COVID: Vinnies has many first-time clients




COVID-19 had a double impact on St Vincent de Paul in Alice Springs: A drop in numbers of people visiting from communities and interstate reduced the income from their store, selling mainly used clothing, while the demand for help increased, including from people who never had to seek it before.


Peta Brand runs the St Vincent de Paul store in Alice.


“We’re having a change in demographics,” says Fran Avon, Vinnies CEO for the NT: Refugees from Africa who lost their jobs but as non-Australians do not qualify for Jobseeker; stranded backpackers and students; casual employment hospitality workers now without income.


They’re looking for emergency food, clothing, accommodation, help with Telstra or energy provider charges, a payment plan to tide them over.


The demand from people like that increased four-fold, says Ms Avon.


Many are overwhelmed. They were not even aware Vinnies exists, “not knowing what to do, where to go”.


Some feel shame.


“We have to tell them you are not alone. They are a lot more emotional than our normal clients,” says Ms Avon (pictured).


Vinnies extended their store’s opening hours and is handing out food vouchers bought from Woolworths, providing “a meal for that night”.


The organisation at times pools resources with other aid groups to provide family accommodation for a few days.





  1. For those that are not able to support themselves from overseas we know this is a difficult time. However, there is a problem that happens all the time with visas later.
    The government has advised from April 2020 COVID-19: All visa holders must be able to support themselves while the visa is valid. This is a basic premise on granting the visa, especially for temporary visa holders.
    If not it is best to return as soon as possible as not to be flagged.
    This means if a visa holder has lost employment not returned home may find their future visas denied.
    This is matched via government agencies and reciprocated by other nations’ databases.
    Sounds rough but in a year’s time or more when trying to return to Australia it becomes an issue, especially those from ‘High Risk’ countries listed on the DIBP web site. Tough but its reality.


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