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Lesley Bonney, Therese Haywood and Megan Skillicorn celebrate the Vinnies Night Patrol van's 10th
Picture: Elesa Lee
a decade of help
Night patrol makes a difference to all
A DECADE ago Megan Skillicorn
had no idea she was starting
something that would come to be an
important part of many people's
At just 19 she took on the role of
coordinator of the brand new St
Vincent de Paul Night Patrol --
which celebrates its 10th anniver-
sary this week.
The van -- which delivers food,
clothing and blankets to Canberra's
homeless -- came about as Vinnies
realised there was a gap in their
services and a need for assistance to
be provided after 5pm.
For three-and-a-half years Ms
Skillicorn managed about 200
volunteers for the program, which
initially ran three nights a week, but
quickly increased to seven nights.
"The aim is to engage with people
on the street, offering support and
compassion while upholding their
dignity," she said.
It didn't take long for Ms Skil-
licorn to realise that the service was
about much more than the food they
"Some of the moments you have
when you're in a position to listen to
someone, and what they share with
you ... I think some of those mo-
ments have just been incredible,"
"We'd have our regulars as well --
I expect they still would -- and the
volunteers would get really worried
when they don't see them, because
we build up such a connection and
such a rapport."
But it was one man who would
approach the van time and time
again without any shoes that Ms
Skillicorn still remembers.
"We thought that was so terribl-
e ... we would always try and get
him some shoes," she said. "But one
night he said to me 'no, I like to
have my feet planted firmly on the
ground.' And I thought 'wow -- who
am I to judge you?'
"It's very humbling what they
share with you."
Current night patrol coordinator
Lesley Bonney says about 800 to
1000 people a month approach the
"It varies, but we see anywhere
between 30 and 40 a night," she
"That number might drop way
down to 15 on cold nights."
She said anyone looking for a
chat and something to eat was
always welcome to visit the night
"We don't always know who is
homeless -- they don't come to the
van with a sticker on their fore-
head," she said.
A DEDICATED indigenous care
worker has been awarded an annual
government-funded scholarship for
Akeshia Dart received this year's
$20,000 Audrey Fagan Post-Graduate
Scholarship, which -- named after
former ACT Chief Police Officer
Audrey Fagan -- helps recipients
undertake professional development in
the areas of law enforcement, care and
protection and victim support.
Through her role in the Community
Service Directorate's Out of Home
Care-Foster Care/Kinship Care Unit,
Ms Dart recruits and trains potential
carers to support the transition of
young Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people in care.
ACT Minister for Women Joy
Burch believed that Ms Dart
represented the kind of person the
scholarship aims to support -- someone
who is passionate about their work and
committed to improving the lives of
those they work with.
"The scholarship committee was
particularly impressed by her
commitment to improving the social
and emotional well being of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people," she said.
The scholarship will enable Ms Dart
to complete her Masters of Social
Work, Professional Qualifying.
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