 6,000 more than five years ago. The Victorian social housing waitlist has also surged to 67,000+ applications, up from 55,000 in March 2022, with 37,000 classified under priority housing.

At St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria, we are deeply committed to supporting individuals and families affected by homelessness. As a provider of housing and homelessness services through VincentCare and VincentCare Community Housing, bolstered by 245 local volunteer groups, we are uniquely positioned to alleviate homelessness and extreme poverty.

Our Big Housing Building project, a 92-unit apartment block in Footscray, is reaching another milestone soon, and we look forward to sharing that with you in the coming weeks.

The housing and homelessness crisis in Australia demands immediate and sustained action. We stand ready to support people experiencing homelessness by providing emergency relief, food, clothing, and temporary accommodation to individuals and families in immediate need.

As the housing crisis deepens, we believe that enshrining suitable housing as a fundamental human right in our legislation is the foundation upon which real change can take place.

As we continue to raise awareness about homelessness and advocate for systemic changes to address the root causes of housing insecurity, I am confident that together we can ensure that everyone has a safe and secure place to call home.

Thank you for your support

Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

4 July 2024

#BigHousingBig #GoodWorks #Vinnies

2024 Vinnies CEO Sleepout

2024 Vinnies CEO Sleepout

As you all may know, last Thursday we hosted our annual flagship fundraiser, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.

Participating in my first CEO Sleepout was both challenging and rewarding. Despite the cold and discomfort on the longest night of the year, the warmth from fellow participants was inspiring. Everyone showed a remarkable willingness to give up their comforts for a night to help Victorians sleeping rough.

The event was a testament to our commitment to supporting people experiencing homelessness and raising awareness about this critical issue. On the night, we had two fantastic lived-experience speakers, Mario and Lutfiye, who shared their personal experiences with us. Their powerful testimonies moved many of us to tears.

My participation was deeply moving and it reinforced my dedication to our cause. Please take a few minutes to watch and reflect on the powerful message conveyed in the video below through snippets from the night. In the video, you'll see some impactful moments from the Sleepout and I hope it captures the essence of what we strive to achieve every day at Vinnies.

Last Thursday was a reminder of the difference we can make together and the importance of our ongoing efforts.

As of today, we have raised more than $8.33 million nationally, with Victoria contributing more than $1.37 million, thanks to our wonderful 253 participating CEOs and 6,000+ generous supporters. Donation lines remain open until the end of the month and we are hopeful to reach our target of $1.5 million.

I want to express my gratitude to everyone involved in the event for their dedication and support. Let's continue to work with compassion and dedication, supporting Victorians in need and advocating for a brighter future for all.

Let’s not wait for others to do it. Let us be the agents of change.


Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

27 June 2024

#VinniesCEOSleepout #GoodWorks #Vinnies


Response to Federal Budget 2024

Federal Budget announcement: Our response

In this week's Federal Budget, the government has acknowledged some of the pressing issues facing our nation: a slowing economy, rising unemployment and a housing crisis.

We welcome the measures aimed at directly reducing inflation and alleviating the financial burden on Australians, particularly the measures aimed to help people most in need.

  • Starting in less than seven weeks, taxpayers will benefit from a tax cut, designed to provide immediate financial relief to individuals and families across the country.
  • Nearly 1 million households will see a 10% increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance, a crucial measure for supporting low-income renters and addressing the housing affordability crisis.
  • An extra $138 million will be allocated to emergency and food relief services, providing essential support to those facing immediate financial hardship.

The Budget includes significant investments to address the housing crisis, with extra funds directed to get homes built sooner and a new five-year National Agreement on Social Housing and homelessness for states and territories to deliver crisis support and social housing. Notably, $1 billion is dedicated to supporting women and children experiencing domestic violence, as well as at-risk youth, ensuring safe and secure housing for the vulnerable.

While the Budget introduces several measures to address current economic and social challenges, ongoing efforts are required to ensure that all Australians can enjoy their basic human rights, including adequate housing, healthcare and financial security.

We know that disadvantage is multi-layered, intergenerational and complex.

Australians are seeking and need policy and funding that provides a seamless interface to the services and supports that address their critical needs in a timely manner.

The funding announcements are welcome, but they need to translate to wrap-around support. Good policy puts the person in need at the centre of decision making. The question remains – how can we as a nation best achieve this goal?

You can read our national press release


Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

16 May 2024

#FederalBudget #GoodWorks #Vinnies

Our response to the 2024 State Budget

State Budget announcement: Our response

This week's Victorian State Budget arrived amid the backdrop of mounting financial strain for a growing number of Victorians.

