Disadvantaged Australians turn to charities for Christmas cheer

Posted on 03 Dec 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Op Shop

As Australia heads into the festive season, for many disadvantaged people, the nation’s cost-of-living crisis will bite particularly hard.

New research by the St Vincent de Paul Society has revealed a 40% rise in calls for assistance over the past year.

The study, conducted in partnership with instant gravy company Gravox, also found:

  • More than a quarter (27%) of Australians are not in the same financial position as they were last year
  • Just over a third (33%) admitted financial pressures were having a negative impact on their budget.

Despite the tough economic climate, 41% of people said they were still looking for ways to help others and give back this Christmas.

With more than half of Australians feeling pressured to give gifts and an even higher number (62%) looking to save money while doing so, St Vincent de Paul Society is prepared for an influx of bargain hungry shoppers.

St Vincent de Paul Society national president Mark Gaetani said about 17% of Australians planned to scour opportunity shops such as Vinnies for the first time to fill their Christmas gift giving list.

“The Christmas period is one of celebrating and joy, but this isn’t the reality for many Australians,” Mr Gaetani said.

“Currently, there are 761,000 children whose families lack adequate food and struggle to pay essential household bills.”

“The Christmas period is one of celebrating and joy, but this isn’t the reality for many Australians.”
St Vincent de Paul Society national president Mark Gaetani.

To help support those in need and to continue bringing people together at Christmas, Vinnies has launched its 'Buy a Boat' initiative.

Pottery artist Shelby Sherritt has turned ten gravy boats sourced from Vinnies stores into bespoke works of art that will be auctioned online, with the proceeds going to Vinnies.

“Before I was a ceramist, I was a social worker, so it feels like a full circle moment to be giving these gravy boats a new life to support those in need,” said Mr Sherritt.

“It’s so empowering to be able to use my art to help others, and I hope that it inspires others to get creative.”

Mr Gaetani said innovative ideas such as Buy a Boat, which is being supported by instant gravy company Gravox, were crucial at this time of year to help spread awareness of need and support for those who need it.

“The beauty of Vinnies stores is that you never know what you’ll find on our shelves, including gravy boats!” said Mr Gaetani.

“In fact, according to a recent survey, close to one in four Aussies would actually prefer to have gravy if it was served in a gravy boat, making it a clever and cost-effective gift that also gives back to a community in need.”

Anyone wishing to place a bid on their favourite design can do so until December 5, or alternatively, buy a gravy boat at their local Vinnies to support those in need this Christmas.  

Gravy 1
Gravy 2
Gravy 3
Gravy 4
Gravy 5
Gravy 6

Many charities and not-for-profits for Australians have ramped up their efforts to encourage Australians to dig deep to help alleviate the plight of others in the run up to Christmas.

Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister said with Christmas almost upon us, thousands of children do not have a home.

“They’re staying in cars, on couches, and at refuges, experiencing trauma no child deserves,” she said.

Ms Callister said a growing number of families were slipping into homelessness, with more than 3,000 people seeking help from services such as Mission Australia every hour.

She urged members of the community to help vulnerable families find a home by donating just $25.

“There are 17,646 children under 12 who are homeless right now. The scale of this homelessness crisis is huge, but I believe together, we can turn things around,” said Ms Callister.

Putting food on the table

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths both have long-running partnerships with food relief charities designed to help put food on the table for struggling families at Christmas.

Shoppers can support the Coles SecondBite Christmas Appeal by purchasing a $2 donation card or by making a donation at a Coles supermarket checkout until Christmas Eve.

SecondBite ambassador, food writer and TV personality Matt Preston said each $2 donation card purchased would enable SecondBite to provide the equivalent of up to 10 meals this Christmas.

“We know that many Aussies are doing it tough this Christmas, but we hope that those who are in a position to give can support SecondBite through the Coles Christmas Appeal,” said Mr Preston.

Coles will also donate 2,000 Christmas hams via SecondBite, allowing participating charities to put on a festive lunch for vulnerable members of the community.

Along with donating surplus fresh food to scores of charities via OzHarvest this Christmas, Woolworths said it would match customer donations to help cover distribution costs such as delivery vans, insurance, warehouses and refrigeration that equate to 50 cents per meal.

Matt Preston Second Bite Coles Christmas Appeal 2023
Celebrity food writer Matt Preston helps launch the 2023 Coles SecondBite Christmas Appeal.

The gift of gift giving

Kmart’s Wishing Tree appeal, by contrast, allows shoppers to leave a gift or monetary donation in the retailer's stores to brighten the Christmas of needy families.

Now in its 36th year and run in partnership with the Salvation Army, Kmart's appeal aims to raise more than $500,000 and collect 300,000 gifts to help those in need.

This year's appeal kicked off in Canberra, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on hand to unveil a wishing tree in Parliament House.

“The enduring strength and remarkable success of this appeal has always spoken for the generosity of the Australian people,” said Mr Albanese.

“I’m sure that this year, Australians will once again dig deep to support families who are doing it tough at Christmas.”

Watch out for Christmas scammers

The Australian Charities and Not for profits Commission (ACNC) has issued a warning to be on the look-out for scammers keen to take advantage of Australians generosity during the festive season.

Commissioner Sue Woodward said while many charities are running their Christmas and festive season appeals right now and greatly deserve to be supported, it’s important to make sure donations are directed to a real charity, not to a scammer.

“Cyber-criminals are out there, trying to take advantage of our kind-heartedness and generosity, especially at this time of year,” said Ms Woodward.

Australians lost an estimated $3.1 billion to scammers last year.

“There were hundreds of reports of fake charity scams to Scamwatch, but we know it is likely that significantly under-represents the actual incidence,’ Ms Woodward said.

“We recommend that if you get a text, email or phone call asking you for a donation to charity, don’t click that link, and don’t tell anyone your name or banking details.”

The ACNC recommends following these simple precautions:

• Don’t click on links in text messages, emails or social media posts.

• Don’t tell callers you don’t know anything about yourself or give them your banking details.

• Instead, go to the Charity Register.

• Find contact information on the Register such its website.

• Donate directly to the charity using the methods given on its website.

Despite the risk posed by cyber grinches, analysis conducted by social research company McCrindle in recent years has shown that the spirit of giving is alive and well in Australia.

When asked what they’d do with Christmas presents they didn't want or need, one in four people said they would donate them to charity. 

Almost half said they were happy for a charitable donation to be made on their behalf instead of receiving a present, while 28% planned to donate money to charity instead of giving a gift.  

More news

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!