Sacred Heart Mission – News from the Heart of St Kilda

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We thought for this month’s column we’d share with you some uplifting and exciting events and achievements that have happened recently around the Sacred Heart Mission community. It just so happens that all the protagonists happen to be women, which is fitting on the back of International Women’s Day!Beach Chairs at Elwood by Maggie Diaz

Firstly, we’d like to wish Maggie Diaz a very happy 90th birthday! Maggie, a resident in our aged care facility, has lived an incredible life that she has documented through her beautiful photography. Known for her expertise in using available light, Maggie had a genius for capturing character and situation. Dating back to Chicago in the 1950s, her work is also marked by the contrast between the glamorous commercial world and those outside of society with whom she felt a connection.

For those who have seen her photographs, it’s unbelievable that she remained largely unrecognised for her work until her 80th birthday! Now her archive is held by the State Library of Victoria, and her work has been acquired by the National Library of Australia, The National Gallery of Australia and private collectors around the world. You can see her amazing work, which includes photographs of the St Kilda area, and read more about her life here: http://maggiediaz.com.

Other women who are also making the world a better place through their contributions are the participants of our Outlandish program. These women have collectively given over 600 hours of volunteering to environmental conservation, sustainability and animal welfare projects since the program began more than nine months ago.

Outlandish provides women who are experiencing homelessness and disadvantage with eco-volunteering opportunities. By volunteering in nature, we see the women’s health and wellbeing improve, their stress levels decrease, and their life satisfaction and self-respect boosted. The community benefits by their volunteering, and in return the women get a feeling of self-worth that they can contribute in a meaningful way. It can be a pathway to employment for women and therefore to financial independence.

Since we took over the program from the Good Shepherd; two women have secured casual employment (at a hospital and a florist), a number have begun formal study ranging from computer courses through to a Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management, and others have joined a social inclusion cafe program and enrolled in First Aid courses. We were delighted to hear that a former participant who had graduated from the Outlandish program is enrolled in a Cert IV Horticulture.

Our plans are to grow Outlandish in the future. We’re seeking funding to incorporate a mentoring aspect as well as a social enterprise-style landscaping/gardening business that could employ and train participants directly.

In another significant project (lead by the head of our people and strategy division Leanne Lewis), we’re continuing our journey towards reconciliation. A few years ago, data gathered by our client services showed that up to 10 per cent of people coming to the Mission identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. We acknowledged that the organisation needed to build stronger relationships and trust with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders and so we developed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), endorsed by Reconciliation Australia in late 2013.

To date, many of our staff members have undertaken cultural awareness training, an Aboriginal artwork named ‘Women’s Work’ has been donated to our Women’s House, and we have welcomed an Aboriginal woman to our Client Representative Group. This group meets with management on a monthly basis and provides feedback and input into our services.

Currently we are focusing on improving access to our services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, together with developing an employment strategy.

Coming up around the Mission: May is Dine with Heart month, with a number of St Kilda eateries participating. Check out our website for information about how you can get involved.

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