Over recent months, our assistance call centre has seen a surge in calls from individuals and families struggling to make ends meet, grappling with the pressures of increasing expenses.

This is why we welcome the focus on families through this budget, with the introduction of the School Saving Bonus – a one-time payment of $400 to every child attending a public school – which holds the promise of delivering some relief to families.

Meanwhile, a dwindling supply of genuinely affordable dwellings has put further critical strain on the demand on front-line services, such as ours.

Therefore, we welcome the $197 million invested in front-line services over the next four years, including:

  • Targeted support to meet critical demand for services providing support and accommodation to young people and women experiencing homelessness;
  • Homes for Families to provide a ‘Housing First’ will be vital to ensuring some of our community’s most vulnerable are not forced to sleep in cars or on the street;
  • The continuation of Pride in Place, an LGBTIQA+ and homelessness services program, which VincentCare is proudly a part of.

This includes $45 million to expand the Journey to Social Inclusion program to end chronic homelessness. This program, run by a consortium including VincentCare, Sacred Heart Mission, The Salvation Army and Uniting Vic/Tas., will provide long-term, stable accommodation and generate at least $95 million of financial and economic benefits in the longer term. In the last fiscal year, the consortium positively impacted more than 100,000 individuals across the state through various local services.

We were heartened and relieved to see that this 'tough budget' went some way in addressing the needs of its community and we plan to continue to work with government to ensure that we have a voice at the table.

We know that responsibility lies with the government to address social issues like homelessness, poverty and the escalating cost of living. However, it's imperative to recognise that tackling these 'big-picture' problems requires collective effort from all sectors of society, including businesses and individuals.

That’s why our annual flagship Vinnies CEO Sleepout is such an important date on our calendars. The event doesn’t just aim to raise much-needed funds for our services and programs (this year we’re hoping to raise $1.5 million which will be channelled into tailored support services, expanded food services and essential community kitchens), it aims to raise awareness and shift the needle around how we speak about and respond to homelessness and poverty.

Together, with sustained effort, partnering with like-minded organisations and engaging the wider community, we can continue to build a stronger, more resilient Victoria.


Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

9 May 2024

#StateBudget #GoodWorks #Vinnies

Big Housing Build - Epping

Breaking ground on the Epping site

Yesterday, marked another significant milestone in our ongoing journey of assisting Victorians in need.

We gathered at Epping/Wollert for the sod turning ceremony of one of three current projects under the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Build initiative, facilitated by our designated housing provider, VincentCare Community Housing (VCCH).

Accompanied by Victorian Housing Minister Harriet Shing, alongside several St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria and VincentCare Community Housing Board members, we celebrated the commencement of construction on this much-anticipated housing project.

This event symbolised progress, growth and the tangible start of development.

In our complex world, it’s crucial to acknowledge and protect everyone’s basic right to housing. Having a stable home isn’t just about having a roof over one’s head; it’s about preserving dignity, promoting wellbeing and fostering social justice.

Addressing housing needs is pivotal in reducing poverty and inequality, particularly among marginalised groups. The housing crisis disproportionately affects single-parent families, and we are honoured to contribute to a collaborative effort that is quite literally building dreams.

At St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria, we know that keeping a roof over people’s heads is the starting point for everything else. Without that most fundamental human right in place, it is a long road to self-sufficiency and a good life.

With the right support, people can then embark on a journey towards education, employment and improved health, which enriches society as a whole. Stable housing fosters inclusion, enabling individuals to engage in their communities.

It’s wonderful to be part of an organisation that doesn’t just have a plan but is actively part of the solution. Through this initiative, we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring vulnerable families have a place to call home, where they can thrive and flourish.

At St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria and VincentCare Community Housing, our ultimate goal is to cultivate more compassionate communities. Yesterday, standing on very the ground where several new units will soon rise makes our mission tangible and promising, reinforcing our dedication to creating inclusive and supportive environments for all.


Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

4 April 2024

#BigHousingBuildEpping #GoodWorks #Vinnies

Change needs you

Earlier this week, we held the Ozanam Oration in the city as part of our 170-year celebrations.

Journalist Geraldine Doogue AO conducted an engaging interview with our guest speaker Robert Fitzgerald AM, the newly appointed National Aged Discrimination Commissioner. The theme spoke to our long, respected past, the current relevance of our mission and purpose, and our challenges in continuing our journey.

Robert spoke from the viewpoint of his long association with the St Vincent de Paul Society, going back to his days as a young volunteer member and then more recently as St Vincent de Paul Society NSW State President.

The conversation was illuminating, inspiring and challenging (in fact, I encourage you to watch the video). Robert made many interesting observations, but one point, in particular, grabbed my attention – the importance of radical thinking in driving positive change.

