Acknowledging 20 years of welcoming asylum seekers.

The Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre (ASWC) in Brunswick recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Founded in 2002 by a number of agencies, including the Brunswick Uniting Church and the now Merri-bek Council, the centre welcomes and supports people seeking a safer life in Australia.

While waiting for decisions on their applications to be processed, many people seeking asylum are isolated in the community with very little or no form of assistance, and with few rights or entitlements. The primary aim of the ASWC has been to create the opportunity for people to make decisions about their own lives, with a strong emphasis on mutual support and learning, while providing a safe place of welcome.

Client of the centre, Rehan* says “the ASWC is a place of hope and I see it as my second home. It is a very welcoming place with friendly workers and volunteers.”

Over 150 people gathered to celebrate the milestone, and the overwhelming feeling was one of positivity, enduring community connections, and a melting pot across the community of people involved with the centre – agencies, donors, clients, staff, ex-staff and volunteers.

Entertainment took the form of a jazz band, a children’s entertainer and face painter, photo booth, Ethiopian coffee ceremony, as well as a performance by singer and ASWC volunteer Liz Stringer.

The event was attended not just by current ASWC staff and clients, but also those from throughout the centre’s 20 year history. The universal response was that the event was a resounding success. Warm, generous, welcoming and compassionate. Just like the centre itself.

Learn more about our multicultural services.

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured.

16 Days of Activism – 2022 Walk Against Family Violence

On the 25th of November, Uniting staff and volunteers across Victoria and Tasmania joined together to participate in the 2022 ‘Walk Against Family Violence.’ The walk marked the first day of 16 Days of Activism, an annual international campaign to raise awareness of gender-based violence.

Uniting was proud to walk in solidarity with victim-survivors and to honour those who have lost their lives to gender-based violence. As one of our specialist AOD family violence practitioners shared, “It was heartening to see so many people walk in solidarity with survivors of domestic and family violence today. It’s thanks to the relentless work of survivor advocates and grassroots organisations around the world over the past 30 years that we’ve reached a point where people from all walks of life – regardless of culture, age, or gender – are standing together and calling out the violence. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a whole lot of work to do, and lasting change requires a whole community approach!”

Sadly, for many of our consumers, experiences of gender-based violence are a contributing factor in seeking Uniting’s support. Uniting staff witness first-hand the impacts of gender-based violence on the lives of women and children across all our services, not just in family violence. By taking part in the 16 Days of Activism campaign, Uniting affirms its commitment to our consumers and finding real solutions to end gender-based violence.

Learn more about our Family Violence Support Services.

The Victorian Response to Homelessness – Parity September 2022 Edition

In the lead up to the state election, Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) called for contributions exploring the Victorian response to homelessness to feature in their September 2022 edition of Parity magazine. At the heart of this edition is the collective call for access to secure, safe, and affordable housing for vulnerable households, and what needs to be put in place to achieve this.

Uniting Vic.Tas contributed three articles to this edition, the first written by Senior Manager Homelessness, Ballarat, Barwon and Western Division, Adam Liversage. ‘Homelessness in Regional Victoria’ reflects on the success of Homelessness Week as a key vehicle for awareness raising across the Ballarat region, and the opportunity for real and expansive change if funding is continued for initiatives put in place during the pandemic, such as the Homelessness 2 Home (H2H) program.

Adam’s piece shines a light on the experiences of Uniting’s frontline staff who are working with increasing demand at our homelessness entry points, and the urgent need for increased and ongoing funding to adequately support regional communities:

“In Ballarat alone, if the Entry Point were to see all of the unmet demand, those who presented and couldn’t be seen, we would have projected to have seen 2,500 people this financial year. We only have funding for just over 1,200 per year! So
far this year the Ballarat entry point has turned away over 600 people seeking our service…”

You can read Adam’s full article here.

Research recently undertaken by The Centre for Social Impact (CSI), Swinburne University of Technology, in partnership with Uniting practitioners, sought to identify outcomes for people engaged with the Homelessness to a Home (H2H) program. H2H recipients were asked about the contribution of the service to outcomes and changes in life areas, the
findings of which are presented in our second article in this edition ‘The Homelessness to a Home Program Outcomes in Rural Victoria’, authored by Professor Erin Wilson and team.

The H2H program is based on the principles of Housing First programs. The findings of this research contribute to the growing body of evidence that Housing First is highly effective in providing housing stability for people with a history of longterm homelessness and complex needs. Many of the people surveyed spoke about how secure housing can be
transformative and provide stability in other areas of life:

Since I moved into this unit, that gave me the stable housing I was looking for. Everything else is much easier now I have stable housing.

“Feeling I have a support network is monumental for someone used to living in limbo. Having the security of knowing where you’re going to be next week, next month, etc. Home security is everything.”

You can read more about the findings of this research in the full article, here.

The final article contributed by Uniting Vic.Tas is an opinion piece written by Manager of Advocacy & Public Policy, Tom Johnson. Tom’s article applies a broad policy lens to these issues, exploring the scale of homelessness in Victoria, and the necessity for longterm, evidencebased policy and funding frameworks to enable substantive change. The article
outlines how Uniting continues to advocate for the expansion and establishment of longterm strategies and practices that support crisis intervention, recognising though that this can only achieve so much. Alongside this, Uniting continues to call on the Victorian Government to formally respond to the state parliamentary inquiry into homelessness, delivered in March 2021.

You can read more of Tom’s article on homelessness in Victoria here.

Early learning educators celebrated at the Victorian Early Years Awards.

Congratulations to our Early Learning educators who were finalists in this year’s Victorian Early Years Awards.

Julie Fitt, Director of St. Columbas Uniting Kindergarten in Sale, was a finalist in the Early Childhood Teacher of the Year Award category. Her nomination recognises Julie’s philosophy of teaching children to have respect for themselves, others, and the environment, coupled with her commitment to her staff’s ongoing professional development. View Julie’s nomination.

The team at Buninyong Uniting Kindergarten were finalists in the Continuity of Early Learning Award category. In partnership with Buninyong Primary School, they were recognised for initiating a collaborative action research project which continues to shape positive outcomes for children transitioning to school from kindergarten. View the Buninyong team’s nomination.

While they didn’t take home an award, it was an absolute honour to see our early learning educators be amongst those celebrated and acknowledged for their achievements and dedication.

The Victorian Early Years Awards were held on Wednesday, 9 November and attended by Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep Ms Ingrid Stitt MLC.

View the full list of the 2022 Victorian Early Years Awards winners and nominees.

Once in a generation leadership needed to tackle Victoria’s housing and homelessness problem.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO, Bronwyn Pike today called on the major political parties in the upcoming Victorian Election to commit to an intergenerational stepchange in funding social housing and homelessness services.

Ms Pike made the call as Uniting launched its Victorian election brief on housing and homelessness.

The brief calls on the incoming government to address homelessness and deliver more social housing across Victoria.

Victoria is in the midst of a housing crisis, driven by longterm underinvestment in social housing and exacerbated by the rising cost of living and increasing poverty. Homelessness services, like those provided by Uniting and other community housing organisations are now stretched beyond sustainable limits, she said.

“Victoria is at a fork in the road we must act now or our homelessness and social housing emergency will deepen.

Ms Pike said an incoming government must commit to serious and sustained social housing construction and a response to homelessness founded on Housing First principles, like the Homeless to a Home (H2H) program.

Victoria‘s proportion of social housing is 30 per cent less than the national average of 4.2 per cent,” she said.

Victoria has historically underspent on social and affordable housing. While programs such as the Big Housing Build are significant, it is a oneoff program that won’t seriously turn around the homelessness crisis on its own.

We need 60,000 new public and community homes by 2031, which demands an ongoing commitment.

With evidence consistently showing homelessness disproportionately affects women, Indigenous Victorians, youth, and those suffering mental health problems, we want all sides of politics to commit to evidencebased homelessness programs.

Uniting has also continued to call on the Victorian Government to respond to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness, which delivered its report in March last year. This report delivered 37 recommendations all of which the government has yet to respond.

Read our full brief here.

Budget a ‘positive start’ but more needed to address immediate cost-of-living pressures.

One of Victoria and Tasmania’s largest not-for-profit community services providers, Uniting Vic.Tas today welcomed the key social reforms in the 2022-23 Federal Budget, but warned more support was required to address immediate cost-of-living challenges.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the ambitious social housing program to deliver one million new dwellings over five years, cheaper childcare, expanded paid parental leave and boosting family violence support were among the highlights.

Uniting Vic.Tas has previously committed $20 million towards social housing, including a plan to build 500 new homes across Victoria and Tasmania.

“We’re really pleased the Government has prioritised social housing in its first Budget,” Ms Pike said.

“Homelessness and housing affordability is a national crisis which has been ignored for too long, so a program like this is long overdue.

“However, the crisis is happening now, and we’re concerned that relief for people is still several years away – more action needs to be taken now. Every day we turn away people from our homelessness services because there’s no accommodation available.”

“We welcome the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children and the additional funding for the Escaping Violence Program, which we deliver across the country. This program is already helping thousands of women live safer lives.

“There was some cost relief around medicines and the price of prescriptions, however, it’s disappointing there wasn’t more relief for people struggling with the cost-of-living.

“We recently released a report on the impact of the cost-of-living on Victorians and Tasmanians on low incomes which showed 92 per cent of people cutting back on food, and many struggling to even keep the lights on.

“We would have liked to have seen more of an increase in funding for emergency relief and some targeted assistance to help people with their energy bills.

“We’ve also consistently called for an increase to income support rates – too many people are still living in poverty.”

Ms Pike said the childcare assistance package would help more women return to the workforce.

“In our report we heard from young mothers who were struggling to balance the costs of childcare with feeding their families and paying bills – so it will make a difference,” Ms Pike said.

“The boost in free TAFE places will also help more vulnerable people get back to work. However, we would have liked to see the Government increase the time people can work without it impacting their income support.”

Learn more about Uniting Vic.Tas.

Affordable, safe, and secure housing is an essential human right.

“I’m living in a van with a queen-sized mattress and a tiny tv, with three kids, my niece, my children’s father and myself.

I want them (the Tasmanian Government) to know that my four-year-old son asks, mum where are we staying tonight? Every night that’s what he asks me. And every night I’ve got to say, the van buddy. And he says no mummy I want to stay in a hotel, I don’t want to stay there.

It’s so hard to hear my four-year-old son say where are we staying, and that he wants to stay in a hotel not a van. I’ve never lived this way, and I’ve never pictured myself living this way. And it is disgusting. Its gross. The only thing I’m trying to do is protect my three children.”

– Sarah*

This week, Uniting Vic.Tas provided a submission to the consultation for the Tasmanian Housing Strategy. In putting this submission together, we had the privilege of hearing directly from Tasmanian consumers about their experiences with housing and homelessness, what access to safe, secure, and affordable housing would mean for themselves and their families, and what they would like to see changed.

For Rachel*,  access to safe, secure, and affordable housing would mean:
“I wouldn’t have to ask my mum for food, or for her to cook meals for us to have in the freezer. We (my son and I) would be able to build memories and have fun, not every day but at least occasionally. Bake a cake for someone’s birthday and not have to ask for help all the time.

We could do more things; we could eat better. Not have to make the choice between working all the time to be able to send him to day-care, which means for him he can socialise and get the educational benefits, but then I never get to see him. So, I stay home now to look after him which is cheaper, and we get to bond, but he misses out on everything that goes with day-care.

It would mean I would be able to buy him (my son) something new for the first time, not second hand. He has never had a toy that came in the box, brand new. He doesn’t understand that
now, but he will soon, and I just hope things are different by then.”

– Rachel*

Affordable, safe, and secure housing is an essential human right that underpins a person’s capacity to live a dignified, healthy, and meaningful life within their community. Notwithstanding the current cost of living pressures across Australia, we are a wealthy nation, and have the resources to ensure that everyone can be part of a safe and supportive community, with appropriate, affordable housing. To read the submission in full, click here.

Jeremey’s Story

At 49 years old, Jeremey found himself sleeping rough.

“Looking back, I think lots of things melded together over a long period and led to my
homelessness,” he explained.

Jeremey’s challenging childhood meant he faced adversity early on.

“I came from a broken home, my father left when I was six.

“I went to a different primary school every year of my life.

“I actually think homelessness, movement and that transient lifestyle was part of my life
from the outset.”

Jeremey’s life was further complicated.

He lives with a disability called spinocerebellar ataxia. This genetic disorder affects the nervous system. It often results in poor movement and coordination, difficulties with walking, speech, vision and fine motor skills.

Fast forward to 2019, the loving father of three found himself in a tragic downward spiral.

“I lost my business. And then my relationship with my partner broke up.

“I was getting increasingly sick and wasn’t talking to people.

“I didn’t look after my mental health.

“I started drinking instead of paying my bills. I just gave up on everything.”

Jeremey was exhausted.

“I’d always fought my way out of things but this time I was lost.”

After considering sleeping in his car, Jeremey decided to move into the bush as that would
be more comfortable for his dog, Brown Eyes.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” Jeremey said

“I thought I can’t be out on the streets with my dog.

“So, I ended up in the bush.”

Jeremey found himself sleeping rough deep in bushland in the central highlands of north-
western Victoria.

Knowing he could not survive long without shelter, Jeremey used $300 of his few remaining
savings to buy an old 1970s van.

“It wasn’t really a van. It wasn’t something you could go camping in,” he said.

“Slowly over time I made it more and more liveable.”

This van was to be Jeremey’s ‘home’ for 18 months.

It gave him a small but vital refuge from gruelling sub-zero temperatures and piercing, icy
winds.

“It was freezing,” he said

“The wind would just blow straight through the van.”

Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

“The isolation in the end got me, especially when Covid hit.

“I missed my kids ‘cos they’ve always been in my life, I don’t have a lot of friends, so my
life was my children.

“It got lonely, very lonely and I got sick of myself.”

Jeremey’s situation became increasingly dire.

Then one day a chance encounter with Uniting Ballarat’s outreach team marked the turning
point in this single father’s life.

“When Uniting came along and found me, they were looking for someone else,” Jeremey
said.

“And I just said, well look I’ve been out here for months and I haven’t got any money.”

Stacey, Team Leader at Uniting Ballarat’s Street 2 Home program, remembers that early
meeting.

“When we first met Jeremey, he had been rough sleeping for 18 months. He was out in the
bush,” Stacey says.

“His weight had dropped. His physical health had deteriorated. His appearance was sunken
because he couldn’t access fresh water or showers or basic hygiene and health needs.”

Jeremey’s homelessness had taken its toll but the Uniting team sensed an opportunity to
help foster a better life for him.

They began assisting him with finding a home. Most importantly of all, they gave him the
care and help he needed to reconnect with others.

“When the Street 2 Home team told me about a home in Creswick, I was excited,” he said.

“My caseworker told me that he’s got a home for me, he’ll help me furnish it.”

Jeremey recalls his first night in the new home.

“I slept in a bed.

“I hadn’t slept in a bed for over 18 months, it was lovely.

“I slept like a log.

“The Street 2 Home team even bought my dog a bed; she was pretty happy.”

A year later, and having turned his own life around, Jeremey was the perfect candidate to
join Uniting Ballarat’s Street 2 Home team.

“Now I work here, they can’t get rid of me,” Jeremey jokes.

“My role at Uniting is officially Street 2 Home Homeless Peer Support Worker, I’m extremely
proud of that.

“I have the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had in my life.

“And I love seeing people I work with everyday smile, it’s awesome.”

As someone who has experienced the heart-breaking reality of sleeping rough, Jeremey
sees homelessness on the rise. He knows more needs to be done.

“As a single parent, what I went through before would be 10 times worse now,” he said.

“I feel so much for low-income people, single parents, unemployed people, my goodness.

“How can they pay for rent on a Newstart allowance?

“There’s an element of unfairness in our society at the moment that we really need to
address. The way we live, it’s just not right.”

Yes, Jeremey fortuitously crossed paths with Uniting. But sadly another 116,000 people face
homelessness every night of the year.

Another 190,000 households are on the waiting list for social housing. And it can take up to
eight years for someone to be housed.

At Uniting, we are experiencing a 53% increase in demand for our services and we are
trying our best to help every person and family who has fallen on hard times.

However, we can’t do it alone.

You can support people across Victoria and Tasmania doing it tough this Christmas.

Donate now.

Carers Week: A time to recognise our unsung heroes

As part of Carers Week, Uniting Vic.Tas is celebrating the invaluable contributions carers make to the lives of millions of people across Victoria and Tasmania.

Whether it’s providing a home for vulnerable children, supporting people with a disability, or taking an elderly neighbour to their medical appointments, carers come in many different forms.

Some carers look after another person 24 hours a day, while other carers help with specific tasks, such as housework, transport or shopping.

Uniting Vic.Tas is one of the providers of Carer Gateway, a national program funded by the Australian Government, which offers a diverse range of support services for unpaid carers and improve their own wellbeing.

A partnership with Merri Health, our Carer Gateway program operates across Melbourne’s east, Gippsland, the Goulburn North East and Albury/Wodonga regions with services provided in- person, online or over-the-phone.

Catherine is a carer for her two sons. Her eldest son was diagnosed with autism when he was two and her other son, has developmental delays.

“I didn’t really recognise the impact (being a full-time carer) would have on my life,” Catherine said.

“When the autism diagnosis was made, I suddenly realised – ‘this is it, this is for life’ – so that’s when I called up Carer Gateway and it’s when things really changed, and I got the support I needed.

“Nobody really grows up thinking I want to be a carer. That’s not how we expect life to go. But life takes these twists and turns that we never expected or imagined.

“There’s a beauty in it (being a carer). The joy we have in our children meeting milestones – there’s so many things to smile about and we know there’s so much support for us.”

Uniting Vic.Tas Carer Services Manager Julia Fitzsimons said Carers Week, which continues until Sunday, is a time to come together and recognise all carers.

“It’s an important time to celebrate carers and recognise the ‘hidden carers’ in our community and make sure they have the support they need,” Ms Fitzsimons said.

Carer Gateway is available for unpaid carers who support people with a disability, chronic medical condition, mental illness or ageing related condition, such as dementia or mobility issues.

For more information on support for carers, visit Carer Gateway.

About Uniting
For over 100 years, Uniting has delivered community services across Victoria and Tasmania, supporting people at every stage of their lives. We empower children, young people and families to learn and thrive. We’re there for people experiencing homelessness, family violence, drug and alcohol addiction or mental health issues.

We provide people with opportunities to access training and meaningful employment and are proud to welcome and support asylum seekers into our community.

Find out more about our carer services’. 

‘Can’t afford to live’ as rising costs hit most vulnerable.

New research from Uniting Vic.Tas has uncovered the devastating impact the rising cost of living is having on Victoria and Tasmania’s most vulnerable.

The ‘Can’t afford to live: The impact of the rising cost of living on Victorians and Tasmanians on low incomes’ report, which was carried out by Uniting Vic.Tas and Swinburne University’s Centre for Social Impact, was launched today as part of Anti-Poverty Week.

The Uniting report lays bare the crippling effect the rising cost of living is having on the most vulnerable low-income earners across both states.

For the report, 112 people were surveyed including those on income support, working full-time, parents, carers and retirees. It found:

  • 92 per cent were cutting back on food and groceries due to costs
  • 85 per cent of parents with children under 18 were experiencing poor mental health as a result of rising costs
  • Women were more likely than men to be bearing the brunt of cost-of-living pressures
  • More than one in 10 reported an increased risk of family violence due to the strain of making ends meet

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said many families are being forced to make impossible choices between everyday essentials.

“People can only live a safe and dignified life if they can afford life’s essentials and can live free from constant worry about how they will keep a roof over their heads and food on their table,” Ms Pike said.

“A basic standard of living means being able to turn on the lights and not worry about having the power cut off. It means being able to afford food, rent, energy, water, medicine and education, without being pushed into financial stress or crisis.

The report found Tasmanians were among the hardest hit and more likely to be experiencing significant disadvantage due to cost-of-living pressures, including` struggling to pay rent, financial difficulties, poorer mental health and increased reliance on alcohol and drugs.

Tasmanians were also 25 per cent more likely to be experiencing difficulties with their housing situation due to the rising cost of living.

Jeremy Pettet, Executive Officer of Uniting Tasmania said the research supports what staff and volunteers see every day when people come into our emergency relief services to access food and material aid.

“Affording the necessities is now out of reach for many.” he said.

One person surveyed summed up the heartbreaking choices they are forced to make every day: “You pay rent, you buy groceries, and you freeze, or you buy groceries, you turn on the heater and (can’t afford) rent.”

A parent summed up their despair at the rising cost of living: “[The most significant impact is on] my mental health, I feel like a failure as a parent because I can’t afford to care for my children.”

As part of the release of the report, Uniting Vic.Tas is calling for changes to help ease cost of living pressures on low-income and other vulnerable people:

  • Raising the level of income support – JobSeeker and parenting payments
  • Increasing the rate of rent assistance
  • Greater funding for community services including emergency relief – such as foodbanks – as well as housing and tenancy, mental health, employment and social isolation support

The ‘Can’t afford to live: The impact of the rising cost of living on Victorians and Tasmanians on low incomes’ report was published on the Uniting Vic.Tas website at 10am Wednesday 19 October.

