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Claire makes history as new Vinnies president

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She’s the youngest, the first woman and first South Australian to fill the role of national president of the St Vincent de Paul Society, but Claire Victory is not fazed by what lies ahead to address some of the challenges facing the organisation.

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With 55,000 members and volunteers nationally – of whom 20,000 are members of conferences – Ms Victory said one of the first issues to be tackled was governance requirements at National and State Council levels.

“It’s about making sure we always have our mission at the heart of all we do, but also complying with legal and governance requirements to ensure our members, volunteers and employees are adequately supported in their work.

“It’s about making sure structures, processes and communication are really the best they can be so that we can serve our companions in an effective and sustainable way,” she said.

“Another issue is engaging with the Church in relation to some of its own challenges and how we can have input into that.

“We are certainly planning on having a lot of input into the Plenary Council. We have made a submission and really want to have a seat at the table because we think it is important for us, for the Church and for Catholics in Australia.”

Ms Victory said while Vinnies was a “proudly Catholic lay organisation”, it had built a reputation for assisting people from all backgrounds and was “compelled to do what is in the best interests of people who are marginalised and isolated in the community”.

Working full-time as a solicitor for Adelaide firm Duddy Shopov, Ms Victory said she was well aware that some Vinnies members would be watching closely to see how she coped with the demands of serving as national president.

“Our members come from a diverse range of backgrounds, ages and life experiences; if we’re going to be a Society that is open to people of all ages and genders and different backgrounds, then we need to allow all members the opportunity to take on positions of leadership and responsibility.

“My Vincentian work, and being a servant leader in that context, is really my vocation – it’s more than something I do in my spare time. I’ve been involved since I was a kid… so it is a passion of mine.

“The opportunity to serve as president and really help National Council energise and animate the membership throughout Australia is really appealing to me. And there’s 24 perfectly usable hours in every day!”

At just 35, Ms Victory is the youngest national president but could almost be considered a ‘veteran’ of the organisation, having been involved with the Society since the age of 10.

Her parents, Bernie and Pauline Victory, and grandparents, Pat and Vonnie Victory, have all been members, volunteers or supporters of the Society over the years and Ms Victory said it was “second nature” for her to follow their lead.

She started as a member of a ‘Young Vinnies’ conference set up by her mother in their parish and then at age 16 became involved in youth programs. Later she worked for the Society in SA as a school liaison officer and has been on the National Council for the past eight years, serving as deputy president for the past four.

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