Of course, the radical thinking Robert is referring to is not without risk, but it’s the kind of risk all organisations need to take in order to grow, develop and perhaps even reimagine their mission.

While not shying away from acknowledging the challenge in this, Robert spoke of risk in the context of opportunity and perspective.

He shared the metaphor of looking up at the night sky and choosing to either focus on the dark or on the illumination of the stars.

This was the challenge faced by young Parisian university student Frederic Ozanam and his fellow caring students who asked themselves: “What can seven people do to alleviate all the suffering in Paris?” In short, “The need is too great? What difference can we really make?”

Of course, by then Frederic – a natural radical thinker – had already, consciously or unconsciously, made the choice to see the stars and not focus on the darkness.

He and his friends had responded to the challenge to ‘show us your works’. They humbly entered people’s homes and offered firewood and friendship – a hugely radical idea at the time that carried quite a lot of risk. Thanks to people like Frederic and his mentor Sister Rosalie Rendu, the notion of face-to-face compassionate care took off, but only when it was evident that lives were being positively impacted.

That's why our 170th celebrations hold such significance. We must look back into our history to grasp our journey from the past to the present, and chart our course – by the light of the stars – for the future—especially for those who depend on us.

This stands as both our challenge and our opportunity as we initiate our next strategic plan. I eagerly anticipate working on this collaboration with you as our journey continues.

Warmest wishes,

Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

7 March 2024

#170thCelebrations #GoodWorks #Vinnies #OzanamOration


Change needs you

I hold in my hands a copy of my first St Vincent de Paul Society Impact Report.

The report reflects what I see every day – our commitment to helping lift people out of crisis by providing essentials like food, clothing, shelter and healing support.

St Vincent de Paul Society's legacy has paved the way for today’s humanitarian principles. We are uniquely poised to alleviate homelessness and poverty. Government-backed housing services and our vast network of members and volunteers reach lives in almost every community.

There is little doubt that the need is out there. According to Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, between July 2011 and June 2022, specialised homeless services have stepped in to assist more than 1.6 million Australians. In Victoria, this urgency prevails with homelessness surging by 24 percent since 2016.

For some people, a period of insecure housing can be brief; for others, ongoing or chronic homelessness can be a feature of their lives. We believe that, in the large part, homelessness and poverty are transitional states that individuals can navigate with proper support.

Last week, we were fortunate to hear from someone who did just that – Diana.

Diana’s story began with us five years ago at that terrible juncture of escaping family violence, and continued as she and her children found housing and, then, their feet.

Today, Diana is a businesswoman, a proud Vinnies CEO Sleepout lived-experience ambassador, and a champion for financial independence, economic security and a brighter future for all women.

For almost 170 years, we have been here to uplift, empower and heal people like Diana.

Our Good Works aren't just about addressing immediate needs; they’re about laying the foundation for a brighter tomorrow. Providing pathways out of homelessness and poverty is both our mission and our track record.

I note that our 2022–2023 Impact Report is called 'Change Needs You' and that’s because it’s true.

Positive change needs everyone one of us to be on board.

I hope you enjoy reading our Impact Report as much as I did, and I look forward to the positive change we can all make in the coming year.


Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

30 November 2023

#ImpactReport #GoodWorks #Vinnies #ChangeNeedsYou

Nationally, advocating to increase government support

The Rental Affordability Index report, released last week, revealed the deeply concerning reality that Melbourne’s rental crisis is intensifying. The report indicates that Melbourne rents surged by 16% in the year to June, posing severe challenges for individuals and families already grappling with the rising cost of living.

The affordability of rental properties within 15km of the CBD has plummeted, eroding the affordability of most inner suburbs, leaving few options for those with average household incomes. Families are being pushed further from their jobs in pursuit of affordable housing, challenging the very fabric of our city's liveability.

As we navigate these challenging times, we recognise that ensuring access to affordable housing is not just a matter of policy, but a moral imperative rooted in human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights underscores that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their family, including housing.

This crisis has direct repercussions for the people we support. Many individuals and families, already living on the edge, are forced to make unimaginable sacrifices. Rent increases are not just numbers on a page: they translate to real people skipping meals, forgoing essential utilities and making heart-wrenching choices between shelter and sustenance.

Over the past year, we have seen a 20% increase in calls, with a notable rise in first-time callers from low-income households, pensioners and refugees, and people on low incomes. The reliance on Buy Now Pay Later products has also surged.