Read the report now

Above and beyond normal parenting.

Above and beyond normal parenting.

“It can take a long time to emotionally grapple with the words ‘disability’ and ‘carer’. They’re big words to come to term with,” said Catherine.

Catherine’s son, Luke, was diagnosed with autism in 2020. Her second child, Ben, was later diagnosed with developmental delay and is currently undergoing the autism spectrum disorder diagnostic proccess.

“Having a child with additional needs is really above and beyond normal parenting.

“When I look at my to-do-list, my email inbox, my calendar, 90 to 99% is probably to do with the boys’ additional needs.”

Catherine explains that on top of all the logistical and practical demands of being a carer, there is also an emotional pain that isn’t always spoken about.

“Luke has never actually been able to tell me he loves me because he actually can’t say those words and that is heartbreaking.”

Becoming a carer is something most people don’t anticipate happening, Catherine goes on to describe.

“It’s a role that we didn’t ask for, that we didn’t choose, and it’s been thrown on us and we are coping with it as best we can.

“Disability, mental illness, addiction – whatever it is for the person we are caring for, they didn’t choose that, they didn’t want that, and we’re caring for them and we didn’t really anticipate that either.

“I think what we can contribute is helping the people we care for live to their full potential.”

If you find yourself in a similar position to Catherine, it is important to remember that you’re not alone and there is support out there for you.

“Caring doesn’t have to swamp everything. And if it is swamping everything then that means you need more help.

“There is a lot of support for carers now. That will be offered to you. And you’ll make wonderful new friends that you never would have met before.

Today Catherine finds so much beauty in her role as a carer.

“When our son Luke said his first word, after he started speech therapy at 16 months, he said his first word aged three years and one month. And that was incredible.

“Celebrate so much, the little milestones because they are so significant.

Get the help you need to improve your wellbeing and maintain your quality of life as a part-time, full-time or even an occasional carer.

Find out more about Carer services

Watch Catherine’s video

Geographical area and visa status no barrier to mental health and wellbeing support

Being able to offer wellbeing support when and where it is needed is helping address an unmet need in communities.

Uniting Vic.Tas is one of a group of service providers involved in 23 new Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs around Victoria. These Hubs are an initiative from the State Government in response to the significant mental health impact of COVID. The Hubs provide free and confidential support to people of all ages to help with a range of different issues or life stressors.

Toni Smith, a mental health team leader in the Cheltenham area says partnering with EACH to deliver a Hub has meant her team can now deliver services to relieve the stress and anxiety of those in the community they may not have previously been able to reach.

“It’s a very unique service in that the criteria to be accepted into the program is virtually minimal. Age is not a barrier, geographical area is not a barrier, and diagnosis is not a barrier,” says Toni.

“If you have a Visa you can be accepted, and that’s a really rare. It’s open to every facet of the community, which makes it so attractive, and it actually fills a lot of gaps.”

The Hub has seen the Mental Health and Wellbeing Team active in the community offering support to those experiencing ongoing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, substance use or addiction, financial difficulties, homelessness or housing stress, and loneliness or social isolation.

Through the Hub, Mental Health and Wellbeing workers have been able to provide the support needed to help relieve much of their clients’ stresses and anxieties. Examples of the support they provide range from helping people from non-English speaking backgrounds successfully prepare NDIS applications, taking Polly the kelpie on her daily walks while her owner was receiving care in hospital, to providing companionship to those who may be feeling isolated.

Toni says rapport-building, consistency of care, listening, and providing social companionship are key to supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing, and helping them achieve their goals.

“The Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub program has given us the flexibility to connect with our clients through one-on-one meetings here in the office, and out in the community. We’re engaging with them by basing ourselves in community centres, as well as by travelling to their homes,” says Toni.

“[Our clients] have so many worries about so many things, because they haven’t had people to turn to. They come with five or six things at once, that are all as important as each other. Importantly, through the Hub, our clients now have the assurance of knowing they have regular, consistent support and workers to talk to,” says Toni.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs are part of a $13.3 million Victorian Government commitment to provide easier access to mental health support via innovative local pop-up mental health services to deliver the support people need, close to their homes, as they continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To find out more about Victoria’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs visit Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs – Better Health Channel.

Giving children experiencing disadvantage the best start to their education.

Uniting Vic.Tas has launched an innovative early education program to provide more support to children at heightened risk or who are experiencing social disadvantage and significant family stress.

Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth The Hon Dr Anne Aly MP and Local Member for Richmond Richard Wynne MP, helped launch the SEED (Specialist Early Education and Development) program at Uniting Vic.Tas Cooke Court early learning centre in Richmond.

The centre will aim to reproduce the results of the Early Years Education research program with our partners The Parkville Institute, the Australian Government Department of Education, the Victorian Government and Yarra City Council.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the program has an intensive early intervention and care approach looking to equip vulnerable children with the learning and developmental support they need as they start their education journey.

“The results of the original trial showed significant improvement in children’s cognitive skills including language and speech, resilience, social and emotional development,” Ms Pike said.

“As one of Victoria’s largest not-for-profit community services providers we’ve been providing early learning services across Victoria for more than a century. We know how critical early childhood experiences are for development and can have life‑long impacts on learning, health and behaviour.

“This program is about making sure children who experience family stress or social disadvantage can start school with confidence and developmentally equal with their peers.”

Parkville Institute Co-Director of Research and Practice Associate Professor Brigid Jordan said it was giving children experiencing disadvantage and family stress the best start to their education.

“Adverse early experiences cause significant disruption to brain development, emotional and behavioural regulation and the ability to cope with stress,” Associate Professor said.

“(This) can jeopardise the development of the skills and attributes required for successful learning and a healthy life. We are working to reverse these disruptive effects and deliver better outcomes for children and families.”

Pictured: Left to right Bronwyn Pike, Richard Wynne MP, Hon Dr Anne Aly MP and Robyn Goodwill

Developing a lived experience workforce for mental health services

At the beginning of February this year, Uniting was proud to be one of the six organisations chosen to offer the Lived Experience Peer Cadet Program. This employment opportunity is available for people with lived experience undertaking the Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work.

The 12-month paid Cadetship is centred around assisting participants in developing their practical and personal experience so they can effectively work in the role of a lived experience consumer or career peer worker within a large community mental health service.

“The Peer Cadet Program is about establishing and developing the lived experience workforce so there is a pathway towards meaningful employment within the industry,” said Luke, one of program’s participants.

“For myself it’s been quite a good, stepped approach into the industry, especially considering I’ve come from outside it.”

Luke worked within the Australian Defence Force for 18 years before he decided on a career change.

“I did some soul searching and wanted to find out exactly what was important in my life and re-evaluate my values. This led me towards changing careers and focusing on mental health.

“I’ve got a real connection to this industry personally. Just due to my own struggles with mental health and my own recovery and having seen previous colleagues take their own lives.

“When I was studying Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work, I was recommended by one of my teachers to apply for this Cadetship and specifically I was told Uniting had a good program.”

While Luke is in the infancy stages of his career, he says the program’s expansive opportunities allow him insight into the many avenues available to him.

“I’m still deciding on what path I want to take but I suppose that’s the great thing about this Cadetship is there’s no pressure towards a specific path.

“It’s been great in assisting me to set up boundaries so that this work is a sustainable career path for the future.”

Amy, the Cadetship’s Project Lead at Uniting, says lived experience employees have a lot to offer the workforce.

“It’s important in building relationships with the people we work with. It breaks down the stigma for people accessing our services and asking for help,” she says.

“As a lived experience worker, you have that awareness that we can’t necessarily fix people’s problems, but we can walk alongside them as they figure out what they want in their lives or their recovery.”

Luke adds that lived experience workers can help inspire those currently struggling with their mental health.

“I suppose we provide a level of hope that recovery is attainable and achievable. If anything, we can be role models to people who are going through mental health difficulties, to show that there really is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Find out more about our services

Possum skin, a story of strengthened tradition, cultural identity and healing.

Possum skin tells the story of strengthened tradition, cultural identity, and spiritual healing in Aboriginal communities.

Uniting Vic Tas through its Communities for Children Hume Program collaborated with Hume City Council to run the Parents as Teachers (PAT) Project.

PAT is a home visiting program that engages with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with children up to the age of three years. This program also supports parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to identify their strengths and work towards positive personal and interpersonal outcomes. One of these is the Possum Skin Workshop.

In the workshop, parents showcase the significance of their respective possum skins, discuss the symbolism and meaning of the designs, and reflect on how the cloaks strengthen cultural identity and what it means for the next generation.

A proud Kija Bardi woman

Salty’s mum is one of the participants in the program. In this story, she reflects on how Salty will be brought up as a proud Kija Bardi woman just like her mother, her aunties, and her Ja Ja (grandfather).

“The design on the skin tells the story of our land back over in the Kimberley region in north Western Australia. Our Kija mob is represented by the bungle bungles and our totem animal the big red kangaroo. Our Bardi mob is represented by the ocean and the coast with our tribal totem animal—the tiger shark swimming. They are connected throughout the design with footsteps and tracks connecting both our lands. It represents the history, our family’s journey, and the connection between the two mobs. Three symbols through the centre of the piece depict a man, followed by two women standing for Salty’s grandfather, her mother (me) and her. Towards the bottom right is a piece in the design that tributes Salty’s strong female presence in her life representing her grandmother, mother and three aunties.”

Our past, present, and future are always linked

Lia* contemplates her family’s journey and how symbols in the possum skin play an important role in healing.

*Not their real name

Effective July 2022, the PAT Project has transitioned to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Engagement Project. It remains to be coordinated by Hume City Council, in partnership with Uniting Vic Tas under its CfC Hume Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

The Orange Door Network now available in the Wimmera

Wimmera residents now have access to co-ordinated family violence and child wellbeing services in the one place with the opening of The Orange Door in Horsham.

A partnership between Uniting Vic.Tas, Grampians Community Health, Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative and the Victorian Government, it will provide face-to-face and outreach services to people experiencing, or who have experienced family violence, across the region.

As well as visiting the Horsham service in person, virtual and face-to-face outreach support will be available at locations across the Wimmera from later this year. The Wimmera includes the local government areas of Hindmarsh, Horsham, Northern Grampians, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack.

From early 2023, two Orange Door practitioners will be co-located at local services throughout the region one day a week and available for face-to-face meetings. Outreach workers will also be available to meet with people where they feel most comfortable.

The Orange Door network is now operating in 15 areas across the state with a further two areas on track to open by the end of 2022.

The Orange Door network is at 3-7 Madden Street, Horsham and is open Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

For more information and contact details visit orangedoor.vic.gov.au

Giving voice to young people in out-of-home care

“When I decided to go to Uni, my Uniting worker was able to help me find tutoring and stuff like that, so that was pretty good. They paid for it all so it wasn’t any stress on like the people I was living with at that time. The extra support outside of school hours really helped me to complete year 11 and 12 when I was thinking about leaving. I lived in a house with 6 kids so it was that extra time of quiet where I could study and if I had questions I could ask somebody that was a teacher.” – Rebecca, living in kinship care.

In August 2022, Uniting Vic.Tas provided a Submission into the Systemic Inquiry into the Educational Experiences of Children and Young People in OOHC. In putting this Submission together, we had the privilege of hearing directly from young consumers about their experiences of education while living in out-of-home care (OoHC) and the impact a lack of Government investment in therapeutic residential care had upon their schooling outcomes.

“Like I know when I was jumping through the foster care system being put in a different place every night, I’d end up sometimes two or three hours from school and they sometimes wouldn’t take me. They’d be like, no, you can’t go today because you know, we’re not transporting you like there was one time where I was in (redacted) and I was at school in (redacted). It took about four hours to get there and they didn’t wanna do it.” – Paul, living in therapeutic residential care.

“When I left that school, they tried to communicate with the next school for me but the new school didn’t do anything. When I moved, I was doing a special program and they never put through that information or my grades or anything. After I kept moving schools, I was like, I hate school now. It was hard to stay motivated. I know I need to, but I wasn’t learning anything from it.” – Jamie, living in therapeutic residential care.

Every child has the right to an equitable schooling experience, no matter their circumstances. Uniting know that feeling included and connected to education is important to children in OoHC feeling safe and well.

Read the Submission in full.

A lifetime dedicated to helping others

For more than 30 years, Amanda Exley has devoted her life to supporting some of the most vulnerable children and families.

A Group Manager for Child, Youth and Families with Uniting Vic.Tas across the north of Melbourne and northern Victoria up to Shepparton and Albury-Wodonga, every day she’s making a difference.

Amanda shared her story as part of the Victorian Government’s new Jobs that Matter campaign aimed at encouraging more people to consider working in the community services.

As part of. her role, Amanda and her team regularly work with those who have experienced family violence and children in out-of-home care.

“There’s a certain sensitive nature to the work that we need to do. Supporting (people) through schools, finding housing, finding jobs, escaping violence,” Amanda says.

“One of the most rewarding experiences working in this industry, is to sit with a family and to hear what their goals are and how they want to get there and then how we can support them to do that.

“Letting them see that, there is a way forward and then actually getting there with them and walking that journey and walking alongside them to get there.

“If someone was thinking about working in child, youth, and family services, I would recommend that they wear their heart on their sleeve (and) are prepared to work hard.

“A lot of people will be quite daunted by this kind of a role. I often get told, ‘I don’t know how you do that’, but it’s because there’s a whole team behind you. The work isn’t easy, but it’s very rewarding and fulfilling.”

Hear Amanda’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBl7V53Lwz8&t=6s

Video courtesy Victorian Department Families, Fairness and Housing

An update from Tom

Tom’s story was featured in our recent Winter Appeal.

Last time we spoke with Tom (pictured), he kindly shared with us how Meals for Change, Ballarat’s community meals program, had helped turn his life around.

An update from Tom.

Finding himself homeless at only 18 years of age, Tom says he wouldn’t be where he is today if it hadn’t been for the support he received at Uniting.

Although Tom no longer drops into Meals for Change, he still keeps in touch with Jen (pictured), the program’s Coordinator and his “guardian angel at Uniting”.

“Tom is going so well”, Jen reports. “And has recently secured work with a local business owner in construction renovating a Ballarat landmark.”

Tom completed a TAFE furniture-making course back when he was a Meals for Change member.

You may remember Tom had previously started his own gardening business, however, recently he has decided on a career change.

“He’s always had a strong interest in wood and construction.

“I’m just so proud of him but more importantly he should be proud of himself.”

Thank you for spreading hope this winter.

For many like Tom, winter can bring a world of worry.

With the rising cost of living and residual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are sleeping rough and worrying where their next meal will come from.

Services like Meals for Change can be the boost they need to get back on their feet.

Unfortunately, this past year we have seen more people than ever accessing our services.

Luckily, there are generous people like you making a difference in their lives. Catherine Byrne, Uniting’s Emergency Relief Coordinator for Goulburn North East and Wodonga, knows how important this support is.

“They make a huge impact,” says Catherine.  Catherine explains this winter the team have handed out more and more tents to people.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” she says. “Rentals are becoming too high for many people existing on JobSeeker payments. They’re struggling to pay their rent.

“So they are very grateful for any support.”

Support those who need it most in your community

Donate now

Christmas countdown making a difference.

Tami and her family have been donating food at Christmas time for almost 10 years now.

“I hate chocolate advent calendars,” Tami confessed.

“You’re giving your children something sweet every day leading up to the most indulgent day of the year.

“And you’re not really teaching them anything in the process.” Tami’s frustration at the Christmas tradition sparked a new way for her family to celebrate.

“I still wanted to do something to build up the excitement towards Christmas.

“So I came up with this idea of doing a reverse advent calendar. Where instead of the kids getting something, they would give something.”

From here Tami, her husband and two children began their new Christmas tradition.

Every year the family look on Uniting’s Food For Families website, write a shopping list and do a big grocery shop.

Tami then creates her own ‘advent’ calendar which tells the family each day what food item to put in the Food For Families box they are gradually filling. Whether it be a tin of tomatoes or packet of pasta or box of tea leaves.

“The children really enjoy it. They’re 9 and 11 now and really into it,” says Tami

“I wanted to teach them Christmas is about giving, it’s not just about receiving.

“It’s about thinking of other people who might not be in a fortunate position.”

Tami reflects on her own childhood and remembers she herself went through a couple of tough periods.

“I have been on both sides of it and now I’m in a position to help people,” she says

“My children have never known an experience like that. So I like them to see they’re living a pretty comfortable, privileged life and not everyone has it that way.”

Tami and her family have been donating food at Christmas time for almost 10 years now.

Not only has this tradition continued at home but Tami has also taken it to work.

“People in our team want to make a difference on the small scale that they can,” she says.

“That small scale is appreciated in the context of Food For Families.”

Get involved

We want to provide families and individuals with food and essential items all year round. But to do this,we need your help.

Register today or donate now

 

Team Life Cycle.

Calling themselves Team Life Cycle, these keen riders from Melbourne have a passion for pushing their bodies to the very limit, all in the name of mental health.

The Murray to Moyne Cycling Relay began 35 years ago. It was the inspiration of Graham ‘Woody’ Woodrup.

Woody dreamt of spreading the news that riding a bike not only has fabulous health and social benefits but can also help others.

The Murray to Moyne is a team endurance event and has become an established classic on the cycling calendar.

Riders cycle in relays non-stop over two days and one night. They choose different routes, starting from towns on the banks of the Murray River, riding across stunning countryside in western Victoria and finishing in Port Fairy.

They are encouraged to raise money for hospitals, health services and health-related charities close to their hearts.

Although many of the riders from Team Life Cycle are no strangers to this relay event, this year was the start of a new partnership with Uniting.

“We are delighted to partner with Uniting Vic.Tas for the first of what we hope will be many fundraising cycling events,” says team captain Chris Moorfoot.

One in three Australians suffer from some form of mental illness throughout or during their lifetime.

The residual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have also affected mental health by increasing stress, anxiety and isolation, and many people are\ still trying to find their feet.

This is why Team Life Cycle’s efforts are so important in showing support for those living with mental illness.

Fundraise for us

Whether it’s a workplace event, marathon, karaoke night or birthday bash, we can help you celebrate with impact.  Find out how you can start your fundraising journey with us today.

Find out more or Donate now

Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb 2022

On Saturday 10 September 2022, 600 Firefighters and other emergency service personnel are ‘stepping up’ to fight depression, PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury) and suicide.

For the 7th year running, the Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb is raising money for our Lifeline services. Through their work, firefighters and other emergency service personnel are acutely aware that mental health has emerged as the underlying crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the last two years, the climb has been virtual. But, this year the 600 firefighters and other emergency service personnel participating in the 2022 Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb will once again climb the 28 floors of Crown Metropol Hotel in Melbourne in real life, fully laden down with 25kgs of breathing apparatus and ‘emergency turnout gear’. Their aim? To raise $600,000 for mental health.

This money will improve support services, fund research, remove stigmas and raise awareness of mental health issues – like depression, PTSI and suicide, especially for those within the emergency service and defence communities.

A third of all funds raised will go to Uniting Lifeline Melbourne to ensure that staff and volunteers can cover the phones during peak periods on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. For these are the times when people can often feel at their most vulnerable and turn to Lifeline.

This year, the Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb team have also invited friends and supporters of the emergency service community to join them “virtually” to climb a “Million  Steps For Mental Health” together.

Virtual supporters are being asked to climb at least 3,139 steps over the course of 31 days, starting Wednesday 10 August and finishing Friday 10 September.

Why 3,139? This is sadly the number of Australians who lost their lives to suicide in 2020.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your back steps, some stairs at the local park or even a milk crate in the lounge room, we are asking you to “step up” and get involved too by climbing 3,139 steps for Mental Health.

Sign up today

Donate now

Samantha’s passion led to new career opportunities

It was through working at Horsham Uniting Early Learning that Samantha discovered her passion for supporting families doing it tough.

“We were working with a number of vulnerable families, and I was very passionate about developing the sense of trust they needed,” she says.

When families were referred to additional support services, Samantha found herself wanting to make sure they were being properly cared for.

This interest led Samantha to a career change where she made the move from educator to Integrated Family Services (IFS) Worker.

“Working in Family Services you use different strategies to build that bond and relationship with the families and help them to open up.

“Some families have gone through lots of trauma or are just dealing with everyday struggles. From intake to closure, to seeing the development of the families throughout those weeks is very rewarding.”

“I value being able to really assist them outside of childcare and working more with parents rather than just the children themselves.”

In her work Samantha found that IFS staff come from so many different backgrounds.

“Some members of the team have studied a Bachelors of Primary or Social Work, Diplomas of Community Services, and there are a couple of people who used to work in areas like IT.

“Everyone brings something interesting to the role.

“It’s great to see different people’s point of views, how they have learnt things and what they have been through.”

Formal qualifications aren’t required to be an IFS worker.

“To get this IFS role I just needed to have some transferable skills, an ability to connect with people, and a willingness to learn and develop.”

Samantha says she has received a lot of support since beginning her new role.

“My first week in the Family Services role was very guided. I wasn’t thrown into the deep end.

“I was allocated very low risk clients to begin with, which meant that I was comfortable, and protected the safety and best interests of everyone involved.”

