From Drought and Bushfires to COVID-19: The social impacts of compounding crises

MSSI interviews Sue Cattermole CEO St Vincent de Paul on how Vinnies has responded to the recent compounding crises.

In the last twelve months, St Vincent de Paul have supported communities through devastating drought, bushfires and now the COVID-19 pandemic.  Social welfare organisations like Vinnies work on the front-line to provide support and care to the most socially and financially disadvantaged. Volunteers and members reach out to provide both financial and non-financial assistance.

In this interview, MSSI Deputy Director, Dr Sangeetha Chandrashekeran, chats to Sue Cattermole, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria and a member of MSSI’s Advisory Board. Sue discusses the socio-economic dimensions of recent environmental and health crises. Compounding crises expose the vulnerability of those who are already struggling in our communities, as well as tipping others into vulnerability and poverty. Sue discusses how Vinnies has responded to recent crises;  the relevance of sustainability during times of crisis; and the importance of social equity in green recovery proposals.

On SBS television last week, Chair of MSSI’s Advisory Board, Deputy Mayor of Melbourne, Arron Wood took a hands-on approach to understanding homelessness by spending ten days on the streets as part of the 'Filthy, Rich and Homeless' series. Wood's understanding of Australia's homelessness crisis grows noticeably throughout the series, as he becomes familiar with the systemic shortcomings faced by one of Australia's most vulnerable populations, a problem which has been brought into sharper focus by the current COVID-19 pandemic. This viewpoint reinforces MSSI research on the nature and scale of homelessness which is currently at emergency levels.  Almost 25,000 Victorians are sleeping rough on any given night, an increase of more than 70% in the last few years.


MSSI Chair Arron Wood chose to swap his privileged lifestyle for 10 days living on the streets.