In the face of this crisis, we are committed to standing with the community we serve. Our financial counselling and emergency relief services have supported 1,846 individuals, with a total cost of approximately $228,700. These services play a crucial role in helping individuals navigate the financial challenges intensified by the rental affordability crisis.

As we confront such pressing issues, we call for urgent and holistic solutions.

Nationally, the St Vincent de Paul Society continues to advocate for increasing the rates of JobSeeker, Commonwealth Rent Assistance and other related payments. We echo the National Shelter-SGS Economics report's recommendations for increasing social and/or affordable housing stock, implementing minimum national rental standards and urgently progressing the National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

As we navigate through this rental affordability crisis, I have no doubt that, together, we will continue to be a source of support, hope and practical assistance for the vulnerable individuals and families we assist every day.


Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

23 November 2023

#HousingRental #GoodWorks #Vinnies 

Keeping the lights on this Christmas

No child should understand what the cost of living means or feels like.

We know that a growing number of Victorian families, some with young children, are finding it harder and harder to manage household expenses.

As the holiday season approaches, families are coming to us – often in desperation.

Assisting families with their utility, fuel, medicine and other ancillary costs helps take the pressure off.

Last year, St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria spent $4.3 million doing just that by chipping in for household items and other basic necessities.

Our members and volunteers did so quietly and without judgement, because they believe that every Victorian deserves to have the basics. When the basics are taken care of, then parents and carers can concentrate on what’s important – letting children be children during Christmas.

This is why we are putting the spotlight on children and childhood for our Keeping the Lights on this Christmas 2023 advocacy campaign.

I am a firm believer that every Victorian child should have the right to a good standard of living that includes time for family and fun. Children simply can’t grow and develop properly without these things.

Look out for our campaign on our social media and, importantly, join in the conversation. I also encourage you to learn more about the incredible work our teams do by visiting our website HERE.

We simply couldn’t do our Good Works without the generosity of our supporters and our National Vinnies Christmas Appeal. For decades, the Vinnies Christmas Appeal has been a cornerstone of the St Vincent de Paul Society, helping build just and compassionate communities.

As more and more families turn to us in their time of need, it’s crucial that Australians continue to support the appeal.

Every Victorian child deserves to have a bright future and a happy Christmas without worry.

Best regards

Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

9 November 2023

#KeepingTheLightsOn #GoodWorks #Vinnies #ChristmasAppeal

Victorian contingent at Congress 2023+

I felt privileged to join Victorian delegates in attending Congress 2023+ in Sydney last weekend. It was an excellent opportunity to come together as one Society – to reflect and respond to questions and challenges currently facing our organisation.

The 220 delegates from across Australia shared a deep sense of commitment to full participation in the Congress program. Across the weekend, delegates identified the key opportunities and issues facing the Society now and into the future. The diversity of voices, experiences and ideas was refreshing.

By Sunday, the key priority areas had been identified and responsive action plans crafted at a high level.

The Victorian delegation considered next steps, with a strong focus on communicating what we had heard and agreeing forward priorities with conferences across Victoria.

Spirituality centred all conversations and shaped a shared vision and purpose for the future. There was also time for celebration of the history of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia.

Delegates were invited to revisit our purpose, vision, mission with the key understanding that they all speak to the question at our core: ‘What is it that drives us to do what we do?’

Many delegates stood and told stories of their work and experiences in giving a hand up to people in need. The compassion, empathy and determination to assist were clearly evident in each story.

I was reinvigorated by the Congress weekend. It cemented for me that our purpose is to be a Society that addresses inequity in our communities, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion or any other status. We see the person in need of our love and care and we give freely to help them find a way forward in their lives.

We were born from the need to provide services and support to people in crisis in order to create welcoming and inclusive communities. I know that each and every day, you see the person, the individual, who comes to you in need. Your response to that need is our Mission in action. It is why we exist now and into the future.

Kind regards

Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

2 November 2023

#Congress2023+ #GoodWorks #Vinnies #ChristmasAppeal

Call to end child poverty

This week is Anti-Poverty Week* – an annual event that champions a collective effort to raise awareness and address poverty. This year’s worthy theme is “Call to end child poverty”.

In Australia, 3.3 million people** – including 761,000 children – live below the poverty line, struggling to access basic necessities and cover essential household expenses.

The impact on children is particularly distressing, as a child’s formative years are so very crucial. It is astounding that in a nation as affluent as ours, one in six children still lives in poverty-affected households. This predicament extends beyond the realm of unemployed families, reaching parents who are engaged in part-time or precarious employment.

Over the next week or so you will hear and read much about poverty. This certainly isn’t new to our volunteers, members and crisis teams, who see the need in the faces they meet every day.