Helping others has led to personal gain for Cindy

A little over a year ago, Cindy found herself with extra time on her hands and decided to make the most of it by giving back to her local community in Ballarat.

“I was looking to support an organisation that matched my interests and values,” she says.

“The opportunity to volunteer with Uniting Ballarat Emergency Relief Centre (ERC) seemed a perfect fit.”

A year later, she has not looked back.

“Our ERC provides practical, immediate financial and material assistance to a diverse range of people facing financial hardship.

It is a warm, welcoming environment, and part of the wider network of services Uniting offers to the people of Ballarat and surrounds.”

Cindy loves that her role is so varied.

“No two days are the same. I assist with tasks like the reception of visitors, initial eligibility assessments and data entry.

“I also guide clients through the process of choosing food and personal items from our fabulous mini-market style pantry, and of course unpacking goods and keeping our shelves stocked and the centre tidy.”

While Cindy set out on her volunteering journey with the aim of helping others, she has been constantly surprised at just how much she has gained personally.

“Being part of a highly dedicated and compassionate team working together to make a difference is so very rewarding.

“Seeing how some practical assistance, a welcoming smile, a friendly word, can ease the burden for those doing it tough is extraordinary and humbling, and helps me appreciate all that I have that much more.”

“Seeing the way each customer is treated with respect, listened to and heard makes me a better person in my everyday life.”

Get involved. Become a Volunteer.

Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!

National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year (Sunday through to Sunday) to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn more about the history and cultures of our First Nations people and to celebrate the oldest continuing culture on earth.

This year’s theme Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! encourages all of us to join together to push for institutional, structural and cooperative change while celebrating and recognising those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders who have led change over generations before us. 

Staff across Uniting Vic.Tas will be joining in local celebrations across Victoria and Tasmania to celebrate NAIDOC week. We also believe NAIDOC Week is an opportunity to affirm our support as the largest community services organisation in Victoria and Tasmania for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a First Nations voice to Parliament protected in the constitution. We believe a First Nations voice must be enshrined in the constitution to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a voice over the laws, policies and decisions that affect them.  

To find out more about NAIDOC celebrations happening across Australia visit the NAIDOC website.

Tasmanian Government to raise the minimum age of detention to 14 years.

Uniting Vic.Tas fully supports the decision of the Tasmanian Government to raise the minimum age of detention to 14 years.

While this doesn’t include raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, which still applies in both Victoria and Tasmania, it is a step in the right direction.

For years, First Nations organisations, health, legal and human rights experts have been pleading for governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said there is clear evidence that 14 is the youngest age a child should be subjected to the criminal legal system.

Many 12-year-olds are still in primary school. At 13, they are starting their first year of high school. These formative years set a child’s trajectory for the rest of their lives.

While other states and territories, including Victoria, have proposed to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12, in our view, this doesn’t go far enough.

Australia’s approach on this issue has been roundly slammed by the United Nations, most recently at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN recommends raising the minimum age of detention to 16.

The current laws in Victoria and Tasmania still treat children as criminals. We think this is unfair and that these children should not be condemned in this way.

We’re now calling on the Victorian and Tasmanian governments to publicly commit to 14 as the age of criminal responsibility.

A new life for Yasmin* and her son.

At just 20 years old, Yasmin made the courageous decision to flee from Somalia with her two-year old son.

Arriving in Australia as a refugee in 2015, the family were placed into social housing.

Needing an income to support herself and her son, Uniting’s Social Housing Employment Program (SHEP) helped Yasmin find a job as a cleaner.

Despite having to face the linguistic, cultural and political challenges that come with being a refugee in Australia, Yasmin has flourished.

She has excelled in her career, her employer reporting that he is very happy with her work and has even asked if she is available to work further hours.

Uniting’s Employment Coach has helped ensure Yasmin’s job fits around her son’s school times, booking Before and After School Care when needed. They have also assisted in placing her son into school holiday programs during term breaks.

Her employer has been sensitive to her personal needs, allowing Yasmin to work four days a week during the month of Ramadan.

Yasmin’s confidence has been growing day by day as she builds a brighter future for herself and her son.

SHEP is a new initiative which will create 200 jobs, for people like Yasmin who are living in social housing.

The program offers a minimum 12 months of secure work for jobseekers who are social housing residents, people living with a disability, women (particularly over 45), the long-term unemployed, people aged 18-25, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, veterans and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The Minister for Employment, Jaala Pulford recently announced the $3 million initiative.

“People living in social housing will benefit greatly from this initiative through creating jobs for residents and delivering better services,”, Pulford said.

“We’re backing all Victorians to get the skills and opportunities they need to secure jobs in the social housing sector.”

Uniting Vic.Tas are proud to be the service provider chosen to deliver this program.

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured.

Bringing ‘fun dad’ vibes to help youth in need.

“The voice for children that don’t have a voice”, is how Kris describes his role as an Intensive Family Support (IFS) Worker at Uniting.

When vulnerable youth are getting lost in the system, be that at home or school, they need a little extra support.

“We come in to help. Not just directly with the children, but with the whole family”, says Kris.

Before Uniting, Kris had a history of working in retail and insurance brokering.

“I loved the office side of it, but I wasn’t getting any social interaction.”

So, he moved into working in Employment Services, which was the right blend of office and interaction with clients. He found this experience of helping youth find work to be particularly rewarding.

“I found it really easy to engage with them. That ability to connect could be because of my background. I’m quite a goofy Dad at home, so that comes through a little bit.”

It was through this work that Kris realised Community Services was his true calling.

“All you need to be an IFS Worker are social interaction and basic office skills, as well as knowledge of how families work and to be culturally sensitive and open minded.”

“My wife works at Uniting, so I knew it was a good place to work, and there were so many opportunities.”

Being a typically female dominated role Kris found his male perspective really helped him connect with some of the clients.

“I am finding my strengths are with first time Dads that are now single Dads, or those that don’t have anyone to talk to because they are either too scared or ashamed to ask for help. But if you can speak to them as a guy who’s been through something similar, it breaks down that barrier quite quickly.

“Young males in particular don’t tend to want to open up to complete strangers.

“Sometimes they just need a male.”

Since starting his role Kris hasn’t looked back.

“It’s a great environment to work in. I feel like I’ve found my forever workplace.

It’s the first time I have ever felt passionate about coming to work and wanting to do better and getting out there to help the local community that I live in.”

Charmaine found her work-life balance at Uniting.

There are lots of reasons to start your career with Uniting. For Charmaine it was finding that work-life balance.

Having worked as a secondary teacher for 10 years, she was finding the afterhours and weekend work was taking a toll on her family life.

“There was no defined line between family life and work life.”, Charmaine says.

“I felt like I needed a change and wanted to do something that was a little bit more family friendly.”

Charmaine found a Kinship Care role advertised on Uniting’s website.

“I thought about the transferable skills I had from teaching and thought I would give it a try.”

Charmaine says her career change has been the positive change she needed.

“I now have the work-life balance I was yearning for, and I get to spend weekends with my family.

“Uniting is very supportive of personal needs, family oriented, and conscious of supporting staff to maintain mental health.”

Not only is the role a better fit for her family but also one she enjoys.

“I find the job very rewarding because I get to help young people and work with their families.”

Now is the time to Be Brave. Make Change.

On National Sorry Day, we stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and recognise the mistreatment, injustice and trauma for First Peoples who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, whom we now know as ‘The Stolen Generations.’  

We deeply regret the legacy of past policies and practices that continue to have a detrimental impact on the identity, dignity, and spirit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. These historical injustices remain a source of intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.  

As the community services organisation of the Uniting Church, we support the call from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress: 

We want to start a new chapter with the community and government and collaborate and co-design everything that is important to us. We want to uphold the principles of the Uluru Statement and change the system to reflect us, our culture, and our sovereignty as First Peoples in Australia. We want truth to be told and systems to be changed, so that our culture and our history is embedded into every part of our society. 

Uniting Vic.Tas strongly supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a First Nations voice to Parliament. We believe this must be enshrined in the Australian constitution to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a voice over the laws, policies and decisions that affect them.  

Uniting Vic.Tas is committed to reconciliation. Our vision for reconciliation is that all people stand together to create socially just and culturally safe relationships with, and opportunities for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

During Reconciliation Week 2022 we are being asked to Be Brave, Make Change and this begins with a commitment to truth-telling.  

In Victoria, the Yoorook Truth and Justice Commission is underway. Yoorook is the first formal truth-telling of injustices experienced by First Peoples in Victoria. As a community, we must listen, learn, and reckon with our past in order to heal and move towards genuine reconciliation.  

At Uniting we are pleased to be working on our Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (Innovate RAP) launched in March 2021 which commits us to a series of tangible actions for change. Our Innovate RAP guides our efforts to ensure our programs and services respect the cultural rights, values and expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. This work is being driven by our Reconciliation Lead, Eva Orr:  

While a lot of work has happened and many significant steps towards reconciliation have been taken, reconciliation is an ongoing journey that we must take together. 

Each year events are held across Australia to mark National Reconciliation Week and many Uniting staff will be attending local events in the communities in which they live and work. 

Find an event near you 

Uniting hosts launch of the April edition of Parity Magazine

Uniting had the pleasure of hosting the launch of the April 2022 issue of Parity Magazine in partnership with the Council to Homeless Persons and Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Katie Hall MP (pictured above). Uniting CEO Bronwyn Pike hosted the event.

The April issue of Parity Magazine, ‘Homelessness and Young People: Support During Troubled Times’, centres around the intersection between homelessness and young people. The current social housing system is designed for adults; there are distinct differences in experiences of homelessness for young people, who require specialised support and receive limited benefit from adult-focused services.

Uniting CEO, Bronwyn Pike contributed an article to Parity in which she calls for a continued commitment and investment in the youth homelessness sector.

“Safe and secure housing is a major factor in helping get a person’s life on track. This is particularly critical for young people, who are only at the start of their journey. As a society, we should be doing all that we can to help the next generation lead healthy and productive lives. Young people need governments across the country to step up and invest in social and affordable housing on an ongoing basis and at a rate to keep up with increasing demand.”

Kate Waterworth, Team Leader for the Youth Support Team in Horsham also contributed an article for Parity, unpacking the barriers services face in supporting young homeless people and identifying ways to achieve greater outcomes.

“Coping skills and strategies for me are the foundation to setting our young people up for independence and success. Our support services are generally connected in with young people longer than specialised services which coincides with the supports. ”

Katie Hall MP, the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth and for Multicultural Affairs was in attendance to formally launch Parity Magazine and spoke of her passion for supporting young people, particularly after the COVID lockdowns.

“The pandemic brought many challenges to the lives of young people, challenges that greatly impact their mental health and their prosperity and these issues are compounded and reinforced by homelessness.”

“We’re committed to ensuring young Victorians have access to the accommodation and support they need to build strong futures”.

Read the full edition of Parity

Mothers and children given the chance to thrive in safe supported housing.

Launch Housing in partnership with Uniting, donors and the Victorian Government is preparing to open the doors of Viv’s Place, an Australian first apartment building for at-risk women and children.

Based in Dandenong, Viv’s Place will provide permanent housing with wrap around support services in a new building to provide a fresh start for more than 60 women and 140 children escaping family violence and homelessness.

The Victorian Housing Minister, Richard Wynne, the Victorian Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams and the Federal Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare visited the apartments on Friday.

The project is based on a highly successful model in Broadway, New York which has created supportive communities in such apartment blocks for more than 30 years and supported thousands of people out of homelessness by giving them a solid base and other help.

Access to housing and supports will allow women to find stability and foster a healthy family environment, creating new futures for children, who will be supported to stay in school and to reach their full potential.

The building includes 60 dual key apartments along with communal kitchen and living spaces, children’s play spaces, offices, community gardens and family and child specific services on site.

This Australian first project has been supported by the Victorian Government and generous philanthropic, community and individual donors and is recognised as an innovative and holistic approach to addressing two of the biggest issues facing Australian society.

The total cost of the Launch Housing project is $30 million, of which the Victorian Government contributed 40 per cent. Initially anchored by significant donations from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Shine On Foundation, the project subsequently received generous support from the Gandel Foundation, the Ian Potter Foundation and many passionate and generous individuals and families, including the Friday family of Melbourne – to make this dream a reality.

Support projects like this by making a donation now.

Pictured:
Victorian Minister for Women and Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams,
Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike
Launch Housing CEO Bevan Warner
Victorian Minister for Housing, Richard Wynne
Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare

Career change brings Kate unexpected joy.

For 25 years, Kate Janetzki enjoyed her career in the travel industry.

When COVID-19 hit and the travel industry was turned upside down, her employer was forced to close the office.

After a few temporary jobs, Kate came across an opportunity to join Uniting in Wimmera as the co-ordinator of a program called Strengthening Parent Support.

Kate now runs groups for parents and carers of children living with a disability or additional needs.

The group provides respite for parents and carers, along with the opportunity to connect with people in a similar situation.

It wasn’t an intentional career change, but Kate couldn’t be happier with her new role.

“I absolutely love it. It is really the best thing that has ever happened to me,” says Kate.

“The thing I love the most is making a difference.

“Often (the parents and carers) are shy or a bit resistant to coming along for the first time.

“But I encourage them, and when they join in, watching them meet other people and the connections they make is amazing.

“I recently took a group of parents away for a respite weekend.

“Many of them had never met before but by the Saturday night they were sitting at dinner crying with laughter.

“One of the mums told me they have since implemented the tips they learned over that weekend, and it has changed their life and made it so much better.

“It’s moments like these that make my role so very rewarding.”

Kate says she is well supported in her role.

“The leadership team is amazing, and everyone is so welcoming,” she says.

“They care about your wellbeing. It’s a really nice place to work.”

Kate has recently turned down offers to return to the travel industry.

“I just couldn’t. I love my job and I wouldn’t give it up,” she says.

“To people who might be considering taking a role at Uniting, I would encourage them to do it.

“Pre-COVID I would never have considered changing my role, but it has really opened my eyes and been so positive.”

Find your career at Uniting

Trevor offers a helping hand.

Trevor is a jack of all trades.

For nearly a decade, the Gippsland based volunteer has provided a helping hand for Uniting’s services across the region.

Trevor supports local facilities manager, Joe with the day-to-day maintenance of Uniting sites in the area.

He has also supported local disability programs, driving participants around the region.

Always keen to bring a smile to people’s faces, Trevor dressed up as Santa Claus at a local Christmas party for children living in out-of-home care.

Most recently, he has been involved in our Homelessness to a Home program, delivering furniture and setting up appliances in local properties ready for people experiencing crisis to move in.

But Trevor’s journey to becoming a volunteer wasn’t easy.

Eleven years ago, Trevor suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“I was a log truck driver and I fell off the step of a truck,” says Trevor.

“I’m pretty lucky to be alive.

“It was a really difficult time for our family. My wife, Elizabeth, works at Uniting and they were really supportive.

“She had only been working at Uniting for a year when I had my accident, but they were fantastic in supporting her as she cared for me after it happened.”

During his long road to recovery, which required full-time care and extensive rehabilitation, Trevor spent a day a week with Elizabeth at work.

At first, he started helping with archiving and data input.

“I then started helping with the Christmas gift program for families in the area doing it tough,” says Trevor.

“When I eventually got my licence back, I started washing the company cars.

“Then I started helping Joe with going out to sites to tag and test equipment.

“I just go with the flow and I’m happy to help with anything.

“I’m a second pair of eyes for Joe.

“I like the fact that I can give something back to Uniting, for all they have done for my family.

“And I really enjoy working alongside Joe.”

For Joe, the feeling is mutual.

“Trevor is worth his weight in gold,” says Joe.

“He has been a huge help to me over the years.

“He’s always willing to jump in and help, no matter what the job is.

“Uniting is very lucky to have him onboard as a volunteer and I’m lucky to call him a friend.”

Become a volunteer

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Suzanne helps nurture NoBucks.

From humble beginnings as a tea and coffee service, NoBucks has grown into something much more meaningful for some Hobart locals.

And volunteer, Suzanne has been there from the start.

NoBucks was established by members of the former Wesley Uniting Church congregation in Hobart.

“Initially, we set it up to help bring more people into the church,” says Suzanne.

“One of the young women who attended our church was working (at a local beauty shop) and was telling us about how they would stand out the front with some of the products and ask passers-by if they wanted some of it on their skin.

“She suggested we should do something similar for the church, to get out there, be seen and try to ‘get a bit of church’ on people.”

At the time the church had been given a $2000 bequest and was trying to decide how to use it.

The congregation then decided to revamp the Sunday School room and open it for anyone who wanted to drop in for a cup of tea or coffee at lunchtime.

“People were free to walk in and make themselves a drink and sit down to relax and have a chat,” says Suzanne.

“The minister at the time would sit in here every lunchtime so he could say hello to people and make himself available if anyone wanted to talk.”

As word of the service spread, locals experiencing homelessness or social isolation soon became regular attendees.

As the numbers grew, so too did the service.

Suzanne and her fellow congregation members started cooking meals for those who came to NoBucks.

Fifteen years since it started and now run by Uniting Vic.Tas, NoBucks provides free two-course lunches each weekday to anyone who walks through the door.

While the service has changed over the years, there is one thing that has remained the same – Suzanne’s warm welcome.

“I’ve often thought ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ during my time at NoBucks,” says Suzanne.

“For many, it’s unfortunate circumstances that lead them to a tough place in life.

“I believe we are there to help people in their time of need.

“And I always follow the three P’s. I don’t preach, pry or presume.

“We are simply there to listen if needed.

“I’ve met some lovely people along the way and I just hope that I’ve been of some help to those people when needed.”

Become a volunteer

Donate now to support services like NoBucks

Volunteering leads to new opportunities for Nicole.

When Nicole started volunteering to overcome the isolation caused by COVID-19 lockdowns, she had no idea the opportunities it would open.

“I was working part-time from home because of COVID-19 restrictions” says Nicole.

“When things started to open again, I wanted to get out and be around people.

“I was browsing around my local op shop and started chatting to the volunteers and found out they were looking for more volunteers.”

Nicole started volunteering a day a week at her local Uniting op shop in Werribee.

“It was wonderful getting to know the other volunteers and regular customers,” she says.

“I was struggling during lockdowns and I didn’t feel like myself.

“The volunteering role definitely helped improve my mental health.”

Nicole says she enjoyed the treasure hunt aspect of op shops and helping people bag a bargain.

“There were some beautiful designer and vintage dresses donated,” she says.

“Someone donated a whole collection of Dr Who items and people went crazy for them.

“It was really interesting seeing the weird and wonderful things people donated.”

Nicole says she enjoyed balancing her work and volunteering role.

Her young son also spent time helping at the op shop.

When Nicole’s part-time contract job finished, she mentioned it to the op shop co-ordinator.

And from there, Nicole made the move from Uniting volunteer to employee.

“A project co-ordinator contract role had become available at Uniting, so I applied and was successful,” says Nicole.

“I really enjoyed the job and I was keen to stay at Uniting after my contract finished in December.

“A marketing position had just become available and my background is in marketing, so I jumped at the opportunity to apply.”

As fate would have it, the vacant position involved marketing Uniting’s op shops.

“It felt like it was meant be,” says Nicole.

“I still get to see the wonderful people I volunteered with, help promote the shops and hopefully make more money to support the work of Uniting.

“It feels like I’ve come full circle.”

Become a volunteer

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Helping people understand their past.

Sally and Judy donate many hours of their time each week to the Uniting Heritage Service.

The service supports people and their families who were:

  • adopted
  • spent time with foster care providers
  • in children’s homes
  • in family group homes
  • in orphanages.

If this out-of-home care was provided by the former Presbyterian, Methodist or Uniting Churches, we can help.

We rely heavily on the support of volunteers to progress our work with records.

Here, Sally and Judy have written some of their reflections.

“We have been friends for over 10 years. We both love history and met while working and volunteering in the archives of one of Melbourne’s oldest schools.

A chance conversation with a member of the Uniting Heritage Service team made us aware of Uniting’s large, important collection of records, dating back to the 1890s.

We indicated our interest in becoming volunteers and started in early 2021.

We work with records from the children’s and babies’ homes established by the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Victoria.”

It is widely known that across Australia, historical records from such institutions are often incomplete or missing altogether.

This makes it critical to ensure that surviving records are carefully preserved and then indexed, so the information they contain can be easily accessed by case workers, former residents and/or their families.

We are focusing on this indexing.

Judy works with minute books created by the volunteer committees that oversaw the day-to-day operations of the children’s homes, dating from the 1890s to the 1980s.

She reads through the minutes and records every child’s name in a separate index.

The hand-written books, each approximately 200 pages, document the lives of the residents, mostly through brief notes that record the reasons for and dates of admission and departure, where the child was at all times (in the Home, foster care, in service or transferred to another facility).

Sometimes the notes mention health issues, education and communication with families.

More broadly, the minutes are a window into the social history of their times.

They show how society and the law viewed and regulated children and families during these periods and how the Homes responded to economic depressions, wartime conditions and epidemics.

Sally’s focus is photographs from the babies’ homes.

Specifically, she works with images taken by Mothercraft nurses who worked in the institutions from the 1930s to the 1970s and kept personal albums of their times there.

