Vinnies launches much-needed Christmas Appeal

Members of Vinnies Victoria’s Berwick Soup Van team. Picture: Sreyasi Chaudhuri

The St Vincent de Paul Society launched its annual Christmas Appeal on Wednesday by highlighting the rise in unemployment figures and continued economic struggles that many will face as a result of the pandemic.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate increased from 4.6 per cent in September to 5.2 per cent in October.

CEO of Vinnies Victoria Sue Cattermole said that employment and financial concerns make for an uncertain and pressured Christmas period for many, rather than a time for celebration.

“I wish I could say it’s going to be a hopeful Christmas for everyone this year, after the ending of the lockdowns,” said Cattermole.

“But the reality is it won’t, and the need is significant because vulnerable households now have additional pressures this Christmas due to the impact of the lockdowns.

“Scores of families and individuals are coming to us every day in urgent need of help. Many could never have imagined the pressures they’re facing, and they’re worried they won’t be able to feed their families, let alone keep a roof over their heads.

“These are desperate and painful times for many.”

This year’s appeal focuses on two cases where the society were able to step-in and make a difference in the lives of people who were doing it tough.

Heidi, an expectant mother and her partner, Nikolas, were living in a tent when they first met the Society’s volunteers.

Within hours, Vinnies had relocated them to temporary accommodation in a motel, and then into a three-bedroom house within weeks, where they welcomed home their baby Jake after his birth.

Another recipient of generosity from the society was Natasha*, who was receiving JobSeeker payments during the pandemic. Her partner was unable to work during the lockdowns and the couple was expecting a child in February.

Natasha contacted the society to see if they could assist with setting-up her new baby’s bedroom and received a pram, a cot, a high chair, nappies and clothes, among other donations.

“If Vinnies wasn’t around, I don’t know what you would do, or who you could turn to,” Natasha said.

The appeal encourages members of the community to donate food or money to cover utility bills and costs of accommodation.

A donation of $74 can provide clothing for a child in need while $116 can provide a food hamper to feed a family.

Vinnies Victoria volunteers and services have kept working throughout the pandemic, providing assistance to people in need.

Their Soup Van services served 550,000 meals last year – more than double the year previously.

Last financial year, the Berwick Soup Van service served 10,000 meals, but already this year they’ve served 4800 in four months as demand is increasing.

The public’s support is vital so that Vinnies Victoria can keep supplying food, clothes, accommodation, case work for homelessness and domestic violence, and more.

In the last two years, our members in Berwick and Pakenham provided local people with $270,000 worth of material assistance such as emergency accommodation, food vouchers and hampers, utility bills and educational costs.

“It has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, but I encourage people who can to donate generously to our Christmas Appeal this year,” Ms Cattermole said.

To donate, head to

*Natasha’s surname was not provided in order to protect her identity.