That’s why we’re delighted to tell the world about the real-life difference our services and programs are making in the lives of people who need it most. We are proud that, as an organisation, we not only look for ways to lift people out of crisis, but we also create genuine pathways out of poverty.

If you aren’t aware of our education support programs then let me introduce to you to them here. Our eight weekly education support programs, which run across Victoria for primary and high school children, are trauma-informed, based on empathy and a growth-mindset in order to:

  • build academic skills, especially in literacy and maths;
  • build confidence, resilience to help achieve dreams by focusing on meeting the young person ‘where they are at’.

This year, our eight education programs have doubled their efforts. Comparing the previous financial year with the year before, the number of students supported rose by 93% (6,200+ students) and the number of hours provided rose by an incredible 115% (10,600+ hours).

This is what we mean when we say that education is key to helping lift young lives and breaking the cycle of poverty.

Please take the time to watch this short video below of our dedicated volunteers and parents from our Education Program.

What’s immediately apparent in this video is that they have each seen education's inspirational power first-hand – as have I. It’s beautiful and transformative. Please join me in celebrating our mission to combat poverty and inequality in our society by sharing our stories with your family and friends.

Best wishes

Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer

19 October 2023

#EndChildPoverty #GoodWorks #Vinnies

*Normally, Anti-Poverty Week runs for a week, this year it’s over a two-week period.

**1 Poverty in Australia, ACOSS & UNSW (2020)

CEO Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald helps make sandwiches for the Inner City Soup Van Hub

Inner-city Soup Van Hub visit

Today we launched our Spring Appeal.

The focus is on tackling the substantial challenge of food insecurity that has been significantly impacting our fellow Victorians.

The rising cost of living has hit hard, leaving many vulnerable individuals and families struggling to afford essential food items. Our Spring Appeal seeks to ease this burden and ensure that no one has to go hungry in our community.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of witnessing, once again, the dedication and compassion that define our organisation at our Inner-city Soup Van Hub team.

As I toured the facility, the need for our services was evident as we discussed our most vulnerable Victorians’ growing need for food. People are seeking support for food after paying for other necessities such as rent, mortgage, utilities, petrol, public transport, medical and education expenses.

I joined in the sandwich-making process. Knowing 700+ sandwiches being prepared that day for delivery was a powerful reminder of the profound effects of our efforts on the lives of people we serve.

At Kensington, I was once again reminded that empty plates are not a sign of a fair society. We must do more.

Together with our donors, we have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference. Every contribution to our Spring Appeal provides vital support, ensuring that no one faces these challenges alone. By uniting in our efforts, we can fill more than just empty plates – we can fill lives with hope, nourishment and the promise of a better tomorrow.


Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer
1 September 2023

#NoEmptyPlates #GoodFoodOnEveryTable #GoodWorks #Vinnies #SpringAppeal


Message from our CEO

National Homelessness Week (7–13 August)

This week is one of the most important dates on our annual calendar – National Homelessness Week.

Since joining St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria about a month ago, one figure has haunted me – the 24 per cent increase in homelessness in Victoria since the last census. It is shocking to me that on any given night, there are 24,000 Victorians that count as being homeless.

As our frontline teams know all too well – and as I am quickly discovering – there is no one person who fits a ‘homelessness’ profile. Homelessness can be an unexpected medical or large car repair bill away or, simply, ‘a perfect storm’ of misfortune due to the combination of rising rent, utility and food prices. 

Our services and programs help prevent vulnerable people from becoming homeless and support others on their journey out of homelessness towards independence. How wonderful to say that our organisation is part of the solution.

I have been reflecting and trying to understand what policies and systems are needed to help move people out of crisis and into secure, stable housing, employment and safety. I think that is our big challenge right across Victoria.

Our theme and call to action during this year’s Vinnies CEO Sleepout was “Change Needs You”.

I believe in this a hundred per cent. I believe that we are all called – as individuals and members of the community – to respond and have a say. The community must come together to decide what needs to be done, and how can we make a positive change individually and socially.

This is why St Vincent de Paul Society has partnered with the Everybody’s Home campaign. The campaign, which is supported by Australia’s leading charities, invites the community to join and continue to build momentum in encouraging the government to fund more social housing. You can find out more about the campaign HERE.

Don’t forget that change can also start with a conversation, so please consider starting your own conversation or sharing our stories on your own socials or ours by using these hashtags #ItsTimeToEndHomelessness #NationalHomelessnessWeek2023.

To learn more about what we, as an organisation, are doing to help change that shocking, haunting statistic, please take some time to read about the important work that our frontline teams do every day here on our website.

Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM
Chief Executive Officer
6 August 2023

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