These albums have been generously donated or loaned to the Heritage Service by the nurses.

The captions they wrote often include the first names of the children, which Sally carefully adds to a spreadsheet.

This can be a complex process as the children’s real names were often not used and not every photo was captioned.

All images have been digitised, but Sally works with both the digitised and original photographs as this makes it easier to decipher captions, labels and to identify faces.

As in the case with the Homes’ minutes, indexing provides access to these records — precious images of the early years of the young residents, which are sometimes the only photos from this early stage of their lives.

We feel privileged to be working with such personal records, and greatly respect the privacy and experiences of the children and families whose names and photographs we encounter.

We enjoy volunteering with the Uniting Heritage Service team and hope that our contributions will help in the process of piecing together the stories of the children who spent time in these Homes.”

Become a volunteer

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Serving up support and kindness.

For nearly 25 years, a dedicated team of volunteers have served up a hot meal and a warm welcome to Ballarat locals in crisis.

People experiencing homelessness and social insolation find shelter, a safe place to be themselves and the support they need to work towards a brighter future at our BreezeWay meals program.

This serivce has undergone some big changes in recent years.

BreezeWay’s loyal team of volunteers continued to serve takeaway meals during COVID-19 lockdowns, while also catering for the increasing demand for the service during these uncertain times.

“Our volunteers have risen to every challenge, rapidly embracing the need to change service delivery and they have demonstrated resilience in continuing to support the most vulnerable in our community,” says BreezeWay co-ordinator, Jen Wright.

“They continue to redouble their efforts and go above and beyond to meet the increasing need in the community, providing up to 125 meals each day.”

Uniting recently opened a larger BreezeWay service in Albert Street.

This new building has a commercial kitchen and space for up to 80 people to sit down for a meal.

That’s more than triple the capacity of the former dining room in Dana Street.

The new building is fully accessible and an emergency relief centre now ajoins BreezeWay, with a food pantry and facilities including showers, washing machines and clothes dryers.

All of this would not be possible without the invaluable support of our volunteers.

The BreezeWay team has provided close to 53,000 meals in the past year.

“For many people attending BreezeWay, it is their only daily connection with the greater community and the only way they can access a hot meal,” says Jen.

“During the COVID-19 challenges and beyond, our BreezeWay volunteers have been a welcoming and supportive part of many lives.

“BreezeWay’s impact on the local community would not be possible without the dedication, compassion and respect each and every member of our volunteer team brings through the door each day.”

Become a volunteer

Donate to Uniting to support services like BreezeWay

Uniting Prahran receives funding boost to expand food delivery service and mental health services.

Uniting Vic.Tas today welcomed a $490,000 funding boost from the Victorian Government which will provide more meals and support for vulnerable people in Prahran and surrounding areas.

The Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers and Minister for Child Protection and Family Services, the Hon Anthony Carbines made the announcement during a visit to Uniting Prahran today with the Upper House member for Southern Metro, Nina Taylor.

Uniting Vic. Tas CEO, Bronwyn Pike said the funding would allow the service to provide more than 8,000 extra meals a year to people struggling to access food relief and emergency relief services.

“During the pandemic, the demand for our emergency relief services at Prahran increased by around 80 per cent,” she said.

“We started delivering food packages to people who were isolated in the community and experiencing more complex health issues. Since then, more and more people have come to rely on this form of support.

“This funding will allow us to expand our mobile food deliveries by purchasing two refrigerated vans, and recruit a dedicated worker who can work with our other volunteers.”

Ms Pike said the additional funding would also be used to employ a mental health duty worker to better assist people who were coming to the centre with complex needs.

“We know people have been really struggling with the rising costs of living and putting food on the table, but at the same time, we’ve seen a rise in the number of people presenting to us with complex health and psychosocial needs,” she said.

“By having a mental health worker available at the centre, we can work with people experiencing crisis due to homelessness, family violence, alcohol and other drugs or other complex problems.

“Our service at Prahran also provides specialist employment services, an Orange Door family violence support service and targeted programs for those experiencing long term mental health issues.

“Part of the funding will be used to provide a much-needed facelift to our foyer so we can direct people to the appropriate service and provide a safe and welcoming environment with clear signage for our Aboriginal and LGBTIQ+ CALD communities.

Team Life Cycle rides the Murray to Moyne

After cycling for 19 hours across two days, covering 1494.5kms, and consuming over 20 litres of water, Team Life Cycle have ridden the Murray to Moyne (M2M) relay event. All while raising $4,295 for Uniting’s mental health services.

Team captain, Chris ‘Morf’ Morfoot, shares with us details of the ride.

Despite losing two team members to Covid-19 isolation, we did it! What an event!

Conditions were mild, even occasionally favourable, allowing the team to average nearly 30kms per hour on Saturday and 29kms on Sunday.

Friday morning was hectic, as bikes, camping equipment and supplies were loaded up in preparation for the giant ride ahead.

Once arriving in Echuca, we set up, registered, and did a warmup ride to prepare our legs for what lay ahead.

On Saturday, the first day of the event, the team rose at around 6am and gathered around the starting line which was a hive of activity.

In total 18 teams left Echuca, with five leaving from Mildura and eight from Swan Hill.

We all set off, with a lead car in front and a tail car behind which managed the spread of cyclists across the route.

As you can imagine everyone rode at different speeds, so it didn’t take long for the teams to spread out as much as 60kms at times.

Team Life Cycle’s relay went well, with each team of two doing six legs of between 23 to 28kms each.

Thankfully, apart from sore limbs and the occasional cramp, everyone came into Hamilton, the overnight stop, tired but in good spirits.

Hamilton is where all three routes merged, so there were bikes and Lycra gear everywhere!

The next morning, we were all up from around 5.30am as the ride to Port Fairy commenced at 7am.

On Sunday, the whole team was on the road riding the full 96kms.

Whilst the weather at times looked threatening, the rain held off, which was a blessing.

The team cruised into Port Fairy about 10.45am, elated to be there and glad to begin the celebrations.

After a leisurely afternoon the team had a celebratory dinner, and all toasted to a successful ride, with ALL looking forward to the 2023 event.

To support Uniting Mental Health services donate now

Victorian Budget a ‘missed opportunity’ for our most vulnerable.

One of Victoria’s largest not-for-profit community services providers, Uniting Vic.Tas, says while the $12 billion boost to health was essential, the 2022-23 Victorian State Budget still risks leaving many of our most vulnerable behind.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said it was disappointing the Government had not extended the successful Homelessness to a Home program.

“We’re disappointed about Homelessness to a Home which provided thousands of people who had been sleeping rough with a roof over their head during the pandemic,” Ms Pike said

“This was a program which made a real difference, giving people a sense of hope and some light at the end of the tunnel, so we would have like to have seen it continue and even extended further.

“We have committed $20 million towards social housing, including a plan to build 500 new homes over the next five years. While the government is providing significant investment in social housing, we believe they still need to go further.

“We’re pleased the government is delivering $490,000 to upgrade Uniting in Prahran which supports thousands of locals every week, including providing hot meals each day. This funding also includes a 12-month mental health duty worker.

“Increased investment in therapeutic support and interventions for children and families impacted by family violence is welcome, and it was also pleasing to see funding for an additional 150 residential care placements for at-risk children.

“Further investment in programs for at-risk children and families is timely, however, we believe more needs to be done to make the out-of-home care system fairer by ensuring all children receive the appropriate therapeutic care.

“The $250 cash incentive for households to shop around for the best energy deals provides some immediate cost-of-living relief, but we would have liked more targeted and long-term support for those on low-incomes and income support payments.”

Tom’s story

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Everyone has the right to live their life to its fullest potential.

But we know that there are times when people find barriers in their way.

For those times we will be there, providing practical assistance and a listening ear.

As we learn to live with COVID-19 and reconnect with those dear to us, this winter brings an opportunity to share hearty meals with family and friends.

But for many people, winter brings a world of worry.

One program in Ballarat is helping to fill bellies and keep young people in the region connected to their community and loved ones.

Meals for Change supports vulnerable young people to buy discounted meals in local cafes.

Through the program, young people pay just $3 towards the cost of a meal in any of the 8 partnering cafes, up to the value of $15.

Cafes are then reimbursed the balance by Uniting.

The program also allows young people to bring a family member or friend as a guest and they can receive a discount on both meals.

This gives young people who are going through a tough time a chance to connect with their loved ones.

Meals for Change receives no government funding; it relies solely on grants and the generosity of people in the community.

“The program is about more than just providing affordable meals to youth in crisis,” says program co-ordinator, Jen, who started the program in 2016.

“Most importantly, we give young people a sense of community and belonging. They know they are safe and welcome, which is something many of us take for granted.

“Through the program, we can also offer support to pursue education and training opportunities that help people find work and stability.”

Tom credits the program for helping him turn his life around.

Six years ago, he had found himself homeless.

At just 18 years-old, Tom was left devastated by the death of his father.

Still reeling from his beloved dad’s passing, Tom and his mother moved to Ballarat.

“I became depressed and withdrawn,” says Tom.

“It was a really tough time.”

With his mental health deteriorating, Tom was unable to find work.

This put a strain on his relationship with his mother.

“I wasn’t thinking clearly, and I moved out,” recalls Tom.

Tom spent the next year living in a Uniting boarding house.

At the same time, Jen was in the process of setting up Meals for Change.

“The housing and crisis team referred me to Jen,” says Tom.

“She was setting up the program and asked me to be a secret shopper to see which businesses would be suitable for the program.

“I was happy to help. I knew the program would be helpful to myself and others going through difficult times.

“When you’re on Centrelink and living paycheck to paycheck, you only have enough money to scrape by and pay for the essentials.

“Meals for Change gave me a chance to connect with my community, even if I was down to my last $20 of the week.

“I could eat tasty, healthy and hearty meals. A full stomach at the end of the day is always a good feeling.

“But more importantly for me, I regained my social life.

“The café staff were always so friendly and welcoming.

“I felt free of judgement, and I was able to relax and enjoy myself.

“It helped me get my mental health back on track.”

Now in his late twenties, Tom no longer accesses the program, which is available to young people aged 15 – 25 years of age.

He has found long-term housing and is the proud father of a 4-year-old son, Ben.

Tom has also started his own gardening business.

He says he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for the support he received 6 years ago.

“Jen is my guardian angel at Uniting,” says Tom.

“Thanks to her support, I was able to get my licence and start working.

“She was always friendly and welcoming. We would talk about my goals and how I could achieve them.

“I have no doubt if I hadn’t received that help when I was at my lowest, things would be very different for me today.

“I have a friend who is couch-surfing at the moment and I’ve told her how Uniting helped me change my future.

“I hope they can help her too.”

More than 300 young people have accessed the program since it started.

Over 7100 meals have been served to young people and their loved ones.

“I never realised how significant it is to sit in a cafe and have a meal and feel safe and at ease with the world. That is what I hear time and time again,” says Jen.

“This program isn’t just about filling bellies, it’s about filling the soul.”

With your support we can be there for people of all ages and stages of life when they need us most thanks to programs like Meals for Change.

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Joint Statement- Palm Sunday 2022.

The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and Uniting Vic Tas stand together in solidarity with refugees, people seeking asylum and their supporters across Australia to call out the injustices of Australia’s current immigration policies.

The Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania and Uniting Vic.Tas, its community services organisation, uphold the Christian teachings that encourage us to provide care and comfort to people seeking exile; treating them as equals and defending them against oppression and persecution. We support the creation of fair and efficient asylum processes underpinned by international human rights principles. 

We have a long history of engagement with new arrivals to Australia and advocate for better treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum. Our services assist many people seeking asylum in our community, some of whom have been waiting for many years for their applications to be resolved. 

This Palm Sunday (10 April 2022), we re-affirm our commitment to people who have been forced to flee war, violence and persecution. We recognise their courage, resilience and strength in facing the worst of humanity. 

Starting in the 1980s, churches across Australia have joined together on Palm Sunday in capital cities across the country to march together for peace. This rally has gone on to become an annual ecumenical event that draws people from many faith and non-faith backgrounds to march together to show support for public policy issues that are of importance to them. 

As part of this year’s Walk for Justice for Refugees, we’re calling on the Australian Government to immediately address a number of issues which we believe are crucial to improving the lives of refugees and asylum seekers. In Melbourne, the march will start at 2.00pm at the State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanson Street, Melbourne”.

Join the Palm Sunday walk on 10 April

Congratulations to our volunteer leaders and teams.

On Friday 25 March 2022 representatives from Uniting attended the 2021 Volunteering Awards (Victoria) at Government House hosted by the Governor of Victoria, the Hon Linda Dessau AC and Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Mr Anthony Carbines.

Uniting was announced as a finalist and had great honour of being named runners up for the COVID 19 Resilience Award.

The award was judged on how we undertook activities to overcome COVID-19 challenges, whilst maintaining high quality services, and implementing strategies to support volunteers to be resilient and adapt to the requirements of COVID-19 public health orders.

Being announced as a finalist and then runners up is a recognition of both the central systems and support we have in place, as well as the local leadership and engagement between volunteer leaders and teams.

The generosity of volunteer’s response during the COVID crisis can only be described as overwhelming. We are proud to say there were 2,467 active volunteers across all service streams of Uniting at the height of the pandemic and restrictions. This meant that even with COVID restrictions approximately 85% of Uniting volunteers remained active and engaged.

At Uniting volunteers are invaluable and vital to our success. This past year volunteers:

  • contributed more than 1.3 million hours of service
  • answered 72,500 calls to Lifeline
  • delivered 67,00 meals to people in need
  • provided 48,100 food parcels and vouchers for people in crisis
  • made over 8,000 welfare calls to older people
  • 360 foster carers provided their home for vulnerable children

Please get in touch if you are interested in becoming a Uniting volunteer. 

Uniting welcomes Bill to end homelessness by 2030.

Uniting Vic.Tas supports the intent of the Human Rights and Housing Legislation Amendment (Ending Homelessness) Bill 2022 tabled by the Victorian Greens to eliminate homelessness in Victoria by 2030.

The Bill ‘would amend the Housing Act to set a zero per cent homelessness target by the end of the decade, and ensure the Victorian Government created a plan to achieve it’.

Uniting Vic.Tas in partnership with Uniting Housing Victoria operate and support more than 870 social and affordable housing tenancies across the state.

Additionally Uniting has pledged $20 million to help build 500 new affordable housing projects across Victoria over the next five years.

As a provider of social housing as well as multiple services that interact with people at different stages of housing crisis, Uniting has called on the Victorian Government to legislate and invest in a homelessness and housing strategy that adequately meets the current and increasing demand for housing support in the state.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said “affordable, safe and secure housing for everybody is an essential human right.

“Safe and secure housing is a major factor in helping get a person’s life on track. Often, it’s only once a person secures housing, they’re able to address any issues they may have with employment, family violence, mental health, alcohol or drugs,” Ms Pike said.

“In my years of experience I know, and we all know, that so many often quite expensive and complex interventions we offer to people who are in great need can fall down the minute they exit those programs because they do not have a place to live.

“The pandemic has thrown Victoria’s shortage of social and affordable housing into stark relief and given more people than ever before an insight into housing security.

“Uniting’s services saw a significant increase in demand for services, many from people who had never access crisis support before.

“As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, the resolution to provide adequate social and affordable housing in every neighbourhood in both metropolitan and regional Victoria must be our top priority.

“Legislating housing as a human right is courageous and bold leadership, which will hold governments and housing providers like ourselves responsible and accountable to provide more housing for the most vulnerable Victorians.”

Team Life Cycle prepare for the Murray to Moyne.

Nine very passionate cyclists who thrive on the challenge of pushing their bodies to the very limit will ride the Murray to Moyne (M2M) Cycle relay in April.

Known as Team Life Cycle, the riders are raising vital funds for Uniting’s mental health services.

The Murray to Moyne Cycling Relay began 35 years ago. It was the inspiration of Graham ‘Woody’ Woodrup.

Graham dreamt of spreading the news that riding a bike not only has fabulous health and social benefits, but it can also be done to help others.

The Murray to Moyne is a team endurance event and an established classic on the cycling calendar.

Riders cycle in relays non-stop over two days and one night. They choose different routes starting from towns on the banks of the river Murray across stunning countryside in western Victoria to finish at Port Fairy.

They are encouraged to raise money for hospitals, health services and health-related charities close to their hearts.

Team Captain Chris ‘Morf’ Morfoot says the team is training hard and building fitness levels to get ready for the challenge of the M2M.

This year the event runs on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 April. The team will travel to Echuca on the Friday and camp by the Murray overnight while they prepare for the big days ahead.

“Our team is broken up into 3 groups of 3 and each group has to ride 6 x 1-hour legs in relay fashion, commencing 9am Saturday” says Chris.

“We have 3 support crew and 2 vehicles carrying bikes, resting riders and all the necessities to keep our teams on the road pedalling, fed, watered and safe”

Team Life Cycle will ride through until around 1am Sunday morning.

After a compulsory albeit very short sleep in Hamilton, they will then get back in the saddle for the last 90 kilometres to the finish line in Port Fairy as one team.

Time then for a well-earned rest/meal/shower and most likely sleep.

“Each of our riders will do at least 240kms within the 24hours with some completing more depending on how well the rest of the team fare,” said Chris.

“Sound hard? It certainly is!!

Sound challenging? It certainly is!!

Would you like to support us? Please do!!

“We are welcoming sponsorships, donations, whatever you can muster for this amazing group of cyclists training with such commitment for a gruelling event raising funds for a very worthy cause” says Chris.

“We are delighted to partner with Uniting Vic.Tas for the first of what we hope will be many fundraising cycling events.

“So please, get on board, support the team and soak up all the lead-up info and live communications throughout the whole two days.”

You can follow Team Life Cycle’s progress or make a donation to support their efforts

Reducing drug-related harm should be our priority

Uniting Vic.Tas, one of Victoria’s largest alcohol and drug treatment providers, supports the intent of the Bill to be tabled by Reason Party MP Fiona Patten in State Parliament to decriminalise the use and possession of small quantities of illicit drugs in Victoria.

At Uniting Vic.Tas, we provide adult and youth withdrawal, rehabilitation, and counselling services as well as outreach and home-based support across the state and work closely with those involved in criminal justice system.

Our colleagues at Uniting NSW/ACT have campaigned to decriminalise the use and possession of small quantities of illicit drugs in these jurisdictions for many years with Uniting opening the first safe injecting room at Kings Cross, Sydney in 2001.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said Uniting Vic.Tas is in favour of a harm minimisation approach to the use and possession of small quantities of illicit drugs.

“We think this proposed Bill is an important step in the right direction,” Ms Pike said.

“Sadly, there’s widespread possession and use of illicit drugs in our community, but we know that criminalising this just hasn’t worked – it hasn’t stopped or significantly reduced drug use nor has it reduced drug-related harm.

“We believe there has to be a new approach, one which acknowledges drug use as a health issue through harm minimisation. This will ultimately save lives.

“However, if we’re going to direct the focus on harm minimisation and treatment programs, these programs need to be properly funded and resourced for it to be effective.”

Uniting Acting General Manager Alcohol and Other Drugs services, Adrian Webber, said early intervention and treatment is the key to minimising the harm associated with drug use.

“Every day, we see the harm of illicit drug dependence and the impact on both the individual and their loved ones,” Mr Webber said.

“We see the devastating impact for people who get caught up in the criminal justice system for using small amounts of illicit substances and the long-term impact this can have on them.

“A health and harm minimisation first approach will remove some of the stigma, but most importantly, it will help more people to begin their road to recovery.”

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike awarded Member of the Order of Australia

After a long and distinguished career including time as a teacher, university lecturer, Member of Parliament and the community services sector, Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike has been recognised in the national Honours List announced on January 26.

Ms Pike was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “significant service to social welfare and not-for-profit organisations, and to the Parliament of Victoria”.

Elected to the Victorian Parliament in 1999, Ms Pike was the state’s Health Minister between 2002 and 2007 and Minister for Housing between 1999 and 2002, Minister for Community Services in 2002 and Minister for Education between 2007 and 2010.

In more recent years, Ms Pike has been CEO of Uniting Vic.Tas, one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit community services organisations since 2019 following three years as the Board Chair.

Ms Pike said she was humbled to be one of the thousands of Australians recognised in this year’s Honours List.

“In accepting this honour, I also recognise that January 26 is not a day of celebration for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Uniting Vic.Tas stands in solidarity in recognising the injustices, dispossession and trauma that began on this date,” Ms Pike said.

“We also affirm our commitment to find a date for our National Day which unites all Australians.”

“There are many incredible people on this year’s list, people who have devoted their lives to others and to their communities, so it’s humbling be named alongside them.

“It’s a surprise, but a huge honour to be recognised in this way.”

Ms Pike was the Labor Member for Melbourne for 13 years between 1999 and 2012 and has devoted more than 33 years of her life to the community services sector.

Prior to Parliament, Ms Pike taught humanities at secondary schools in Adelaide and Darwin during the 1970s and 1980s.

Along with her work at Uniting Vic.Tas, Ms Pike has previously served as Board Chair at Western Health, Chairperson of the Victorian Council of Social Services and also the South Australian Urban Renewal Authority.

