Parishes, schools and agencies

Anglicare Victoria launches new supporters' network

July 13 2016As Australia’s political leaders digest the numbers from “the only poll that counts” on 2 July, Anglicare Victoria has embarked on a new era after reflecting on some rather grim numbers of its own earlier this year.

The child and family welfare agency, which in 2017 celebrates the 20th anniversary of the merger of three long-established Anglican agencies that preceded it, was confronted with the imminent collapse of its parish auxiliaries from a peak of 72 to only three.

Marg Kelly says support groups need to develop their own ideas.

In March, 17 participants from four parishes attended a meeting organised by Archdeacon for Parish Partnerships, the Venerable Jan Crombie, to consider how they would support Anglicare in future. On 1 July, the future arrived with the creation of the Anglicare Victoria Partnership Group (AVPG), which aims to provide a new model to raise funds and awareness in parishes and the wider community.

Archdeacon Crombie said “a new way of being” was needed, one that did not require the formalities of a president and committee but was based on networking.

“It’s going to build a strong relationship that is easy for people to engage in,” she said. “What we are trying to do is build up supportive relationships with Anglicare through the parishes because that means more people will know about Anglicare as well as get involved.

“It took a lot of courage for this to happen. I believe theologically it’s about resurrection – we believe new life is always waiting to be rediscovered.

“It’s about gathering the goodness in the community to work for the good of the community.”

Under the AVPG model, a minimum of three people can register as a local support group to raise funds and advocate for the work of Anglicare Victoria. It could be three parishes working together, three families meeting for lunch four times a year or residents of retirement villages making crafts for sale, with the proceeds going to Anglicare Victoria. Groups may identify a particular area they want to support and promote or support the agency more generally.

Mrs Marg Kelly, a long-time Auxiliary member at St John’s Camberwell and Anglicare Victoria Auxiliary Council Chair, whose resignation from the latter role last year prompted the review, said groups needed to develop their own ideas to raise money, promote the work of Anglicare Victoria – and enjoy themselves!

At St John’s, she said 20-25 parishioners often would come along on the fourth Monday of the month to hear a speaker and enjoy afternoon tea.

“I could stand up and say at the annual meeting that ‘This year we have sent $2000 to Anglicare’, as we were able to do most years,” Mrs Kelly said. “It’s not a great deal of money but it all adds up. Then someone would say, ‘How long have you been doing that?’ and you might be able to encourage them to join in.”

She also took care to keep the parish council, and therefore the vicar, informed of the Anglicare group’s activities.

“I still see the partnership networks as parish-based, but not only that. It’s got broader.”

Mrs Kelly said one support group knitted beanies and rugs, while another group did catering for the community – not just the parish. Because it was known in the community, it was supported and, in turn, so was Anglicare.

Mrs Marjorie Taylor, 97, belonged to one of the first Anglicare auxiliaries, at St Margaret’s Eltham, from the days of the Mission to Streets and Lanes.

“It’s all about people in need,” she told visitors from Anglicare recently. “That hasn’t changed and we all need to contribute to that.”

Mrs Jenny Disney, a long-time leader of the Eltham Auxiliary and a foundation member of the AVPG coordinating group, said: “One of the key benefits of the auxiliaries and now the AVPG is also the social benefit for us all as we gather for a common cause. We become a support group for each other as well.”

Anglicare Victoria’s CEO Mr Paul McDonald said: “How wonderful to see the long history of support for Anglicare by parishes through the auxiliaries continuing in this new network format, the Anglicare Victoria Partnership Group. I thank everyone involved that has enabled this grassroots support to continue to enable the caring arm of the Church to bring positive change to the lives of so many who come to Anglicare for care.”

Anglicare Victoria was created in 1997 from the merger of three church agencies – the Mission to Streets and Lanes, founded in 1886; the Mission of St James and St John (1919); and St John’s Homes for Boys and Girls (established for boys in 1921 and expanded to girls in 1958).

It is Victoria’s largest foster care provider, with an average daily occupancy of 308 children in 2014-15, and one of the State’s biggest out-of-home care providers, with 475 children and youth in foster, kinship, residential and permanent care during the same period.

Anglicare Victoria also provides a range of other services, including support for 6320 families with parenting skills, child behaviour, mental health, family violence and child protection; financial counselling to more than 2100 families; disability support to 540 children and young people; a 10-week mentoring program Boys Will Be Men to build positive mentoring relationships between mature men and disadvantaged boys aged 10-16 considered to be at risk; plus drug and alcohol services, serving 61,000 meals to homeless people throughout Victoria and emergency relief from its long-established Mission House in Fitzroy.