The St Vincent de Paul Society was founded by a 20 year old student named Frederic Ozanam in 1833. It was established by like minded individuals who wished to put their faith into action.
This compassionate outlook, enthusiasm and vision continues today in Australia. There are thousands of people who every day share their time, care for humanity and energy to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged people all around Australia.
The first Australian conference was founded in Victoria by Fr Gerald Ward at St Francis’ Church, Melbourne on 5 March 1854, just 21 years after the founding of the first conference in Paris.
The St Vincent de Paul Society in Western Australia
The St Vincent de Paul Society in Western Australia has sought to create a more just and compassionate society by responding directly to needs identified in the community through local parish based volunteer groups since 1865.
The Society is made up of dedicated men and women of all backgrounds and ages who have made a commitment to the mission of the Society.
The St Vincent de Paul Society provides a helping hand to many West Australians through food assistance, material aid, budget advice, shelter, advocacy, friendship and support.
In the spirit of its founder, Frederic Ozanam the Society’s core work continues to be Home Visitation – whereby members and volunteers visit people in need in their home, offering them hope and comfort through emergency relief assistance.
The Society also has a number of services known as Special Works. Special Works are a professional facility or service run by the St Vincent de Paul Society and arise out of a need which cannot be met within the normal scope of the conference. Special Works provide a specific service and focus on ensuring the social, economic and political pressures placed on disadvantaged West Australians are lessened. Special Works are managed and supported by a combination of members, volunteers and paid employees.
The meaning of social justice for the St Vincent de Paul Society
When we speak about social justice we go to the heart of what the St Vincent de Paul Society stands for. We are called, as Vincentians, to feed, clothe, house and assist our brothers and sisters who are forced onto the margins of society.
In assisting people who are denied equality and dignity we make a prophetic statement about the dignity and equality of all people in God’s sight.
In asking the simple question about the causes of injustice we issue a prophetic call to all people of good will to work creatively to build equality and justice into our society. Especially through our national and state councils we give voice to those who are voiceless, standing with them and advocating for them.
As Vincentians we do not close our eyes to the growing division in Australia and the world between the increasingly prosperous and the increasingly poor.
The accumulation of wealth on the one hand is connected with the accumulation of poverty on the other, characterised by oppression on the basis of class, race, gender, age, disability, and mental and physical illness; forced migration, homelessness, unemployment, insecure and poorly paid work; and declining levels of social security and public infrastructure.
We seek to share both bread and hope with our brothers and sisters, recognising Christ in their painful stories and witnessing to the Good News of justice and compassion. They entrust a little of their lives to us. We honour this trust by speaking the truth of their stories and calling on the people of our nation to address the structural causes of poverty and inequality.