Our statement for January 26

January 26 is not a day of celebration for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is a reminder of the lasting impacts of colonisation and dispossession and for many, a day of grief and mourning. 

Uniting Vic.Tas stands in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in recognising the injustices, dispossession and trauma that began 234 years ago on 26 January 1788. We recognise the continued impacts of colonisation through dispossession of land and disconnection from family, culture, and Country. These include removal of children and over-representation of Aboriginal people in our prisons. 

We deeply regret the legacy of past policies and practices that continue to detrimentally impact the identity, dignity, and spirit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Australians of today are not directly responsible for what happened in the past but it is a part of our shared history, and as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians we are responsible for what happens in the future. 

On January 26, we stand alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We recognise and celebrate the strength, resilience and resistance of our First Nations People and the path to self-determination. We recognise and respect their sacred connection to the land for over sixty millennia and we pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging, on whose land we live and work every day. 

As the community services organisation of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania we affirm that the Uniting Church in Australia that has long called for a change in the date of our National Day, and has urged the Federal Government to promote community discussion directed towards finding a date for Australia Day that has greater power to unite than 26 January. 

As a nation, we must find a date for a National Day which unites all Australians. A day we can celebrate this country as home to the oldest continuing culture on earth.

Matthew’s story

Children in foster care rarely have this early parenting experience.

Let us reflect on Mathew’s life. Even before he was born he was hearing the violent arguments between his parents. His mum could barely soothe herself, as she was alert for the next beating. She had no space to keep her developing baby in mind. Her high stress levels led to increased levels of stress hormones, which surrounded Matthew as a foetus. After he was born the arguments continued. Sometimes Matthew was held between his fighting parents. At least once he was snatched from his mum’s arms and flung onto the bed by his dad. As a baby Matthew instinctively signalled his distress to his parents by crying and screaming. But when he did, at best he was met with no response from his parents. Worse they yelled at him, told him to shut up and even on occasion hit him. Matthew learned not to signal when he needed soothing, but with no capacity to soothe himself all he could do was sleep through his distress.

One night, police were called by neighbours to Matthew’s home. They found Matthew in physical danger while his parents fought. Matthew was removed in the middle of the night to a foster placement. He was found to be a ‘good’ baby, no trouble to care for, spending large amounts of time asleep. When he ‘woke up’ in his toddler years, he was highly active, prone to tempers and unusually self-reliant, with both his carers and his birth parents, who he saw every couple of months. He rarely turned to his carers for comfort, even when he experienced pain or distressing experiences.

Like Luka, Matthew experienced complex trauma which was chronic and prolonged and began before his birth. However, unlike Luka, Matthew did not have parents he could trust to love and care for him. He had no support that he could rely on during the worst part of his experience. Matthew had to learn to become self-reliant, an ability he clung to throughout his childhood. The trauma that Mathew experienced occurred within his family and this has had a major impact on him.

Matthew’s brain is wired for danger and a lack of trust in others. He has learnt how to behave this way with his mum and dad and this impacts upon his behaviour with his foster carers and at school. He finds it difficult to calm down once upset and he struggles to self-reflect and make sense of his experiences and relationships with others. He finds it hard to trust others.

Matthew also experiences emotions such as sadness, anger or worry more intensely when he thinks his carers are unavailable or, worse, if they argue or became stressed. For Matthew these are a reminder of the more intense arguments and stress of his mum and dad. His carer telling him “no” or being displeased with him can cause sadness, anger or worry, which can lead to the triggering of a memory of his early childhood trauma experience. This reinforces Matthew’s need to be self-reliant. It moves Matthew further away from being able to seek comfort from his carers who he sees as both the source of the distress and unavailable as comforters.

Matthew is a difficult child to parent. How he learnt to cope with neglectful and frightening parenting early in his life and to cope with the subsequent separation and loss of these parents and his emergency foster carers affects his ability to make good attachments. His need to stay in control means that he is not open to a reciprocal, loving relationship with his carers. He works hard to be self-reliant; to hide his need for comfort. But when his stress reduces he continues to demonstrate coercive, attention-needing behaviours, demanding that his carers remain attentive to him.

Belinda and Mike are Matthew’s long-term carers. They have an older birth child, Daniel, whom they have parented successfully. When parenting Daniel, his parents felt safe and competent. They enjoy being with him, but can also recover easily from times of conflict when Daniel is more oppositional. Belinda and Mike always make sure to repair their relationship with Daniel following such times, and so he experiences unconditional love. Belinda and Mike feel rewarded in the parenting task, want to approach and interact with their child and are able to tune into his needs and make sense of his behaviours and their responses to them. They are able to provide Daniel with warmth, openness and empathy as well as providing boundaries for his behaviour and sufficient structure to help him stay safe.

With Matthew, all of these parenting abilities are challenged. Whilst they offer the same unconditional love as for Daniel, Matthew does not trust this. Structure and boundaries can trigger his fears of being hurt or abandoned again and he responds with rage and terror. It is hard to enjoy being with Matthew as Belinda and Mike find themselves waiting for the next rage-filled episode. They try to attune to Matthew’s needs, but his behaviour leaves them feeling confused and helpless. They try to give love and warmth, but it never feels like it is reciprocated. They offer nurture but Matthew rejects this in favour of his feelings of control.

They feel no pleasure in this relationship and find it hard to tune into his needs or to make sense of his behaviours. They experience a painful sense of failure as parents. They feel like withdrawing. They quickly become defensive as they shout, nag and plead with him.

Fortunately Belinda and Mike can think, plan and self-monitor even at their most stressed with Matthew.  They are also able to seek and use the support of friends, family and professionals. This self-awareness and ability to draw upon support allows them to stick with Matthew, rather than rejecting him.

Belinda and Mike found some good professional support and this, combined with good friends and some supportive family members, helped them withstand the worst times. Belinda had the hardest time as Matthew feared her love the most and rejected her attempts to connect with him. It was particularly tough in his early years when only she witnessed this side of him whilst to everyone else he was charm itself. At eight years of age, Matthew struggled to make sense of his experience of being in care. He figured “I must be a bad kid!” and dreamed of parents who would not have rejected him. The increased stress that this brought meant his anger and rage became visible to everyone. Even the smallest of boundaries and the kindest of ‘no’s’ led to a fear that he would be rejected and would lose this family too. Belinda and Mike worked with their professional supporters to understand this and to remain connected with Matthew even when he was fighting them. Most difficult for them was balancing Matthew’s enormous needs with those of their older son, so that Daniel also got what he needed from his parents. With support and therapeutic help they managed and they had some calm years.

There were some good family times as Matthew began to believe in what was on offer. They could not be as spontaneous as they would have liked, change and transition would always be difficult, but there was laughter and fun. It was also good to see Matthew’s developing friendship with Daniel, and to watch the two of them enjoying finding their feet in the wider world.

It was seat belt time as Matthew hit his teens. All the old doubts and fears seemed to resurface as Matthew again tried to figure out who he was and where he belonged. For a while the old Matthew was back with his need to control, reject and hate within the family. Luckily their professional support was on hand ready to mobilise and together they all figured out what was going on. Belinda and Mike revisited old strategies. At night they watched him sleeping and remembered the love they would always have for him. A therapist worked with all of them so that Matthew could experience his carer’s acceptance and understanding of his biggest rages and worst fears.

Matthew left home when he was ready, which was in his mid-20s. He came back often, sharing with them his success as an engineer. As he approached 30 he found a steady partnership with Ruth. The proudest moment of Belinda and Mike’s life was watching Matthew hold his small infant son. As they watched the two gaze at each other they knew that despite the ups and downs, they had got there and that Mathew no longer had to carry the legacy of his early days.

Adapted from Matthew’s Story in Golding, Kim S. (2013) “Why are you afraid of being parented?” in Howe, David (ed) & Alper, Joanne (ed) Assessing Adoptive and Foster Parents, Jessica Kingsley, pp. 19-36. Reproduced by permission of Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

A big step towards a fairer and more equitable Victoria

Uniting Vic.Tas welcomes the decision by the Victorian Parliament to introduce the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Bill into law.

The Bill will now make it illegal for faith-based organisations to discriminate against employees because of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

Religious-based organisations that receive government funding to provide services, including Uniting Vic.Tas, will also no longer be able to refuse to provide those services based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identify.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the changes are an important step forward for equality in Victoria, particularly for the LGBTIQ+ community.

“This is about fairness, making everybody feel safe and supported, giving everybody equal rights,” Ms Pike said.

“We believe these new laws strike the right balance between protecting people from discrimination and supporting the rights of religious organisations to practice their faith.

“Nobody should have to hide who they are or pretend they’re somebody they’re not to keep their job or receive the help they need.

“Every person has the right to be who they are and enjoy freedom of thought, expression, conscience, religion and belief. These laws will make sure these freedoms can’t be used to harm or demean others.

“We believe in providing safe and fully inclusive, nondiscriminatory and welcoming workplaces – it’s integral to who we are.

“Everybody has the right to determine their own sexual orientation, their gender, their martial status and who they are, and these laws will protect that.”

Supporting older women in crisis

In June we opened a crisis accommodation facility that provides a safe space for older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Our team work with the women during their stay to secure long-term housing, and help with finances, mental health and any other support services they may need.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Victorian Government, Uniting Vic.Tas, the Uniting Church, Community Housing Limited and the Oak Building Group.

Since it opened, 4 women have moved in and are in the process of finding long-term housing.

The women age in range from late 40s to early 70s.

Two of the women have moved in after fleeing family violence.

Facility leader, Linda* says the move has made a positive difference for the women.

“It was hard when they first moved in, because we were in lockdown due to COVID-19,” says Linda.

“But now that restrictions have eased, the women are able to socialise and attend support groups.

“One of the women has been getting boxes of food and sharing them with the others, which is lovely to see.”

Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence found there is a gap in services for older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“Older women have only had access to rooming and boarding houses, which are not suitable for older women,” says Linda.

“Here, they can move into their own space, make it their own and feel a lot safer.

“I remember when one of the women first moved in. She burst into tears when she walked in the door. She couldn’t speak for a while. She was overcome with joy to have her own space.

“The women are happy to be here. But at the same time, they are also worried about the next step.

“We’re working closely with them to find long-term housing solutions.”

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the person featured in this story.

Jobs Victoria Advocates join forces with GOTAFE to provide greater opportunities for regional jobseekers

When Jobs Victoria Advocates Barbara Mangles and Sharon D’Cruz began working with Uniting Vic.Tas in Shepparton, they could never have imagined just how far and wide across regional Victoria they would get to spread their skills and reach. Joining forces with GOTAFE’s Mobile Campus, they will visit 40 destinations to have an even greater impact on local communities, matching jobseekers with new career opportunities.

Being a Jobs Victoria Advocate is all about forming close working relationships with individuals, community service providers, potential employers, referral services and the education sector. Advocates Barbara Mangles and Sharon D’Cruz have been establishing their advocacy service across a large geographical footprint and leveraging relationships including one they formed with GOTAFE, the largest vocational education provider in regional Victoria, alongside their Uniting Vic.Tas Team Leader, Rob McAdam.

GOTAFE launched its Mobile Campus in November 2021. The refurbished semi-trailer is fit out with a client reception area, private career counselling space, workshop/seminar space and a community computer lab. It provides a space for local people wanting to learn more about employment and training pathways. Together, the GOTAFE Mobile Campus and Jobs Victoria Advocates will visit Victorian communities to provide more accessible education, jobs and skills services.

Having already been to Nagambie, Merrifield and Cobram in their first few weeks, they’ll be participating in community events and expos, and setting up at new housing estates, markets, shopping centres and secondary colleges to engage with the community.

“Being able to work closely with the GOTAFE Mobile Campus team means that we can broaden our outreach and engage with more jobseekers in more locations while forming direct links with employers and other community services,” commented Rob McAdam, Team leader Employment Services, Uniting Vic.Tas, Goulburn & Ovens Murray.

“What makes our Advocates so valuable to our communities is the fact that they provide more than just employment assistance. The work they do supports jobseekers to overcome any obstacle to employment, like cultural differences, language barriers, housing, mental health and diversity issues,” he added.

From Nagambie to Beechworth, Gisborne to Bright and Yarrawonga to Wodonga, the collaboration between GOTAFE and Uniting Vic.Tas’ Job Victoria Advocates aims to bridge the gap between regional communities and delivering critical employment and education services. This is more important than ever, especially for those who have faced heightened social and economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“GOTAFE is looking forward to working with local Job Advocates from Jobs Victoria as we bring our new Mobile Campus to communities across regional Victoria,” said Jane O’Brien, Coordinator of Student Attraction at GOTAFE.

“All Victorians deserve equal access to job hunting skills and support. Our partnership with Jobs Victoria will deliver for people in the regions regardless of location, access and financial barriers,” she said.

Discover where the GOTAFE Mobile Campus is heading

Find out how Jobs Victoria Advocates can connect you with TAFE skills, job centres, employment services, apprenticeships and more.

Learn more about job and training opportunities

Religion must not be a reason to discriminate

Uniting Vic.Tas is urging the Federal Government to withdraw its proposed Religious Discrimination Bill fearing it will cause unnecessary distress and hardship.

CEO Bronwyn Pike said the Bill in its current form has the potential to allow people and organisations to use faith as a means to cause harm to clients, customers, staff and volunteers.

“Religious freedom must always be balanced against basic human rights,” Ms Pike said.

“Although we come from different faiths, religions and cultures, we are united in our focus on community and social service.

“We’re extremely proud of the work we do. Allowing people of faith to discriminate against people of a different faith or on the basis of their sexuality or marital status is completely against what we stand for.

“We don’t support the Bill as it currently stands, because we don’t believe it will benefit the community.

“Religious organisations such as ours have demonstrated that it is possible to uphold the religious faith on which our work is founded – providing services to anyone who needs them – while at the same time respecting the diverse faith of our workforce, volunteers, clients and residents.

“The proposed Religious Discrimination Bill has the potential to create additional barriers for vulnerable people in accessing housing, employment or alcohol and drug or mental health support services.

“For people who are marginalised and experiencing social exclusion, and have a limited ability to self-advocate, this Bill is likely to cause further harm and distress.

“We urge the Government to legislate to protect religious freedom without removing protections from those who need it. Our laws should protect all of us, equally.

“There are no grounds on which religion can be a justification for saying or doing harmful things. This Bill goes too far and must be withdrawn.”

Mary’s story

Mary* is a mother of 2 young children who recently left an abusive relationship.

Mary’s partner was violent towards her and their children.

Mary had attempted to leave the relationship with her children several times, but her partner was able to locate them and she returned to the relationship.

Child protection became involved and support was provided by family violence support workers.

After several court appearances for family violence related offences, Mary’s partner was jailed.

Mary does not want to reconcile with her partner and both Mary and her children remain fearful of his release from jail.

Mary has multiple health issues caused by the abuse.

These health needs require constant monitoring by her GP.

The children require ongoing counselling to work through the trauma of the abuse.

Mary and her children were referred to a Uniting Integrated Family Services (IFS).

Our case manager has been working with the family for several months.

Mary and her children repeatedly talk about their need for safety and security.

Mary has experienced long term financial instability and we have helped her access welfare payments.

She now manages her weekly payments to ensure she covers basic needs.

Our team worked with Mary to secure a Family Violence Flexible Support Package, which has helped her get a private rental and purchase security doors and locks for the windows.

This also helped cover removalist costs, the bond and the first month’s rent.

The family also received financial support for the children’s education, including school uniforms and an ipad.

Mary is also working towards a qualification, so she can find stable employment.

Having settled into their new home, Mary and her children are continuing to work through the ongoing impact of the violence they endured.

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the person featured in this story.

Sue’s story

Experiencing family violence is traumatic for children and young people.

It can have long-term effects on their health and wellbeing.

Sue* works in our Family Violence services at Uniting, supporting children and young people who have experienced family violence.

Sue recently supported a woman who left her partner after years of physical and psychological abuse.

The woman fled with their 2 young children, who had also suffered abuse from their father.

“The abuse was so significant that the mother suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” says Sue.

“The children felt very unsafe when they were near their father and they didn’t know how to say ‘no’ to him. They felt like they didn’t have a voice.”

The violence started after the children were born.

“Like a lot of women in this situation, she didn’t know how to leave and was scared of what would happen if she did,” says Sue.

“She was able to leave and find somewhere to stay. But when she came to us (at Uniting) she had new challenges to deal with.

“The father was demanding to see the children 2-3 times a week.

“The court approved this, despite the children not wanting to see their father.”

Sue worked with the children throughout this time, giving them coping techniques to deal with the challenges they faced when seeing their father.

“The children attend one of our group sessions for young people impacted by family violence,” says Sue.

“The group facilitator recently told me how amazed she is with the children. They are now very vocal about their experiences and they are able to communicate their thoughts and feelings with others.”

Sue says the father is now in counselling to help him understand and work through this violent behaviour.

“The children now feel like their voices are heard,” says Sue.

“They know that if they don’t want to see their father, they don’t have to.

“They have a long road ahead of them. But we will continue to work with them to provide the support they need.”

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the person featured in this story.

Standing up to gender-based violence

Uniting Vic.Tas is taking a stance during this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign, aimed at ending gender-based violence.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is a global initiative from the United Nations, designed to galvanise individuals, communities, and organisations to address gender inequalities, gender-based violence and take action to prevent violence before it starts.

The campaign starts on Thursday 25 November, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign runs until World Human Rights Day on 10 December.

A major part of the campaign will be the Walk Against Family Violence, which will be taking place at locations across Victoria including Melbourne, Dandenong, Shepparton and Sale on Thursday 25 November.

Family violence is the single largest contributor to homelessness for women in Australia and the leading contributor to preventable illness, disability and death for women aged 15 to 44.

Staff and volunteers from across Uniting will take part in the walks.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike urged the community to continuing speaking up and reporting family violence.

“We all deserve the right to feel safe in our own homes,” Ms Pike said.

“The most insidious aspect of family violence is that it mostly happens behind closed doors, so it’s largely hidden, often until it’s too late.

“We know family violence can happen to anyone – it could be a family member, a friend, someone at work or even your neighbour.

“The 16 Days of Activism is about raising awareness of gender-based and family violence, speaking up and taking action to prevent it from happening.

“At Uniting, we’re proud to provide a range of integrated and wrap-around services for people escaping violence, including housing and homelessness support.”

Twelve is too young to be treated as a criminal

Uniting Vic.Tas has joined Raise the Age Alliance members to urge governments across the country to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years.

Attorneys-General around Australia, including in Victoria and Tasmania, have recently agreed to work together to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike welcomed the issue being back on the agenda, but said 12 was too young to be treated as a criminal with clear evidence that 14 is the youngest age a child should be subjected to the criminal legal system.

Many 12-year-olds are still in primary school. At 13, they are starting their first year of high school. These formative years set a child’s trajectory for the rest of their lives.

In Victoria, even if the age of criminal responsibility is raised to 12, there is not a single child under 14 who will be released. This doesn’t go far enough.

Australia’s approach on this issue has been roundly slammed by the United Nations, most recently at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

For years, First Nations organisations, health, legal and human rights experts have been pleading for governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.

The current laws in Victoria and Tasmania treat children as criminals. We think this is unfair and that these children should not be condemned in this way.

We’re now calling on the Victorian and Tasmanian governments to follow the ACT and publicly commit to 14 as the age of criminal responsibility.

 

UPDATE: New Equal Opportunity laws

As one of Victoria’s largest faith-based not-for-profit community services organisations, Uniting Vic.Tas, we’re extremely disappointed there is not unanimous support for the Victoria Government’s proposed reforms to the Equal Opportunity Act (Religious Exceptions Bill).

The reforms would make it illegal for faith-based organisations to discriminate against employees because of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

Faith-based organisations that receive government funding to provide services would also not be allowed refuse access to those services based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the proposed changes would be a step forward for equality in Victoria, particularly for the LGBTIQ+ community.

“This is an issue that should be above politics – it’s about respect, fairness and equality,” Ms Pike said.

“As a large faith-based organisation, we believe in fairness, making people feel safe and supported and giving people equal rights

“Nobody should have to hide who they are or pretend they’re somebody they’re not to keep their job or receive the help they need. Nobody should be discriminated against because of their sexuality.

“We fully support the Government’s proposed changes to the Bill which we believe strike the right balance between protecting people from discrimination and supporting the rights of religious organisations to practice their faith.

“Every person has the right to be who they are and enjoy freedom of thought, expression, conscience, religion and belief and the right to determine their own sexual orientation, their gender, their marital status and who they are.

“The proposed changes to the Bill would protect all of these freedoms and make sure they can’t be used to harm or demean others or discriminate against them – that’s why these it’s so important.”

Andrew’s story

After a health scare 10 years ago, Andrew decided he finally wanted to learn more about his birth family.

Andrew knew he was adopted but didn’t want to open a can of worms for everyone, particularly his birth mother.

While his adoptive parents had raised him, he had always wondered about his birth family.

He was ready to take a leap of faith.

He was curious about any health conditions he may have inherited.

Fortunately, his adoptive mother remembered his birth name and “the big home in Camberwell,” where the adoption was arranged by the Presbyterian Babies Home staff.

