Home > Features > Emergency relief pushes through troubling times

Emergency relief pushes through troubling times

St David’s Uniting Church, Holland Park, volunteers Marie Ramsey and Pam McGoldrick. Photo by Tom McEwan

EMERGENCY relief, or crisis intervention, is a service provided for people in dire financial or personal straits who need a hand up.

Rose (not her real name), was struggling financially and trapped in an abusive relationship.

She reached out to Wesley Mission Brisbane‘s Emergency Relief service and they provided her with the train fare she needed to travel to safe housing.

Rose returned to Emergency Relief several months later and thanked the team for saving her life.

Emergency Relief services also provide essential items like food parcels, grocery cards, no interest loans and payment of rent and other vital bills.

Other assistance includes providing new mothers with baby bundles – essential items like nappies and formula – as well as a range of other items to help struggling families through hard times or unforeseen circumstances.

And times are hard this year, following the worsening of the economic crisis that has hurt lower-income families.


Most Uniting Churches throughout Australia provide a crisis relief program to aid families where they can, but lack of funding and increasing numbers of people in need have put a strain on their ability to provide.

According to an issues paper by Anglicare Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, The Salvation Army and UnitingCare Australia, rising unemployment

levels go hand in hand with economic slowdown and, in turn, increase financial vulnerability.

This means that even families with a reliable income could struggle to accommodate unforseen events.

Pam McGoldrick, of St David’s Crisis Food Care in Holland Park, Brisbane, said the growing number of people in need affects their capacity to help.

“The increase in people needing help has led to our having to restrict assistance to those living in our designated area until our funding runs out.

“As other centres exhaust their funding we get requests from people as far away as Ipswich or northern areas of Brisbane,” said Ms McGoldrick.

The Crisis Care Centre is part of St David’s Uniting Church and suffers a further problem of the ageing congregation and lack of volunteers.

“We would love to find ways to become more effective but with limited funds and volunteers we have found that we cannot offer anything more than our existing service,” she said.

Wesley Mission Brisbane’s Emergency Relief program at Spring Hill faces similar troubles.

Manager David Baker said he has noticed trends in light of the economic downturn.

“Something we are seeing more and more is generational poverty,” said Mr Baker.

“This means we’re seeing two or more generations of a family coming in and seeking help, meaning that their issues aren’t being addressed and a cycle of poverty is forming.”

It’s not all bad news, though.

The Spring Hill service reached out to 10 000 people between 2010 and 2011, and the program is home to numerous success stories.

The annual Christmas gift appeal with UnitingCare and Target is a particular favourite.

“There was a huge response last year,” said Mr Baker.

“It enabled Emergency Relief to make Christmas and beyond a much happier time for many people in crisis.”

Photo : St David’s Uniting Church, Holland Park, volunteers Marie Ramsey and Pam McGoldrick. Photo by Tom McEwan