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The Heart of St Kilda Concert 2014 - Helping Feed Those in Need

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by Meg Crawford (subscribe)
I'm a Melbourne based freelance journo. While I mostly concentrate on music, I'll write about anything else that grabs my fancy.
Event:
Melbourne's finest pull together for Sacred Heart Mission
Heart of St Kilda Concert, Sacred Heart Mission
Heart of St Kilda Concert - helping feed those in need


It's bloody cold in Melbourne today. Apparently, it's 6 degrees outside, but it feels like 2.7. Too right it does! It's also bucketing down and hailing intermittently. Hopefully, you're somewhere warm and dry. But what if you're not? Thankfully, the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda has some answers.

You could go to the Mission's dining room for one, together with the 350 to 400 people who gravitate there daily for breakfast and lunch. You can tell that it's an oasis from the minute you walk in: people are happy to see you; it's warm and the whole room smells like one of your favourite meals. There's a lovely relaxed vibe, supported by a smiling, unobtrusive pack of super busy volunteers and a shiny new industrial kitchen.

Heart of St Kilda Concert, Sacred Heart Mission, Dining Room
Today's menu in the dining room


The Mission started its work in 1982, when Father Ernie Smith was prompted to respond to the plight of the homeless, and it's been a focal point of St Kilda's community ever since. It provides a caring haven for homeless people and those suffering other forms of disadvantage.

Part of what makes this place tick is the obvious passion of the people who're involved. It's serviced by realms of volunteers and a handful of paid workers and everyone's equally enthusiastic even when things are difficult, they make it sound like an adventure. For example, all of the food is donated and fresh daily, which, for the ordinary chef, would make for a menu-planning nightmare. "Yep, I describe it as flying by the seat of my pants," laughs Ian, one of the chefs. "As a chef, it takes me way out of my comfort zone."

It's not just about providing a square meal though. The dining room is a gateway to the Mission's raft of other invaluable and often unique services. "The idea initially was to meet the need of hunger and friendship," explains Tina, who works in the fundraising team. "It's a welcoming and warm place for a meal and to form friendships, but it's more than that. It's a place where we aim to engage people and bring about real change in their lives. By developing a relationship of trust, we can get people to be more open to our other services" of which, there are plenty.

In addition to the meals program, the Mission operates op-shops, an aged-care facility, rooming houses with emergency accommodation and a womens' room and provides access to a GP and nurse, drug and alcohol counseling, clothing and a Hands-on-Health Clinic (HOH Clinic). The HOH Clinic is mind-blowing. The breadth of services it provides is extraordinary everything from dental and counseling through to hairdressing and podiatry. In relation to the latter: think about it, if your sleeping rough, chances are your shoes are not in the best nick and probably neither are your feet. "And, if we can't help them, then we connect them elsewhere it's all with a view to creating pathways," says Sue, the HOH Clinic Co-ordinator.

HOH Clinic - beanies
For a warmer head - free beanies at the HOH Clinic


How do people get here in the first place? Sadly, it's not that hard. "Some people have had professional jobs, but the cost of living went up and they lost their superannuation," Sue reflects. "It's my father's phrase and it's a bit rough, but any one of us is a bee's dick away from being here."

Sue puts very succinctly why people love volunteering at the Mission. "Well, they haven't got a bottom line," she says. "And when you leave here, you know you have actually and actively made a difference. Not many people can say that. It's a bloody marvelous place!"

The dining room is really a portal to these other services, which in turn can be a bridge to the community.

Despite the overwhelming need for the service, government funding only goes so far, which makes outside support critical. That's where the Heart Of St Kilda Concert comes in. The concert, originally the brainchild of Larry Ponting, Walter Bishop OAM, Neil Croker (CEO Palais Theatre) and Brian Nankervis, is now in its 8th year. As always, the line up is awe-inspiring and diverse with: The Basics (Wally De Backer, aka Gotye's side project), Colleen Hewett, Charlie Pickering, Greg Champion, Tripod, Vika and Linda Bull, Dick Diver, Ashley Naylor, Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Rebecca Barnard and Tim Rogers, to name just a few.

Every year attracts the cream of the crop, some of whom are long-time supporters, like much loved Melbourne musicians Rogers and Barnard.

"I hate seeing anyone suffering, anywhere, and if singing a little bit outta tune can raise money for support systems I'm there," laughs Rogers. "I'm also more than happy to cater the event or continue my itinerant dishwashing turns at the St Kilda Mission. I'm the luckiest miscreant on the planet, to be able to make music for most of the year and also to have a friend like Brian Nankervis, who can ask me to play at this show, or mow his lawn, and I'm there with skates on. And possibly overdressed."

Barnard is equally passionate. "We're very lucky, living in Australia," she reflects. " but then you see the side of homelessness and mental illness and realise that not everyone benefits from living in the lucky country! I went to the Mission and saw what goes on and how it operates and that gave me the impetus to make it one of my priorities. Out of all of the causes I want to support it's on the top of my list. It's a really unique hub they've got medical facilities, hairdressing, food all of the things that you and I have easy access to. It's pretty damn amazing!"

Barnard has been involved with the concert since its inception.

"Yeah, Brian Nankervis first presented the opportunity to me. He calls on people left and right. This sounds corny, but it really is one big fraternity, the music scene in Melbourne. He planted the seed seven years ago, although it feels like only three!"

That's enough time to gather some memories for sure. "Yeah, I can tell you about one low-light," laughs Barnard. ""I fell over on stage while I was doing a Fleetwood Mac number. I lost my footing and somehow fell backwards on the ground. The worst bit was that people thought I was drunk and I wasn't! That was traumatic! I got back in the saddle though."

"Another big highlight was last year's sing-a-long with the Caravan Club choir. I call it a flash mob. Billy [Miller] and I started singing Close To You and then pockets of people in the audience got up and started singing. It was a massive surprise for the audience. Then they worked their way up on to the stage. There were about 80 of us up there for a sing-a-long. It was very emotional for me especially thinking about who we were singing for."

Barnard's got something in the pipeline to top that. "It's a secret," she smiles. "All I can say is that it involves a very well regarded performer and it will be fun."

That Barnard's preparing for all of this amidst recording her first new album in 4 years is testament to how important it is to her. Barnard's always been community minded though and has had the opportunity to reflect on what inspires her to get involved. "Well, my parents loved me," she explains. "I know what it's like to be loved it's probably one of the most important things in life. It would be wonderful if everyone had that feeling."

Connection and support are the logical corollaries of what Barnard's talking about. Generally speaking, most people will experience three, what're defined as "traumatic events" in their lives say the loss of a parent or spouse or addiction. When it comes to people experiencing homelessness though, that stat bounces up to 21. That's 21 traumatic events in one lifetime. If you can get your head around that, then try to imagine getting through them without support. According to the stats, 94% of the people who come to the Mission are single and many have no or limited contact with family and friends.

and that's why we need the Mission and the meals program for connection and support.

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Why? See a huge range of top Australian musicians and comedians while raising funds for the Sacred Heart Mission's meals program
When: 7.00pm
Phone: To phone for tickets call Ticketmaster: Ticketmaster: 136 100
Where: Palais Theatre - St Kilda
Cost: $79-$99 or $64 for groups of 10 or more
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