With encouragement from his sister, Andrew contacted the Uniting Heritage Service and talked to case manager, Victoria Lavery.

Andrew had requested his records many years ago but had not been ready to receive them.

He accepted Victoria’s offer to search for his birth family and in the following weeks, she was successful in locating Andrew’s records.

In December 2020, Victoria gave Andrew his adoption records and facilitated contact with his birth family.

Andrew learnt that after he was born, his birth mother had married and moved interstate.

Sadly, she had died of bowel cancer earlier that year.

Talking to her partner, Andrew learnt that they got married and had 2 children.

Their oldest son also died of bowel cancer in early 2021.

The family urged Andrew to get a bowel cancer screening.

Andrew’s result was clear, but the doctor was concerned about Andrew’s constant headaches.

Further testing showed a series of brain abnormalities, which Andrew has since had removed but could have been fatal without treatment in the short term.

Andrew has experienced tough times recently and is now getting back on track.

Today, Andrew is back at work and looking forward to driving again now that he is over his health scare.

Getting in touch with his birth family and learning their medical history may have saved his life.

Stella’s story

Stella* had received her information and decided to make contact her birth mother.

She asked the Heritage Service to do the search on her behalf.

She had been found by her birth father a few years earlier and this had not been a positive experience.

He wanted more contact than Stella was comfortable with and she regretted giving him her address.

This time she wanted to have another person to support her during the process.

A search by the Heritage Service at the registry of births, deaths and marriages located a married name for her birth mother.

An electoral roll search revealed a possible address, so a letter was posted.

When this received no response, a second letter was sent several weeks later by registered mail.

This time, Stella’s birth mother, Winifred* responded.

She said that she had “ignored the first letter but thought she had better respond to the second one.”

Winifred said she cried when she received the letter and was tearful on the phone to a Heritage Service team member.

She spoke of her lifelong sense of guilt, her situation at the time, her husband and children born after Stella.

Winifred asked: “what does she want,” “what is she like,” “what if she’s not serious,” and “how can I tell my children.”

After several conversations, she found the courage to tell her other children.

The worker kept in touch with both Stella and Winifred, passing messages with permission, that laid the groundwork for a meeting.

Stella, Winifred and a Heritage Service team member met at a park in the country.

Both Stella and Winifred brought photographs of their families and themselves.

Our team member made a picnic lunch and supported the conversation.

Stella said: “it’s great that you are here, my mind is spinning and I can’t think straight.”

Six months later, Stella and Winifred have continued to keep in touch.

Our team member has also kept in touch with the pair, but this contact is gradually reducing as the 2 women work out their own ways of communicating.

They know they can get in touch with us at any time.

*This is a true story about a real people. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the people featured.

George’s story

George* telephoned. He had been thinking for a while about getting his adoption information and had made a request in the past, but the paperwork had put him off.

When he realised that he did not need to fill out any forms he was relieved.

George lives in rural Victoria and was anxious about coming to Melbourne, so it was decided to meet at a café between Melbourne and where he lived.

He would be unlikely to know anyone, and a private space could be found.

Our Heritage Service team member booked a table in a private section of the café and prepared the paperwork once the records had been located.

It took 5 weeks from the phone call to the meeting.

When the time came to meet and share the records, George and the team member spent several hours together, discussing a range of things.

George spoke of his children, his work, his feelings when learning about his story and his mix of excitement and fear about the next steps.

It was decided that the team member would make contact again in a few weeks to give George time to digest and absorb the information, talk to his family and explore in his own mind what he needed.

He knew that he could call at any time before that.

After a few weeks, the team member called and George had questions about the possible next steps.

If we searched for his birth family, how would it be done?

What if they didn’t like each other?

What if they didn’t want to meet?

He did not want to disturb his birth family, but at the same time, was keen to learn more.

He wanted to know what support he would have and was assured that the Heritage Service could do the searching and the follow up if that was his wish.

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured.

Proposed Commonwealth voter identification Bill.

We are concerned about the impact of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021 which was recently introduced to the Australian Parliament. 

Promoted as enhancing the integrity of the election system, there is clear evidence that voter fraud is not a critical issue in Australia. The Australian Electoral Commission has described it as “vanishingly small” and it is generally held to be within an identified group that can be addressed by other means.

If this legislation passes, an individual will not be able to vote in federal elections without a prescribed, valid ID. But here at Uniting, we know there are many good reasons why someone might not have an ID.  People such as those experiencing homelessness or sleeping rough, people escaping violence or experiencing coercive control from a partner, people who may have experienced a significant life trauma or event, or live remotely, or young people who have exited the State’s care and are in the process of transitioning to their adult life may not have access to this documentation, or might not have a recognised permanent address. They are therefore excluded from exercising their legitimate role in the democratic process .

The draft legislation suggests that individuals who don’t bring an ID can complete a ‘declaration vote’. This still requires a permanent address and date of birth, or someone with an ID to vouch for them. This still excludes many of the people we have identified as being at risk of exclusion.

This Bill is already causing confusion. It risks excluding Australians who have a right to have their voice heard. It is likely to restrict access to voting for people experiencing disadvantage.   Uniting Vic.Tas has a long and proud history of supporting people who are experiencing vulnerability.  We stand with them and all Australians who recognise that this Bill would have the unintended consequence of excluding people from our democracy.    

New Equal Opportunity laws

As one of Victoria’s largest faith-based not-for-profit community services organisations, Uniting Vic.Tas welcomes the Victoria Government’s reforms to the Equal Opportunity Bill.

The reforms, introduced to the Victorian Parliament today, would make it illegal for faith-based organisations to discriminate against employees because of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

Faith-based organisations that receive government funding to provide services would also not be allowed refuse access to those services based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the changes are an important step forward for equality in Victoria, particularly for the LGBTIQ+ community.

“As a large faith-based organisation, we believe this is about fairness, making people feel safe and supported and giving everybody equal rights,” Ms Pike said.

“We believe these new laws strike the right balance between protecting people from discrimination and supporting the rights of religious organisations to practice their faith.

“Nobody should have to hide who they are or pretend they’re somebody they’re not to keep their job or receive the help they need.

“Every person has the right to be who they are and enjoy freedom of thought, expression, conscience, religion and belief. These laws will make sure these freedoms can’t be used to harm or demean others.

“We believe in providing safe and fully inclusive, nondiscriminatory and welcoming workplaces – it’s integral to who we are.

“Everybody has the right to determine their own sexual orientation, their gender, their martial status and who they are, and these laws will protect that.”

Kerry’s story

Family violence is one of the leading causes of poverty among women across Australia.

With a surge in family violence cases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in demand for services to support families.

Kerry* is a single mother who has experienced family violence.

As the abuse escalated, Kerry took out an order of protection and fled to safety with her child.

“It was terrifying,” says Kerry.

“We left with the clothes on our back. I had no idea how we were going to survive.”

Left with significant debt, our team were able to provide Kerry with support when she needed it most.

The team walked Kerry through the different aspects relating to her and her child’s safety.

She was referred to a financial counsellor who provided information and advice regarding her debts, income and budgeting.

Our team helped Kerry access the basics like food and toiletries.

Kerry has now found somewhere to live and is working towards setting up a secure future for herself and her child.

“I don’t think I would have been able to do this without the help of Uniting,” says Kerry.

“It’s great to have financial support for rent and I have been able to save money to buy a second-hand washing machine and lounge set.”

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the person featured in this story.

More support to help escape family violence

Uniting Vic.Tas, along with nine UnitingCare Network consortium organisations across Australia, will lead a pilot program providing financial assistance and wrap-around support to assist people to escape family violence.

Uniting Vic.Tas will deliver the Escaping Violence Payment program along with UnitingCare Network Consortium members Wesley Mission (NSW and ACT),

UnitingCare (QLD), Uniting WA, Uniting Communities, UnitingCare Wesley Bowden (SA), Uniting Country SA, Uniting SA, Somerville (NT) and UnitingCare Australia.

The program is being funded by the Commonwealth Government as part of its $1.1 billion commitment in the 2021-22 Federal Budget to help end violence against women and children.

The Escaping Violence Payment program will provide assistance up to $5000 for individuals, including financial assistance of up to $1500 along with goods, services and wrap-around support for anyone leaving a violent partner.

Payments can also be used to help find safe accommodation and connect with support services, access wrap-around support as well as referrals to any other assistance they may need to get back on their feet.

Financial insecurity is one of the main barriers for women that stops them leaving a violent partner and in some cases is a factor which contributes to why some return to an abusive partner.

The community services organisations will be able to arrange referrals or connections with other appropriate services so people can get the additional help to establish a home free from violence.

The program starts on 19 October and is expected to support up to 24,000 people across Australia over the next two years.

Find out more about Escaping Violence Payment.

Aylin’s story

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone – some more than others.

Culturally and linguistically diverse communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, so it’s really important to make sure they know about and can get support, where it is available.

Many people seeking asylum in our country receive little or no income support, making it hard to make ends meet.

Our multicultural programs and services help people find housing and put food on the table.

Before COVID-19, people could access food from our Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre (ASWC).

During lockdowns, food hampers were delivered to people’s homes.

Aylin* is a single mum who reached out to our ASWC last year. She was looking for ways for her and her children to meet new people and make friends. She also asked us for food and toiletries, as she was having difficulty affording the basics.

Aylin is studying for an aged care certificate so she can get a job in the future to provide for her family.

Our team spoke to Aylin on the phone to go over her food needs each week.

The phone calls provided some much-need human contact and we were able to provide her with food that she was familiar with, given her cultural background.

“The (ASWC) staff are so supportive,” says Aylin.

“It’s been a struggle. We don’t have a lot of (financial) support to get by.

“Being able to access food is a big help. And the (ASWC) have given me the chance to access food that we like to eat, which is really nice.”

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the person featured in this story.

Uniting for better mental health

October 10-17 is Mental Health Week.

As we continue to navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, never has it been more important to advocate for and raise awareness of better mental health for all.

Events have been organised across the country to unite Australians of all ages and backgrounds to promote better mental health for everyone.

Find an event near you.

As more and more people reach out to our services, we know how much of an impact the last 18 months has had, and continues to have, on people’s mental health.

We’re here to help.

Pop-up mental health clinics

We recently welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement of 20 pop-up mental health services which will help address the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 pandemic across the state.

We are partnering with Ballarat Health and Monash Health to deliver the fast-tracked, tailored mental health care and support to people who need it the most across Western Victoria, the Wimmera and south and south-eastern Melbourne.

Read more here.

Firefighter Stair Climb

For the fifth year running, the Firefighter Stair Climb is raising money for the Lifeline service we operate in Melbourne.

The stair climb raises funds to improve support services, fund research, remove stigmas and raise awareness of mental health issues like depression, Post Traumatic Stress Injury and suicide.

This year the climb is virtual so you can get involved to benefit your own and other people’s mental health.

Find out how you can get involved.

Mental Health Week Exhibition

During Mental Health Week from 10-17 October, our team in Wimmera will host an art exhibition showcasing work created by Uniting mental health consumers.

The theme this year is ‘Set Yourself Free.’

Keep an eye on the Wimmera Facebook Page for details on how you can view the exhibition.

If you are experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Find out more about Uniting Mental Health Services.

 

Media Statement – Uniting Disability Residential Services

Under a new agreement announced today, Uniting Vic.Tas will transfer its supported independent living services for people with disabilities in the eastern and southern suburbs of Melbourne to specialist disability providers, Scope and Yooralla.

Uniting’s Supported Independent Living (SIL) houses provide 24/7 support for people with disabilities so they can live as independently as possible.

The announcement includes Uniting’s Neurological Support Services which supports people with progressive degenerative disabilities such as Huntington’s Disease.

As part of the agreement, 20 SIL houses are transferring to Scope and the 4 neurological support houses are transferring to Yooralla.

Uniting CEO Bronwyn Pike said a review of Uniting’s residential disability services showed larger disability providers are better placed to deliver SIL services in the southern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

“Uniting is large, but our disability residential service is small compared to other providers operating in these areas. Both Scope and Yooralla are better placed to deliver these residential services, as experienced providers across the spectrum of support needs for people with disability,” she said.

“The decision is about finding the best solution for the people that we support. We are working with these specialist disability providers and the National Disability Insurance Agency to ensure a safe and smooth transition for everyone who lives and works in the homes.”

Transfer of these services to Scope and Yooralla is due to be completed by the end of November 2021.

Uniting Vic.Tas will continue to operate SIL houses in other parts of Victoria as well as employment, social support and nursing and allied health services for people with disability.

____________________________________________________________________

Quotes from Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM, Chief Executive Officer, Scope Aust.

“As one of the largest supported accommodation disability services providers nationally, we welcome the opportunity to work with Uniting to support customers to live the life they choose, in their homes supported by the staff they know.

We have extensive experience supporting people with intellectual, physical and multiple disabilities, and exceptional knowledge and experience in the NDIS. 

We’re driven by our mission and are excited to support even more people to live as empowered and equal citizens.”

Quotes from Terry Symonds, Chief Executive Officer, Yooralla

“We recognise that these services are people’s homes, so our immediate priority is to undertake close consultation with the residents, their families and staff.

“Yooralla has longstanding expertise in supporting people with disability who have complex health and medical needs to live the life they choose, and it would be an absolute privilege to welcome the Uniting Neurological Support Services residents, families and staff into the Yooralla community.”

Love of Gippsland keeps Di grounded.

Di Fisher knew from a young age that working for Uniting was her calling.

After meeting Uniting (then known as Kilmany Family Care) staff as a 16-year-old student doing work experience at the local Bairnsdale hospital, Di made a decision that would shape the course of her life.

“The values of Kilmany Family Care resonated with me,” says Di.

“It didn’t matter who you were, everyone was treated the same. Everyone was welcome.

“I made the decision then that I would work for (Uniting) and I started to work towards that goal.

“And those values remain the same today.”

The born and bred Bairnsdale local started at Uniting in 1993 and has now dedicated over half her life to the organisation.

“I still have the minutes from the meeting where I was introduced as a new staff member at Kilmany Family Care,” she says.

Since that time, Di has worked in various practitioner roles.

And in 1998, at 29-years-old, she took on her first leadership role as a strategy co-ordinator.

Today, she is the Executive Officer of Uniting Gippsland and Carer Services.

Many things have changed over the years.

“We’ve had a few name changes from Kilmany Family Care, Kilmany Uniting Care, Uniting Care Gippsland and now Uniting Vic.Tas,” says Di.

“When I started there were about 25 staff across Gippsland. Today we have over 125.

“Because the community services sector is very dynamic, there is always growth and change.

“It’s exciting to be part of that change and see the growth in our programs and services here in Gippsland.”

While the organisation has evolved under Di’s watch, some things have remained the same.

“Uniting has always recruited good people. And we have always invested in our staff and helped develop leaders in the sector,” she says.

“And we offer a family friendly environment. I feel like my two children grew up in Uniting .

“Kids often come here after school and do their homework in the lunchroom.

“We’ve had staff move here from Melbourne and other staff have offered them somewhere to stay while they find permanent housing.

“It’s that understanding that we’re a community and we’re all in it together.

“When you’re going through a tough time, we’ve got your back. And that community spirit will never change.”

That spirit has seen the region get through devastating drought, bushfires and floods many times.

“Working in rural and regional environments, people just get on and do what needs to be done,” says Di.

“I love that my colleagues just put their hands up and get the job done, especially during times of crisis. That makes me very proud.

“We have a diverse environment here, from beautiful beaches to remote high country.

“But it really is the people who make the place.

“I feel lucky to call this place home.”

CEO calls on governments to make homelessness a thing of the past.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO, Brownyn Pike spoke at a forum on housing policy and solutions in Maroondah, alongside Federal Housing Minister Michael Sukkar and Victorian Legislative Assembly Member for Ringwood Dustin Halse.

Addressing the North Ringwood Uniting Church community, Ms Pike said “an affordable, secure, and safe place to live should never be a luxury, it is the foundation for all people to live healthy and dignified lives as active participants in our community.

“In my years of experience I know, and we all know, that so many often quite expensive and complex interventions we offer to people who are in great need can fall down the minute they exit those programmes because they do not have a place to live.

“That notion of a foundation is really important. Safe and secure housing is a major factor in helping get a person’s life on track and address any issues they may experience.”

Ms Pike recognised the commitment of local congregations in running the Maroondah Shelter Project.

“I commend our local congregations for stepping up and leading the provision of services for people experiencing homelessness in this community. I also commend them for taking this initiative to engage in the public conversation about this important issue.”

Ms Pike spoke about poor income security, rental affordability, social housing stock and wrap-around support as interlinked factors that drive homelessness in our communities.

“Poverty and homelessness are inextricably linked. Households on low income, who live week-to-week, are unable to absorb the financial repercussion that result from disruptive life events such as illness, injury, family violence, relationship breakdown, job loss or a death in the family.

“These can be the real tipping points for people.

“The current Jobseeker rate of $44 a day for a single person is simply not enough for people to live on and it’s certainly not enough for people to find long-term secure and affordable housing.

“Yet, the Federal Government’s Disaster Support Payments, while welcome for many people, leave out those on Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments because they did not have formal work arrangements to lose the required eight or more hours of paid work to be eligible.”

Talking about rental affordability Ms Pike said that low affordability combined with low housing supply is creating critical situations in communities.

“Across the nation, less than 1% of rental properties were affordable for a single person on any Government income support payment during the rental snapshot in March. The Victorian Rental Report shows that in Maroondah, the proportion of affordable rental lettings in fact decreased.

“There are less houses in your community that people could even think about renting, even if they had additional resources.

On the issue of social housing stock, Ms Pike recognised the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Build project and Federal Government’s recent Safe Places initiative as good steps in the right direction.

“Uniting is excited to partner with both levels of government and have committed $20 million of our own funding to help build 500 new affordable housing projects around Victoria and Tasmania over the next five years.”

At the same time, Ms Pike also noted that the Federal Government spending on building new social housing has declined in the recent years.

“The proportion of funding towards National Housing and Homelessness Agreement has not been indexed for inflation and population growth and so in real terms declined significantly since 2013.”

“Increase in Rental Assistance funding, while necessary, only helps with the existing housing stock and doesn’t provide opportunity to increase supply of affordable housing.”

Alongside the provision of safe and affordable housing, Ms Pike noted the importance of providing integrated and wraparound support necessary for people to maintain their homes.

“When the underlying issues are not addressed, and people cycle back into homelessness.

“Uniting’s housing growth plans will support our wider service provision role in addressing vulnerability in the community. With our multiple service streams, we can provide wrap around support to those who need it.”

In concluding, Ms Pike urged Federal, State and Territory governments to “work together to do as much as they possibly can to make homelessness a thing of the past and not the reality of contemporary life in Maroondah, or anywhere else in a wealthy country like Australia.”

Find out more about Uniting housing and homelessness services.

PHOTO: Bronwyn Pike at the opening of Marrageil Baggarrook.

Thank you to our foster and kinship carers.

As we mark Foster and Kinship Care Weeks, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our compassionate and committed carers, for the wonderful work you do.

You open your homes and hearts to provide safe and supportive environments for children and young people to grow and thrive.

For this, we can’t thank you enough.

We know that COVID has thrown up some challenges in recent times, as you keep children and young people safe and connected.

So I’m sure that this year’s theme of “Adaptability: Caring through COVID and the changed care environment” will resonate with many of you.

During the ongoing lockdowns, many of you have taken on more responsibilities and had to deal with changes in the way you get the support you need.

We are deeply grateful for your resilience, creativity and commitment.

I hope you can take some time this week to reflect on the challenging yet rewarding role you have taken on. It can’t always be easy, but I hope the joys far outweigh the challenges.

Thank you for your compassion and resilience. Thank you for keeping the children and young people in your care safe and happy during these times of uncertainty.

Yours sincerely,

Bronwyn Pike
CEO Uniting Vic.Tas

New pop-up mental health services in Melbourne’s south, south east and western Victoria

Uniting Vic.Tas welcomes the Victorian Government’s announcement of $13.3 million for 20 pop-up mental health services which will help address the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 pandemic across the state.

We will be partnering with Ballarat Health and Monash Health to deliver the fast-tracked, tailored mental health care and support to people who need it the most across Western Victoria and the Wimmera and across south and south-eastern Melbourne.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the pop-up services will be staffed by trained clinicians and would open in the coming weeks with a dedicated triage and referral hotline and website for people to book appointments.

“We know how much of an impact the last 18 months have had on people’s mental health, how many people are really struggling,” Ms Pike said.

“There’s no doubt lockdowns and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the sense of loneliness, isolation and disconnection for some people.

“These pop-up services will allow people to access all-important mental health care and support close to home.

“With Ballarat Health we’ll be delivering support to communities right across Western Victoria and the Wimmera including Moorabool, Hepburn, Ballarat, Golden Plains, Ararat, Pyrenees, Northern Grampians, Horsham, Hindmarsh, West Wimmera and Yarrambiack.

“In Melbourne’s south and south-eastern suburbs, we’ll be working with EACH to provide for communities across Dandenong, Casey, Cardinia, Frankston, Kingston, Bayside, Monash and Glen Eira.

