Making a Difference

By: Michael Lynch - Creative Communications, Tobin Brothers Funerals
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
(Winston Churchill)

During the past two years through our work at Tobin Brothers – Creative Communication, my colleague, Matt Weedon and I have met many people whose lives have been immeasurably enriched by individuals and not-for-profit organisations, dedicated to making the world a better place for their fellow men and women.

In many cases, these are people who want so little but give so much; take for example Father Christian Fini of Rosie’s Oblate Mission. On Flinders Street each Wednesday and Friday nights, he and a team of 18-30 year old volunteers dispense from a van, free hot drinks to economically disadvantaged people. These are Rosie’s Friends on the Street, many of whom are there simply to enjoy the company and fellowship of others. Upon receiving a small grant from the Tobin Brothers Foundation earlier this year towards the cost of a new ‘coffee bus’, Father Fini was over the moon. “I’ve never been so excited about getting something new in my life,” he said. “Our existing vehicle was donated to us but it’s very old and costing a lot to keep on the road”

That same level of gratitude can be found amongst the many people from a mix of cultures who sit down to a community lunch at The Wellington Centre in Collingwood every fortnight – meals cooked and provided free of charge by St Vincent’s Hospital and often served by its Director of Nursing.

During the filming of a documentary we made there, Matt and I learned so much about the Wellington Centre volunteers, described by CEO Bobbi Cheetham, as “loving, giving, and very warm people” Each week, these chiropractic and acupuncture professionals provide their time and treatment programs free of charge to people who in some cases must take three forms of transport to get to the Centre but who would otherwise be unable to afford such services. Others have joined the knitting group who not only benefit from the contact with other people, but take great pride in the fact that proceeds from the sale of the garments they knit go to charity.

The Wellington Centre was the creation of Father Ernie Smith OAM who years ago, founded St Kilda’s Sacred Heart Mission. Fr Ernie says it was the result of his growing awareness of the loneliness and isolation of those living in Melbourne’s high rise Housing Commission flats with nowhere to go, no one to talk to or to have a meal with, that the Wellington Centre was born

The Centre’s chairman is former Australian Governor-General and one-time Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, The Rt Rev. The Hon Dr Peter Hollingworth AO who believes The Wellington Centre provides a listening ear to a diverse range of people in a non-judgemental environment. “After ten years, we’re making slow, steady progress” he told us “and we’re doing some really worthwhile things”

Peter Hollingworth AO has also been a staunch supporter of Bryan Lipman, CEO and founder in 1989 of the Wintringham organisation. Wintringham currently provides 236 aged care residential facility beds over five sites in Melbourne and delivers a wide range of community based aged care services to homeless or at risk men and women.

Because some of these aged and homeless people have no regular contact or support from family and friends Wintringham provides guardianship support or administrative and financial support. Amongst these residents there is high prevalence of issues relating to gambling, alcohol addiction and abuse, and higher rates of illness, drug dependency and injury than the general population.

In recent years, as a civil celebrant I have frequently led Memorial Services at the Wintringham residential care sites at Dandenong, Williamstown, Avondale Heights, Port Melbourne and Flemington and I have never ceased to be amazed by the depth of concern and commitment of staff and carers for the residents at these campuses. In so many cases, these dedicated men and women have become the ‘family’ the residents never had, or from whom, for one reason or another, they have become estranged.

A significant number of these folk are in the autumn of their lives, but there are hundreds of infants and children who are only on the threshold of theirs but who are spending long periods in hospital recuperating from surgery or in some cases undergoing treatment for life threatening illness.

It’s around hospital wards across Australia that the Humour Foundation’s Clown Doctors can be found, parodying the hospital system to bring laughter into what for young children can be a fairly unfriendly and even frightening environment. Nursing staff, doctors, cleaners and parents all play along to the antics of the Clown Doctors which on any given day have hospital corridors ringing to the sound of children’s laughter.

While the Clown Doctors, Rosies Oblate Mission, the wonderful volunteers at the Wellington Centre and dedicated staff at Wintringham each plays a different and important role, common to them all are their people – the wonderful men and women who have committed themselves to making a real difference.


Written by Michael Lynch - Creative Communications, Tobin Brothers Funerals


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