From our CEO

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, to donate click here.

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