“Around 1 in 5 people will experience an issue with their mental health at some point in their lives and if it’s not yourself, it might be a family member or a friend. It doesn’t discriminate, so we’re pleased these centres will be able to provide that all important support.”

Find out more about Uniting Mental Health services

Uniting supports new state Equal Opportunity laws

Uniting Vic.Tas, one of Victoria and Tasmania’s largest community services providers, fully supports the equal opportunity legislation which will be introduced by the Victorian Government later this year.

The reforms will make it unlawful for religious organisations and schools to discriminate against employees and consumers because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or other protected attributes.

Under the planned changes, religious-based organisations that receive government funding to provide services, such as Uniting Vic.Tas, will not be able to refuse to provide those services based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said fairness and equality is at the heart of the everything the organisation does.

“We provide safe and fully inclusive, nondiscriminatory and welcoming environments which celebrate the diversity of our employees and consumers,” Ms Pike said.

“We believe every person has the right to be who they are and enjoy freedom of thought, expression, conscience, religion and belief.

“However, expression of religion and belief shouldn’t harm or demean others and it shouldn’t be automatically privileged over other rights, such as the right of a person to determine their own sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Nobody should have to hide who they are or pretend they’re somebody they’re not to keep their job or to receive the vital support services we provide to vulnerable people right across Victoria every day.

“These changes strike the right balance between freedom of religion and equality, particularly for the LGBTIQ+ community.

“We think the proposed new laws are an important step forward for equality in Victoria, protecting people from discrimination and supporting the rights of religious organisations to practice their faith.”

Read more about Uniting’s pledge.

A million steps for mental health

On Saturday 11 September, 600 firefighters and other emergency service personnel would have “stepped up to fight depression, PTSI and suicide” by climbing the 28 floors of Crown Metropol Hotel for this year’s Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb.  

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, the event is again taking place virtually, with people encouraged to collectively climb a “million steps for mental health.”

For the fifth year running, the event is raising money for Lifeline services in Melbourne, operated by Uniting Vic.Tas.

With the with climb going virtual, anyone can get involved.

You can even join with a few others and make a team of up to four people.

From World Suicide Prevention Day on 9 September until World Mental Health Day on 10 October, you can get climbing – whether it be your back steps, some stairs at the local park or even a milk crate in the lounge room.

More than 3000 Australians take their own lives every year, so the challenge is for everyone to climb more than 3000 steps over the next month.

The stair climb aims to raise $500,000 for Lifeline, Fortem and the 000 Foundation to improve support services, fund research, remove stigmas and raise awareness of mental health issues like depression, post-traumatic stress injury and suicide.

Register here and start climbing today!

ALERT – Afghan refugee foster care social media posts

We have been made aware of posts on social media and information circulating in the community purporting to be from Uniting relating to the fostering of Afghan refugee children.

These posts have not been authorised by Uniting and are fake and misleading.

We are asking our supporters and followers to ignore any social media posts or flyers on this issue.

Please do not provide your personal information or bank details or click on any links provided in the correspondence.

Uniting’s KOMAK program provides support to the Afghan community in south-east Melbourne.  Find out more.

Bringing Victoria’s Afghan community together

Uniting Vic.Tas last night gathered a wide range of Afghan community leaders, support agencies and Victorian Government representatives to discuss our response to the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan.

As part of the online discussion, organised by our Komak (which means help or support in Dari) program, ideas were floated on how agencies and the Government could best support Victoria’s Afghan community during this time.

The Komak program is a specialised team that champions the local Afghan community and works to develop resilience and wellbeing and build community connections and engagement across Melbourne’s south east.

The gathering was called in response to the growing anxiety and distress being felt by Victoria’s Afghan community to the situation in Afghanistan.

It was attended by Victorian Government MPs, Victoria Police, Victorian Multicultural Commission, councils and local faith based and cultural support groups and associations.

Uniting Vic.Tas Senior Manager and event organiser Rabia Sikander urged the Afghan community to reach out with plenty of local support and resources available.

“The situation in Afghanistan is dire, there’s fear, there’s uncertainty and we know local Afghans is really hurting,” Ms Sikander said.

“Many people in our community have family and friends back in Afghanistan and they don’t know what will happen to them, if they will be able to escape and what their future holds.

“By gathering support agencies, key community leaders and politicians, we wanted to not only express our concern, but discuss the help that’s available and to push our Federal Government to do more.

“We want the Afghan community to know that we’re here for you. If you want to talk, we have people that can talk to you and to advocate on your behalf. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us.”

If you need support, phone Komak on 8792 8999 or contact us.

Changing lives.

Even the smallest act of kindness can brighten someone’s day.

Your support has the power to change lives. Here’s how you can get involved.

Send Christmas cheer

Uniting Christmas cards are now available. This year we have 5 designs, including 4 new ones, for you to choose from.

Proceeds from card sales will support people in crisis this Christmas.

Order your Christmas card pack now.

Food For Families

For 30 years, our Food For Families campaign has collected food to share with families and individuals doing it tough.

We want to support everyone who comes to us – but we can’t do it alone. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our emergency relief services across Victoria and Tasmania have experienced unprecedented demand.

We need your help all year round so we can continue providing food and other essential items to people in their time of need.

Register today.
T 1800 668 426
foodforfamilies.org.au

Melbourne Marathon

We’re encouraging people to run or walk for Uniting at this year’s Melbourne Marathon event to help make a difference for people doing it tough.

We are one of the associated charities for this year’s event, to be held on Sunday 10 October. There are 5 distances to choose from: 42.195km marathon, 21.1km half marathon, 10km run, 5km run and 3km walk.

Register now

Coffee Cup Challenge

Join us for the Coffee Cup Challenge. By making a small sacrifice regularly you’ll make a big difference for people in need.

You can join the challenge from 1 October, marking International Coffee Day, to 1 March, which is Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday as it is also known. On Pancake Day, or around that date, we encourage you to celebrate with pancakes or a morning tea.

All funds raised from the Coffee Cup Challenge will support people experiencing crisis, vulnerability, and disadvantage.

Find out more about the Coffee Cup Challenge now.

Pancake Day 2022 is Tuesday 1 March. Register your interest.

Make a donation

Your generosity will help us provide essential services that are not covered by government funding. A gift today or a bequest for the future will make a positive and lasting difference to individuals, families and communities.

Make a donation now

Fundraise for us

There are so many new, safe and creative ways to stay in touch and raise funds for your local community. If you have found innovative ways to stay connected with friends and family we’d love to hear from you.

T 1800 060 543
[email protected]

Volunteer with us

Our 2400 volunteers are a vital and much loved part of our organisation. They give their precious time to help deliver our services. We rely on their support – and we’re always on the lookout
for more enthusiastic people.

Become a volunteer

A safe space for older women in crisis.

Marrageil Baggarrook crisis accommodation facility offers a safe space for women to live while they receive assistance to secure longterm housing, as well as help with finances or mental health and any other support services they may need.

Marrageil Baggarrook means “Divine Women,” and is a name given to Uniting by the Wurundjeri Community.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Victorian Government, Uniting Vic.Tas, the Uniting Church, Community Housing Limited and the Oak Building Group.

“This development has been a long time in the making with great dedication and advocacy from the Mountview Uniting Church congregation,” says Uniting Vic.Tas CEO, Bronwyn Pike.

“The church played a significant role in the planning of the units, with members generously donating their time to help prepare the submission for funding to the Victorian Government.

“Partnerships like this with congregations across Victoria and Tasmania are vital to supporting our work.

“These 8 independent living units have been decades in the making. It was a privilege to be in attendance and see it open its doors for the first time, especially as many people have worked so hard over the years to make it happen.

“Until now, there have been very few services available which provide a safe space offering both temporary accommodation and support services specifically tailored to older women.

“It’s rewarding to see a project which has been the subject of so much hard work and planning made a reality. We hope the facility will make a difference to the lives of many in the coming years.”

For more information about how we support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Thank you for transforming lives this winter.

The reduction in the JobSeeker payment earlier this year, combined with the end of JobKeeper, has seen more people slip
into crisis.

Many people are coming to us for the first time, from international students who can’t make ends meet, to mums and dads in secure jobs who suddenly find themselves out of work and struggling to pay the bills or put food on the table.

But you have made a difference for so many.

Thanks to you, so far nearly $600,000 has been raised through this year’s Winter Share Appeal.

Across Victoria and Tasmania, over 1671 people are being kept warm thanks to donations of blankets, swags and winter woollies.

An update on Sharon and Jhez

Sharon and Jhez shared their stories in our recent Winter Share Appeal.

Sharon (pictured above) moved to Australia in 2019 to marry her childhood sweetheart. But like so many, Sharon and her husband felt the strain
of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Sharon’s marriage fell apart and she left the family home with her children, she was referred to ur team in Shepparton where she was able to get the support she needed to get back on her feet.

In fact, Sharon went on to secure a job with Uniting.

We are pleased to report that Sharon and her husband have reconciled.

“We are going to counselling to ensure we stay on track. We’re thriving now. We’re communicating well and we’re very happy. Sometimes you need some expert help and advice to get you through a challenging time,” says Sharon.

Sharon is still working at Uniting and has taken on a new role helping jobseekers upskill and find the right job for them.

“I can’t thank Uniting enough. I received support in my time of need, and I’ve been able to turn a bad situation into a positive one,” says Sharon

Jhez reached out to our team 11 years ago when she was 7 months pregnant with her first child. Her relationship had fallen apart, and her finances crumbled. Jhez connected with Uniting and received food and housing support.

For his 10th birthday in February last year, Jhez’s son Troy asked friends to donate to Uniting instead of buying gifts.

On Mother’s Day this year, Jhez turned 40. She celebrated with family and friends.

“My husband treated me to a day out with friends, including a spa treatment and a night out in the city. I had a wonderful weekend surrounded by the people I love,” says Jhez.

Find out more about our support to multicultural communities.

A new lease of life for BreezeWay.

For 23 years, a dedicated team of staff and volunteers have served over 400,000 hot meals to Ballarat’s most vulnerable people at our BreezeWay service in Dana Street.

We recently opened a larger BreezeWay service in Albert Street. This new building has space for up to 80 people to sit down for a meal. That’s more than triple the capacity of the former
dining room.

The new building is fully accessible and includes an emergency relief centre with a food pantry and facilities including showers, washing machines and clothes dryers.

All of this would not be possible without the invaluable support of the local community and people like you.

Our General Manager for North and West Victoria, Annette Kelly-Egerton says the new BreezeWay facility now provides a better service than ever before to the Ballarat community.

“The new BreezeWay is a sanctuary where people in need can drop in for a chat and something to eat in a caring and compassionate space,” says Annette.

“As well as a hot meal, people can have a shower, a change of clothes and even connect with local housing and health support services.

“We’re extremely grateful for the support and generosity of the Oliver Foundation, Rotary Club of Alfredton, S.J. Weir and Central Highlands Water, who have all helped make this project happen.

“The larger kitchen allows us to prepare more meals and provide hospitality training. There’s also a social enterprise area, where we’re hoping to offer employment and skill development opportunities in the future.

“We also have a larger food pantry and on-site staff providing a ‘one stop shop’ supporting people in a friendly, welcoming and safe environment.” Jill Oliver from The Oliver Foundation says they are thrilled to see the project come to life.

“We’re proud to support this project, which focuses on some of Ballarat’s most vulnerable people,” says Jill.

“It’s wonderful that people can sit here together again, share a meal, connect and be there for each other.”

Pictured (left to right): Deb Robertson from the Rotary Club of Alfredton, Jill Oliver from the Oliver Foundation, Denise Lyons and Malcolm Roberts, both from the Rotary Club of Alfredton

Vaccinating our vulnerable

Uniting Vic.Tas and Ballarat Community Health teamed up this week to provide the COVID-19 vaccination to some of the region’s most vulnerable.

Fifty-five vulnerable people who we have supported through our Street 2 Home program, as well as those who are regulars at our BreezeWay community meals program and our emergency relief service, received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Seventeen Uniting Vic.Tas staff who work on the frontline in homelessness and housing support and emergency relief also rolled up their sleeves to get the jab at BreezeWay.

Marina Henning, who we helped into permanent accommodation a few months ago, told ABC, many disadvantaged people didn’t have the means to book or access information on the vaccination rollout.

“I was a bit anxious and I was unsure about how to go about getting it until a worker from Uniting contacted me and booked me in and this day has been great,” she said.

“I’ve already tried to encourage a few others [to get vaccinated] and I’ll keep encouraging them.”

Uniting Vic.Tas Senior Manager Homelessness Adam Liversage said he was thrilled with the turnout.

“It shows there’s a lot of anxiety out there regarding COVID-19 and they want to get the shot.

“If our vulnerable people in our community are coming forward, it’s really setting an example for our community.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone is susceptible to COVID-19 and everyone needs to get the jab so we can all get on with our lives.”

We want to thank Ballarat Community Health for their support in providing the vaccinations, nurses and support staff on the day.

 

Pictured: Uniting support worker getting vaccinated.

An open letter of sincere gratitude and encouragement

Dearest friends,

The past 18 months have been trying for us all, including communities within the Uniting Church in Australia and our organisations. The COVID-19 pandemic and its cycle of lockdowns, re-openings, restrictions and interruptions, has touched almost every aspect of our lives. Many of the things we once regarded as ‘normal’ may never return.

We have all made sacrifices, big and small. Parents have faced the challenges of home-schooling, often whilst trying to work from home. Families have been unable to visit loved ones to share important celebrations. Hard-working, proud people turned to others for support, many for the first time, as their work has disappeared. Refugees and foreign students have been unable to work or access government supports. Many people with family overseas have been separated from them for long periods of time. Small business owners have had to let staff go or have closed permanently. The list goes on.

At the same time, the pandemic has also brought out the best in many of us.

Where would many of us be if it weren’t for caring neighbours? People have held out a helping hand to those in need without concern for the potential risk to themselves. They have put the needs of their community first, demonstrating a true love of neighbour.

And where would we be if it weren’t for the essential workers? Our own health and family support workers, aged care and disability support workers, and early years educators who have worked tirelessly to provide care and support to others? Not to mention the people working in supermarkets, transport, teachers, medical staff and everyone else who have enabled most of us to remain in the relative safety of our homes.

Their stories fill us with gratitude and also with hope.

In many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed who we are as a nation by providing us with the opportunity to become part of a more compassionate community. It will be many months, or even years, before we find ourselves in a world where our hopes and plans are not driven by Covid case numbers.

Yet there is no doubt that vaccination is a key part of moving to that new normality.

As the vaccines roll out, everyone has a personal decision to make. For some, getting vaccinated is a simple choice; another way to support their community and in particular those who are most vulnerable. For others, there are factors that make it more complicated.

Many of those working with older people or people with disability see vaccination as part of their commitment to the wellbeing and safety of the people they work alongside every day.

For others, vaccination is our best chance to achieve that elusive COVID normal. It is our best hope to be able to visit families and friends freely, to plan weddings and celebrations, to be able to travel and see loved ones, for businesses to open with confidence and secure local employment.

We all long to be able to make plans without the fear of cancellations and lockdowns.

For love of neighbour, for the wellbeing and safety of our community, we encourage everyone to carefully consider vaccination. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor and make your decision based on what vaccination means for you, your families, and your community.

We’ve seen over the last year and a half that individual acts of kindness can have a huge impact on the lives of many people around them. Let this same generosity of spirit continue to guide us now.

We all have an important part to play. Together we can make a safer community for everyone.

Yours in gratitude,

Rev Denise Liersch
Moderator

Jude Munro AO
Chair
Uniting Vic.Tas

Raelene Thompson
Chair
Uniting AgeWell

Lindsey Mann
Chair
U Ethical

Download the origianal letter as a PDF

Planting seeds, renewing pride.

Elva’s garden has always been a source of pride and pleasure. But, as she grew older, her thriving garden of flowers became too much to manage.   

“Mum used to get so embarrassed about her garden because of the way it used to look,” says Elva’s daughter.

But at 92, Elva chose to make a change. Using her Home Care Package, she contacted Uniting, securing support to care for her garden.

Since that first phone call, Elva’s front yard has undergone quite a makeover. Our teams have tidied up, turned the soil and transformed her garden, creating a yard that Elva can be proud of.

“It’s so serene and beautiful – I’m delighted!” Elva says, delighted to be able to enjoy a garden – created just for her.

When the pandemic’s influence made her feel isolated and lonely, Elva enjoyed the distraction of watering her plants and watching them thrive.

She’s even inspired the local community. Her neighbours regularly pop by to take in the view, mulching and improving their gardens to match.

Justifiably proud of the progress, she loves to watch her plants grow – from her armchair inside or in the sun on her deck.

“There has been a lot of changes made to her garden, which has given her meaning to look outside at the flowers,” says Elva’s Uniting support person, Sue Sodhi.

“It has been an absolute honour for me to support Elva to live healthy, positive and productive life at home”.

Find out more about Uniting Aged Care services.

Paul’s story.

Social isolation is a crippling feeling.

Paul Camilleri knows this all too well.

Diagnosed with bipolar in 2001, Paul has battled the stigma attached with mental health for most of his life.

“I’ve always felt a bit different than other people,” Paul said.

“I was bullied a lot at school. And I was the outcast in my family growing up.

“And this caused tension, which came across as disappointment.

“After my diagnosis, people stopped reaching out.

“I used to go out walking my dog just to interact with others,” he added.

At his lowest, Paul found himself homeless, living in a friend’s shed for seven months.

Bad financial decisions and a workplace injury left him with little savings and income.

After reaching out for support, Paul was placed in transitional housing.

He has since found a public housing property and has used Uniting services to connect with people in his community.

Now the 54-year-old is turning his attention to helping others.

“I’m the best I’ve been ever,” he said.

“I’ve developed a newfound confidence and I’ve realised that I’ve got a voice and if I speak up, hopefully I can help others.”

Paul recently completed a course in public speaking.

When Paul was approached to speak at the Uniting Vic.Tas Winter Breakfast in May 2019, he didn’t hesitate.

“I’d like to be a stigma warrior and break down some of the barriers people face because of mental illness or disability,” he said.

“Everyone has a place and deserves to feel like they belong.”

You can support the most vulnerable in our community. Donate to Share Sunday now.

Ending homelessness together.

This Homelessness Week, we’re joining forces with organisations across the country to help put an end to homelessness.

“We know how much of a difference having a home has on every aspect of a person’s life, particularly for people in crisis,” says Uniting Vic.Tas CEO, Bronwyn Pike.

“Lack of access to affordable housing directly affects people’s ability to look forward to a positive future and that’s why we’ve been proud to partnered with the Victorian Government on its Homelessness 2 Home program.

“There’s strong evidence that it’s only after securing safe and permanent housing that people in crisis are able deal with other important needs such as finding a job or seeking support for mental health or alcohol and drug issues they may have.

“Across Victoria, we’ve been able to secure homes for 188 people. This is 188 people who would’ve been on the streets had it not been for this program, our dedicated outreach workers, real estate agents and property owners.

“The Homelessness 2 Home program shows that if we work together, we can end homelessness and that has to be our goal.”

Uniting Vic.Tas is also part of the Everybody’s Home campaign, calling on governments to deliver a better, fairer housing system.

Currently, a lack of social and affordable housing is leading to record levels of homelessness.

You can show your support for the campaign to signing the Everybody’s Home petition.

Here, some of the people who have accessed our homelessness services share their stories:

Mike’s story

Sean’s story

Rachael’s story

Kylie’s story

Cliff’s story

Graeme’s story

Mike’s story.

Mike has a history of homelessness and ongoing mental health issues.

He has been homeless on and off for many years and has moved between boarding houses, motels and staying with family members.

During the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Mike’s long-term partner died of an accidental drug overdose.

His alcohol consumption increased and after a short stay with family, there was a domestic dispute that resulted in Mike leaving the home.

At this point all family contact and support ended and Mike moved to another rooming house.

The lack of family support and stable accommodation meant that Mike’s mental health declined and he started drinking even more.

Although unstable accommodation was at the core of his issues, Mike had little options.

Mike accessed temporary and crisis accommodation for many months, making it difficult to seek support for his alcohol and mental health challenges.

Mike’s first suicide attempt came shortly after his arrival at a rooming house.

He spoke about the mental strain that his insecure housing was causing and his inability to cope in a shared living environment.

Our team linked Mike with mental health support and managed to get him into a crisis house where he could live independently.

Mike engaged with all support services offered  to him and thrived living independently.

At this point we realised his suitability for the Homelessness to a Home program.

He moved to his new apartment in June of 2021.

Mike often expresses how thankful he is for this opportunity.

He says he doesn’t feel as though he would even be here now if it hadn’t been for the services that helped him find a property of his own.

Having stable accommodation has given Mike the confidence to join local mental health support groups, access alcohol and other drug services and he is now looking to start a music group with friends.

He is now working towards rebuilding his relationship with his family.

*Name changed to protect identity.

You can show your support by signing the Everybody’s Home petition or donating now.

Sean’s story.

Sean’s experience with homelessness spans over 35 years.

Sean moved out of home at the age of just 14 to escape family violence and drug use.

“My parents managed a pub in Sydney, and it wasn’t an ideal environment for a child. It was a toxic environment and I knew I had to get out,” says Sean.

