A farewell message

After being CEO of the Mercy Foundation for almost 11 years, I have recently tendered my resignation. I will be leaving the Foundation in mid-January 2019 to move inter-state. With your support, the Mercy Foundation has advocated for, advised and collaborated with other organisations and within many communities to ensure that people experiencing long term homelessness have been permanently housed. For the past decade we have stressed 3 key messages:

  • Homelessness can and should be ended. It is a solvable problem. ‘Housing First’ is an evidence based response. It is also a life-saving and dignified response.
  • Permanent housing (with support for those who need it) ends people’s experience of homelessness.
  • We must stay up-to-date and refer to current research and evidence and ensure our policy and program responses serve to end homelessness, not endlessly service homelessness.

The Mercy Foundation remains in good hands. The Board is a supportive and expert group of people who continue to provide effective governance and direction and the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney continue to inspire everyone with their long and ongoing commitment to change and social justice.

It is with pleasure that I can announce that the Board has appointed Sue Mowbray as the next CEO of the Mercy Foundation. Sue will take up her role when I finish on 11 January 2019. Sue and I have worked together for almost 10 years and she is a great asset to the Foundation. I wish her all the very best and I know the work of the Foundation will continue to flourish under her leadership.

Thank you all for your support of the Mercy Foundation over the last 12 months. This year, we have had a particular focus on the issue of older women and homelessness. You might be aware that older women are the fastest growing cohort in the number of Australians who experience homelessness.

Older women’s homelessness is the result of compounding and systemic factors, such as lower amounts of superannuation because of having taken time out of the paid workforce to care for family members and because of the gender pay gap. Women living on a fixed, low income or pension and who rent in the private rental market are at significant risk of homelessness. Many women facing homelessness do not seek help from services as they may feel shame and blame themselves for their situation.

Older women generally experience homelessness differently to men and some younger women. Older women tend to hide because of the very real safety issues. You won’t usually see them on the streets or in crisis accommodation. They are more likely to sleep in their car or van, house-sit or stay on other people’s couches. They are mostly invisible.

The Mercy Foundation convened a national working group of academics and key organisation leaders to address this social injustice. In August 2018, the National Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Working Group launched a paper called A National Plan for Change:  Increasing housing security for older women at Parliament House in Canberra. We invited the LNP and the ALP to take on this issue as a bi-partisan concern.  We, in collaboration with the National group, continue this advocacy.

I take this opportunity to thank you for your support and I wish you a happy Christmas, a safe, relaxing break and all the best for 2019.