My time at CSSV concludes on December 1, so I’d like to reflect on some highlights of working here for just over two years.
Starting any job in the middle of Covid 19 I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. How Josh, Peter, and Lucia, Fiona, Claire-Anne and Huong managed to put together a highly successful CSSA/CSSV combined Australia-wide conference at the start of that year still beggars belief.
On arrival in late August 2020 I remember reading CSSV Member AGM reports to get a feel for their work. I wasn’t able to read all 40 or so but a representative sample and was deeply impressed, for instance, by Wellsprings for Women’s enabling of multicultural women through training and equipping many, particularly from the Indian subcontinent, in language for aged-care and factory jobs. Having been involved in WorkVentures job creation training and baby business incubators in my Sydney parish, Wellsprings’ work caught my imagination.
Also attention-grabbing was the holistic wrap-around care involved in Sacred Heart Mission and VincentCare social housing projects which I referred to often in social housing advocacy. My experience running Urban Seed behind Collins St. Baptist in the late 2000s made policy-making on housing and homelessness issues fundamental and moving to me. Housing is one of the most basic of human rights, a platform towards participation in the community, education and economy.
When our belated AGM was able to be held in the John Pierce Church for the Deaf in mid-2021 I thought that was another key part of my in-person induction. It seems so apt to have had the AGM there in the last two years and get a sense of their members’ faith and receive generous hospitality from them. Ministry/service to those with disability is a two-way street of sharing and learning from those with various disabilities and abilities.
Speaking of co-operation and mutuality, our shared research work with ACU (and St. Mary’s House of Welcome and other members) in Tom Barnes’ Scarring Effects of the Pandemic Economy which challenged the complacent narrative that the economy and workers had recovered well by April 2022, was very gratifying and well received.
CSSV’s Policy and Advocacy Committee contributed to the above and many other research projects, and budget and election responses. Chairs Netty Horton and Nick Halfpenny (acting) have been very helpful and encouraging.
Other recent highlights include the Regions Matter election tour and forums in Bairnsdale where my daughter and grandson lived after leaving Melbourne during Covid, and Bendigo where I have many Christian community friends who hosted and helped in our forum. I will not forget the passionate Vinnies members in Bairnsdale, who worry about when they retire who will look after the homeless and others who mean so much to them. Similarly, at the end of the Bendigo Forum, an older woman (who does amazing work supporting people with drug and alcohol issues find housing) thanked me for mentioning in my summation the doubling of the number of older female homeless people. She shared her own fear of homelessness. Our great members are often vulnerable themselves, as ‘wounded healers’.
Also, it turned out at the wonderfully raucous CSSV dinner that I’d won the raffle. But my embarrassment upon being asked to stand turned to delight when I realised the prize was a tour of Sacred Heart Mission and lunch for four of my fabulous colleagues. It was going to happen on my last day at work but Covid is still intervening, so it now awaits next year. Nonetheless such prizes, and God’s surprises in the company and faces of members and colleagues and the homeless are sweet memories that will long stay with me from CSSV.
Finally, thankyou so much all for your support for CSSV, our outstanding leader Josh, me, and especially all the people we support and advocate for. Long and loud may their and your voices be heard.
Gordon Preece, CSSV Senior Policy Officer