“I managed to get myself a job at the local Pizza Hut to get by and stayed with various friends throughout the years.

“I got by, but I was hanging around Kings Cross and witnessed a lot of things I shouldn’t have at a young age.”

In his early twenties, Sean started an apprenticeship as a chef.

However, mental health issues prevented him from pursuing his dream of becoming a chef.

Over the years, Sean spent time living in various cities and towns in NSW and Queensland.

At times he lived in public housing, other times he stayed with friends.

And when things were really bad, he lived in his car.

Eight years ago, Sean relocated to Tasmania for a fresh start.

He managed to settle down on the North West Coast for a few years, finding stable housing.

However, when a traumatic event seen him turn to drugs to cope, Sean was thrust back into homelessness.

Sean moved from town to town, living in his car.

“It’s tough, but I guess it’s all I’ve know from a young age,” he says.

When he moved to Hobart at the start of 2019, Sean reached out to Uniting for support.

Sean is now living in crisis accommodation as he waits for public housing.

“I have a roof over my head at the moment, so I feel like I’m in a good place,” says Sean.

“I’m still considered homeless but it’s a step in the right direction.”

He accesses food through Uniting’s emergency relief service.

And he is now a regular at NoBucks community meals program, which provides free, hot meals each weekday for people in crisis.

“I really enjoy the social interactions at NoBucks,” he says.

“I can talk to people and have a laugh, which takes my mind off things.”

“The team (at Uniting) have been a great help. I can’t thank them enough.”

You can show your support by signing the Everybody’s Home petition or donating now.

Rachael’s story.

In March, Rachael was approved for a home through the Homelessness To Home program.

Rachael, 23, has been homeless since her mother kicked her out of the family home at just 18 years.

She has couch surfed, stayed in temporary accommodation, crisis accommodation and moved from house to house, living in at least 26 different places in the past few years.

“I have always been homeless or couch surfing or in Reid’s and never really had a place to call home,” she said.

“I have lived with people in the past which didn’t work out. I would move in with partners and most of those relationships turned into domestic abuse.

“Just knowing I am going to have a place that is mine, a place to call home, a place that is safe, honestly meant the world to me.”

Rachael first got in touch with Uniting the day she got off the plane and returned to Ballarat from Queensland after living with her dad.

With nowhere to live, she was supported to stay in transitional housing managed by Uniting.

From transitional housing, Rachael moved to youth accommodation, to live with partners, to a drug detox facility, back to Reid’s, to a friend’s, to a hotel and the cycle continued.

Moves were driven by relationship breakdowns, family violence and financial difficulty. She has been on Youth Allowance and then JobSeeker payments.

Rachael explained how she had experienced mental health issues, was a victim of significant family violence and had suffered drug and alcohol addiction throughout the past few years.

To be eligible for program, people must have been placed into crisis accommodation in hotels and motels from March to December 2020 and have a history of rough sleeping or chronic homelessness.

“Before, I had basically given up. I thought life wasn’t going to get any better. It never had for me,” she says.

“I think I might have been wrong. I was so convinced nothing would get better. Now I have my mental health in check, I am not using drugs or alcohol, I am looking after myself, life has just gotten so much better.

“Stability will definitely make it easier. The fact I have my Ps (probationary driver’s licence) will also make it easier and it will get a lot easier when I get a car.

“This program has changed my life for the better.”

You can show your support by signing the Everybody’s Home petition or donating now.

Kylie’s story.

The absence of a safe and secure home can have a devastating impact on families. Kylie knows this all too well.

Kylie had been living in a private rental property with her partner, son and daughter-in-law until early 2018.

When her partner was sent to jail, Kylie was no longer able to afford the rent and the family were  evicted from the place they had called home for many years.

With no-where to go, the family spent the next 3-and-a-half months living in their car.

“I felt sick to the stomach when we had no-where to go as I’d never been in that situation before,” says Kylie.

“I got really depressed and kept putting myself down.

“I told my son and daughter-in-law that I was no good for them because I couldn’t support them.

“It’s the lowest I’d ever felt, and I didn’t want to be here.”

After months of struggling, the family were put in touch with Uniting.

They were provided with emergency accommodation in a motel in Ballarat, before moving into a friend’s house while they waited for transitional housing to become available.

When that placement broke down, the family spent the next 2 weeks living in their car again.

“It seemed like we were stuck in this awful cycle,” says Kylie.

“But thankfully we reached out to Uniting again and they put us in a motel for a couple of days and then found us transitional housing in Daylesford.”

That was 2 years ago, the family have been living in the Uniting Housing property while they wait for a public housing property to become available.

During that time, Kylie’s son and daughter-in-law welcomed a baby boy into the family.

“I’m so grateful to Uniting for putting a roof over our heads before my grandson was born,” says Kylie.

“My mental health is much better and we’re all doing really well now.

“Any time I need to talk, the team from Uniting have been there.

“The future is looking much brighter for us than it was this time 2 years ago.”

You can show your support by signing the Everybody’s Home petition or donating now.

Cliff’s story

Cliff is one of the growing number of people who has reached out to Uniting Vic.Tas housing and homelessness services.

Cliff had been living in a caravan near Ballarat after finding himself homeless through the breakdown of his marriage.

The 65-year-old reached out to Uniting when his savings dried up, leaving him with just $90 in his bank account and unable to afford the weekly caravan park rent.

“It was a scary time. Living in a caravan isn’t ideal, but at least it’s somewhere to sleep at night,” says Cliff.

Cliff tried to sign up to receive Centrelink payments, but was told this would have to be done online.

“I struggled, because I’m not very good at using computers,” says Cliff.

“It was daunting, and I didn’t know what to do.

“I feel really lucky that I found Uniting and they’ve been able to help. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

Cliff now receives Centerlink payments and has applied for public housing.

Cliff says while he wanted to seek help earlier, his mental health battles stopped him from doing so.

“I wasn’t in a good place, mentally,” he said.

“I knew I needed help, but I was in a rut.

“I’m glad I did though.

“People need to know there are places like Uniting that can help. You don’t have to do it on your own.”

You can show your support by signing the Everybody’s Home petition or donating now.

Graeme’s story.

Graeme is a Uniting Vic.Tas consumer involved in the Victorian Government’s Homelessness to a Home program.

Here, Graeme share’s his story.

“Recently, I moved into a house in Avoca, Victoria after being homeless for over 13 months.

I lived here a long time ago when my children were young. I am one of the few lucky ones to have found a home under the Homelessness to a Home program.

It all started for me in late March 2020 when I was asked to leave the private rental property in Hamilton I was living in at the time.

I was staying with a friend of mine and her property manager didn’t approve of me staying there.

This was really tough because it was in late February and March which was when COVID-19 first hit, and my options were limited.

I was only going to stay there for a short time, and I had stored my belongings and my furniture in her garage.

We tried to reason with the property manager and assured him that I was doing everything I could to find a rental property, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.

His response was that I need to leave, or else he would evict both me and my friend.

I obviously couldn’t take the risk of my friend getting evicted because of me, especially when she had gone out of her way to help me.

By this point she became scared and anxious at the thought that she might get kicked out.

I gathered my things and left the house because I didn’t want to get her in any further trouble. I was homeless for the next 13 months.

I initially lived in my car.

I kept everything with me and moved around to avoid loitering.

It was tough and I felt overwhelmed.

I tried to get support in the Hamilton area.

I rang up Lifeline for support.

I also rang a lot of the homeless services.

I kept going around in circles, being given multiple numbers to call and getting referred back to the same services again.

There are limited services in Hamilton and while they try to support people living rough, rentals are hard to come by and there just aren’t enough shelters in the region.

When the limited accommodation that such services can offer runs out, homeless people are often back to living on the streets.

At times, I was living in motel rooms in Hamilton.

I moved over to Warrnambool when I found a cheaper motel.

But the price went up while I was living there and I had to pay $590 a week on my Centrelink Disability Pension Payment.

It wasn’t easy living in these motel rooms. It was a life of constantly being adrift.

How are you supposed to get through it? What are you supposed to do?

I was applying for private rentals through estate agents and landlords throughout this time, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Applying to rentals and accessing services is much harder when you don’t have a stable living location or access to internet.

After a few months I got to the point where I basically gave up.

How are you supposed to get through it? What are you supposed to do? Who are you supposed to talk to?

I never thought I would ever be homeless, but once I was, I despaired that I would never find a home again.

The Homelessness to a Home program was introduced to me by a Salvation Army Connect housing worker.

I remember a phone conversation saying to her ‘look, I don’t think I’ll get a place ever.

I’ve tried that many rental agents.

I’ve replied to that many. I’ve viewed that many properties.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the Salvation Army Connect contacted Uniting Vic.Tas on my behalf.

I remember sitting with the Salvation Army housing worker in the car and saying ‘Well, I don’t think you can get me a house, can you?’. And less than a week later, Uniting found me a home.

Imagine my delight when he presented me with an 18 month-lease.

I didn’t have a phone at the time, so most of the communication was on email until we met.

Imagine my delight when he presented me with an 18 month-lease.

It was a targeted and tailored  package that would give me support for that period.

I knew then that they had been doing a lot of work behind the scenes.

To be honest I was stunned and amazed because I had pretty much given up on the chance of finding a home by that point.

I mean, there are other people out there in dire situations, domestic violence cases for instance and that’s not my situation.

So, it’s fair to say that I am impressed with the marvellous job that they had done.

I moved into a house in Avoca in May and am signed up till at least October 2022.

For the first time in thirteen months, I feel safe. I’ve got security and a roof over my head.

I have peace of mind knowing that I’m not going to have to go back to sleeping in my car for a while.

This is not just my story and there are many others who go through the same thing day in, day out.

I’m just one of the lucky ones to have a place where I can shelter for the time being.

I’m so thankful to all support workers who’ve helped me over the time.

They really do deserve a medal for everything they’ve done for me. I never expected half of this.

The questions I ask is why it is so hard to get a private rental?

But the questions I ask is why it is so hard to get a private rental?

Why are landlords and estate agents so difficult to deal with these days? Why are support services struggling to home people all over the country?

I’m telling my story so that people know what it’s  like and why the system needs to be fixed.

Nobody should have to go through what I have.

If you’re out on the streets you’ve got nothing.

The thought of having to go out on the streets and be homeless again scares me.

It’s one that I never want to go back to.”

You can show your support by signing the Everybody’s Home petition or donating now.

Tree change brings unexpected benefits.

Jannine had longed to leave the hustle and bustle of Melbourne behind.

So earlier this year, Jannine and her husband packed up and relocated to Gippsland.

“My husband accepted a job in Gippsland over 2 years ago, so he was commuting a lot,” says Jannine.

“It was in our 5-year plan to make the move.”

After purchasing a home with acreage, the couple are “absolutely loving” their tree change.

“(The move) has been a big help for our mental health. We are much more relaxed,” says Jannine.

“When you walk down the street, people smile and say hello. The people are so lovely.”

The couple’s 24-year-old daughter still lives in Melbourne and travels to Gippsland every 2 weeks.

“She calls it her happy place,” says Jannine.

“She comes down to relax and recharge. It’s really helping with her studies.”

Jannine has worked for Uniting for 12 years, supporting vulnerable families experiencing alcohol and other drug, mental health and family violence challenges.

“I was able to transfer from Melbourne to Gippsland, which was really handy for me. That’s what I like about Uniting, you have the opportunity to base yourself in different locations.”

“It’s been exciting to meet and work with new people and understand the community connections they have.

“Even though I’m doing the same job, it feels like it has slowed down a bit.

“And one of the big bonuses for me is car parking. I was paying $10 a day in Melbourne. Here, it’s free. And there is always plenty of parking available.”

Jannine encourages others considering a tree change to take the leap of faith.

“If your circumstances are right, I would say do it.”

While Jannine and her husband have spent a significant amount of time in lockdowns since relocating, they are looking forward to exploring their new community.

“I’m keen to join the local rock and roll dancing group,” says Jannine.

“We’re planning to get some sheep and alpacas.

“It’s a different lifestyle than we’re used to, but we love it.

“Everything is so close. The traffic isn’t as congested. And it’s still only 2 and a half hours from Melbourne on the freeway.

“It’s been a great move for us.”

Interested in working for Uniting in Gippsland? Find the right job for you.

Family values at the heart of Leeann’s Uniting connection

Uniting has been Leeann’s second home for over 22 years.

“I’ve spent over half of my working life at Uniting, and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” says Leeann.

“I’ve had lots of different roles from working in homelessness and family violence services to managing our reception team in Sale.

“That’s what I really love about Uniting – the diversity of work it has offered me.”

Leeann moved to Sale 25 years ago.

At the time, she had a young family but no social network.

“Uniting became my family and I’m still very close to a lot of people I have worked with over the years,” says Leeann.

“In a sense, my children grew up in the organisation. They were able to come in after school, sit in the lunchroom and do their homework.

“It was a family friendly environment. It still is.

“Over the years I’ve had a sick partner and parent to care for. The support I’ve received has been immeasurable.

“That’s what I love about Uniting. We say we are a family friendly organisation and we really are.”

Through her varied roles, Leeann has worked in various Gippsland offices, including Sale, Leongatha and Bairnsdale.

“It really helps to get to know more people across the organisation,” says Leeann.

“It means you’re not doing the same thing, day in and day out. And it’s lovely to meet and work with new people.”

Leeann has a message for people thinking about moving to her beloved Gippsland region.

“Whatever your interests are, there’s something here for you,” she says.

“It’s a great place to raise a family. I often get out and about with my grandchildren.

“And it’s really not that far from Melbourne. You can do a day trip on the public transport route.

“I often do a day trip to attend the theatre or the museum.

“If you’re thinking about it, give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.”

Interested in working for Uniting in Gippsland? Find the right job for you.

A big win for Early Childhood Educators.

Uniting Vic.Tas welcomes the approval of the Victorian Early Childhood Teachers and Educators Agreement (VECTEA) 2020 which will bring our nearly 950 early childhood educators and teachers considerably closer to the wages and conditions of primary school teachers.

The agreement will deliver significant wage increases along with 16 weeks employer-paid parental leave for primary care givers and four weeks for secondary carer givers, 20 days paid family violence leave and 15 days personal or carers leave for each year of service.

The agreement also recognises importance of wellbeing with those under the VECTEA now able to access confidential counselling. The new agreement also includes providing educators with more time to plan and deliver their educational programs.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike welcomed the agreement as recognition of the hard work and dedication of early childhood educators.

“We’re very proud of our early childhood educators and the role they play in children’s lives,” Ms Pike said.

“We know how important a solid foundation is for children in their early years. Our early childhood educators deliver high quality educational programs giving children a solid base preparing them so they’re ready and fully equipped for school.

“This agreement is recognition of their hard work and dedication, and hopefully, this new agreement will help encourage more people to consider a career in early childhood education.”

“Such a significant agreement cannot be reached without commitment and goodwill from everyone involved, including unions, the Victorian State Government, and the Early Learning Association of Australia who acted on behalf of Uniting.”

Thank you to the Moreland City Council.

Thank you to the Moreland City Council for supporting our Refugee Week celebrations.

Unfortunately, an afternoon tea planned for this weekend by our Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre and fellow community service organisations for people seeking asylum in the Moreland area has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Instead, the Council has kindly provided food vouchers with the funding allocated to host the event.

The local library has also provided craft packs for local families to enjoy during the school holidays.

We have recently joined forces with the Council to improve access to local services for local refugees and people seeking asylum, including free access to aquatic and leisure facilities, free swim classes for children and access to school holiday programs.

Our multicultural services aim to build connection, reduce isolation and provide a positive future for people newly arrived in our community.

Dedication to financial counselling recognised.

Congratulations to Sue Fraser, who was awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) in this year’s Queen Birthday honours for her financial counselling work and supporting people experiencing vulnerability across the community.

Sue has been a champion for collaboration between the community service and business sectors to improve outcomes for people in hardship.

Sue started her financial counselling training in 1988 and joined Uniting in 1995.

Since then, Sue has been a leader in the industry for her visionary work.

Throughout her career, Sue has focussed on prevention, early intervention and support programs.

Sue has supported industries to increase awareness and understanding of economic abuse, through her work supporting those impacted by family violence.

Sue and her team work with the banking, debt collection, utility and telecommunications sectors to secure positive financial outcomes for consumers and business alike.

She has travelled across Australia and internationally, advocating for people in financial hardship.

Sue says the honour is humbling but unexpected.

“When I heard that I had been nominated, I certainly didn’t think I would receive (an OAM),” says Sue.

“These types of acknowledgements aren’t achieved by yourself. I received this because I work with a team and for an organisation who is willing to take risks and do things outside of the box.

“People have commented that it’s nice to have an ordinary person recognised for work that doesn’t have a high profile.

“It’s rewarding to know that the work we do makes a real difference for so many people.”

Find out more about our financial counselling services.

Sharon’s fresh start felt like a fairy-tale. That’s until the pandemic changed everything.

Leaving her country of origin, she came to Australia in 2019 to marry her childhood sweetheart. Together at last, it felt like a dream come true: a real opportunity for love, happiness and new beginnings.   

“I wanted to find new meaning and a new hope, living a healthy family life,” says Sharon.  

Filled with excitement, she couldn’t wait to see what the future had in store. The family settled in Shepparton, where her husband had been living since 2015.  

Then, the whole world was put on pause.  

COVID-19 swept across Australia, changing life as we knew it. As everything closed, Sharon’s family life started to falter.   

The pandemic took its toll on their family—and her marriage. 

Eventually, Sharon’s marriage fell apart. Without food, income or housing, she packed up and left with her children.  

Sharon’s future was uncertain.  

“I had big questions about my life and my decision to come to Australia,” says Sharon. 

“Had I jumped out of the pot into the fire? I had to start my life all over again.” 

Then, Sharon was referred to Uniting’s team in Shepparton.  

Connecting with our Settlement Hub service in Shepparton—which helps people who have been in Australia for less than 5 years—Sharon found the emergency relief and financial assistance she needed to get back on her feet.  

With hope in her heart, Sharon felt empowered. She successfully applied for a case manager support role with Uniting. Sharon now helps other asylum seekers to feel comfortable in their communities and understand what services are available for them. 

“It was a real moment of hope for me,” she remembers. “I knew with a full-time job, I would be able to afford a rental property, provide the basics for my children, manage my studies, and live without fear.” 

As part of the role, Sharon delivered meal packs to families in need, actively sharing in a program that helped her so much. 

Afterwards, she went back to the motel she called home, telling her kids how fulfilling it was to be able to help people just like them. 

Sharon recently reunited with her husband and they are working on building a happy future together.  

“We are not perfect human-beings, but when we try, half the battle is won,” says Sharon.  

Sharon is not alone in her story. Thousands of people across Victoria and Tasmania are struggling this winter. Your donation today will bring a brighter tomorrow for people in your community. 

Together, we can share hope – and change lives.

Uniting Vic.Tas recognised at 2021 Australian LGBTQ+ Inclusion Awards.

Uniting Vic.Tas, one of Australia’s largest community services providers, has been acknowledged as a national leader on inclusion.

The 2021 LGBTQ Inclusion Awards recognise Australian organisations for reaching and exceeding benchmarks for inclusion based on the recent Australian Workplace Equality Index and the Health+Wellbeing Equality Index.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the Silver Tier Award in the Health+Wellbeing Equality Index was recognition of Uniting’s commitment to inclusive service provision.

“We know that LGBTIQ+ people have too often faced rejection, social exclusion, discrimination, harassment, judgement, isolation and refusal of service because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status,” Ms Pike said.

“For many years, as an organisation, we’ve demonstrated a whole of organisation commitment towards improving LGBTIQ+ inclusive practices.

“Many LGBTIQ+ people don’t access the critical services they need for fear of actual or perceived discrimination and sadly, this often results in poorer health outcomes.

“Our commitment towards being an LGBTIQ+ inclusive workplace and delivering services which welcome and support vulnerable people, regardless of their gender or sexuality, is as strong as ever.

“We stand side by side LGBTIQ+ communities in continuing to advocate for social change.”

Statement on Victorian Government emergency relief funding package

“This pandemic has devastated families right across Victoria, so we welcome the additional emergency relief and hardship funding announced today by the Government. This will provide much needed assistance to Victoria’s most vulnerable.

“We’re especially pleased with the extra support for culturally and linguistically diverse Victorians, including temporary migrants and those on provisional visas. This is a group that’s been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, so ensuring they’re aware of, and receive, the emergency support available to them is critical.

“Since the start of this pandemic, we have experienced unprecedented demand in the numbers of people seeking emergency relief asking for food parcels, financial, housing or mental health support.

“In the second half of 2020, requests for food parcels doubled, while numbers needing help with housing, clothing, paying the bills or other support services, more than tripled.

“Our emergency relief services in Melbourne and across Victoria have seen people they’ve never seen before. People who have come to us desperate for help.

“We’ve seen international students to mums and dads in secure jobs who suddenly found themselves out of work and struggling pay the bills or just put food on the table.

“This funding package will help ensure nobody gets left behind. It will mean emergency relief services can provide for more Victorians in need allowing people to pay their rent, pay their bills and feed their families.”